News | Research

INSTAAR research is featured in thousands of news stories per year and more than 10,000 social media posts per year. Outlets include the New York Times, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, National Public Radio, and as well as more regional news outlets like High Country News, 9News, and the Denver Post.  The below list is a set of selected highlights.  Additional stories are noted @INSTAAR on Twitter.

Alpine wildflowers bloom on the tundra of Niwot Ridge. Photo by William Bowman.

$7.65 million grant to extend study of how climate change shapes life at 10,000 feet (CU Boulder Today)

Feb. 3, 2023

For more than 40 years, scientists from the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research program have worked to better understand high-alpine ecosystems in a warming world. Thanks to a new $7.65 million, six-year grant from the National Science Foundation, that work will continue, making Niwot Ridge LTER the longest-running NSF-funded program at CU Boulder.

  Study authors Arielle Koshkin and Ben Hatchett measure albedo in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Photo by Anne Heggli/DRI.

Wildfires are increasingly burning California’s snowy landscapes and colliding with winter droughts to shrink California’s snowpack (DRI)

Feb. 2, 2023

A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that midwinter dry spells lead to dramatic losses of winter snowpack in burned areas of California. INSTAAR Karl Rittger participated in the study, led by scientists from the Desert Research Institute.

The giant bird Genyornis went extinct in Australia around 50,000 years ago. Illustration provided by Gifford Miller.

How we cracked the mystery of Australia’s prehistoric giant eggs (The Conversation)

Jan. 25, 2023

Gifford Miller and collaborators Matthew James Collins and Beatrice Demarchi tell the story of the ancient eggshell fragments found in eroding Australian sand dunes, the controversy around their origins, and how new techniques and AI helped solve the mystery. A summary chapter in the evolving story of Genyornis and the probable causes of its extinction.

A cross-coutry skier navigates a Denver intersection on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Wet snows produced by an atmospheric river brought snowfall to the Rockies. AP Photo by David Zalubowski.

Snowpack improves as atmospheric river pours on Rocky Mountains (8NewsNow)

Jan. 24, 2023

Snowpack levels in the Upper Colorado River Basin have improved over the last two weeks, fueled by an atmospheric river carrying moisture from the Pacific Ocean. Karl Rittger is quoted extensively in this 8NewsNow story about Colorado snowpack and its impact on drought.

Tyler Jones on the deck of a research vessel.

Study offers most detailed glimpse yet of planet’s last 11,000 summers and winters (CU Boulder Today)

Jan. 11, 2023

By analyzing Antarctic ice cores, CU Boulder scientists and an international team of collaborators have revealed the most detailed look yet at the planet’s recent climactic history, including summer and winter temperatures dating back 11,000 years to the beginning of what is known as the Holocene. Published today in Nature, the study is the very first seasonal temperature record of its kind, from anywhere in the world. INSTAAR Tyler Jones is lead author of the study.

A map shows where surface water samples were collected from the Coal Creek waterway shortly after the Marshall Fire.

Ongoing CU research explores impacts, solutions after Marshall Fire

Dec. 21, 2022

On Dec. 30, 2021, a fast-moving wildfire in suburban Boulder County became the costliest wildfire in Colorado history. It burned 6,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and damaged thousands of others. The Marshall Fire also spurred researchers—many personally affected by the fire—to apply their expertise to the aftermath. A year later, dozens of ongoing research projects continue to explore the science behind the fire; its widespread impacts; and how we can mitigate future catastrophes in a changing climate.

Part of a Forabot, a robot that can sort microscopic fossils

Fossil-sorting robots will help researchers study oceans, climate (NC State)

Dec. 13, 2022

A team of North Carolina State researcher and INSTAAR Tom Marchitto have developed a robot capable of sorting, manipulating, and identifying foraminifera—microscopic marine fossils that play a key role in our understanding of the world’s oceans and climate past and present. An open-source paper describing the work has been published in the AGU journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems; and the robot itself will be made open source.

Diane McKnight in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

These freeze-drying algae can awaken from cryostasis, could help spaceflights go farther (AGU)

Dec. 8, 2022

Algal mats survive extreme conditions in Antarctica by entering a freeze-dried state. Led by Diane McKnight, researchers collected the green algae that survive there and grew them in the lab to assess their applications for spaceflight.

Smoke from a wildfire is visible behind a permafrost monitoring tower at the Scotty Creek Research Station in Canada's Northwest Territories in September. The tower burned down in October from unusual wildfire activity. Photo by Joëlle Voglimacci-Stephanopoli.

Belching lakes, mystery craters, ‘zombie fires’: How the climate crisis is transforming the Arctic permafrost (CNN)

Nov. 14, 2022

Thawing permafrost—the frozen layer of soil that has underpinned the Arctic tundra and boreal forests of Alaska, Canada and Russia for millennia—is upending the lives of people living in the Arctic and dramatically transforming the polar landscape. The vast amount of carbon stored in the permafrost is an overlooked and underestimated driver of climate crisis. Permafrost thaw needs to get more attention—fast.

  An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting rapidly, and that melt will accelerate as the Earth heats up. Ryan Kellman/NPR

Climate tipping points and the damage that could follow (NPR)

Nov. 11, 2022

If Earth heats up beyond 1.5 degrees C, the impacts don't get just slightly worse--scientists warn that abrupt changes could be triggered, with devastating impacts. As the 27th annual climate negotiations are underway in Egypt and the world is set to blow past that 1.5°C warming threshold, NPR asks climate scientists including Merritt Turetsky about three climate tipping points--points of no return that could cause big changes to the Earth's ecosystems.