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.

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 (CU Boulder Today)

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.

A black-capped chickadee perches on a snowy tree branch. Photo by Amanda Frank via Unsplash.

The chickadee you see sitting on a tree? It might be a hybrid (CU Boulder Today)

Nov. 1, 2022

Hybrids of two common North American songbirds, the black-capped and mountain chickadee, are more likely to be found in places where humans have altered the landscape, finds new research by a team including INSTAAR Scott Taylor. The study is the first to positively correlate hybridization in any species with human-caused landscape changes. It also contradicts a long-standing assumption that these two birds rarely hybridize.

Warren Sconiers at one of his research sites on Niwot Ridge.

Warren Sconiers: A winding path of discovery through research and teaching (British Ecological Society)

Oct. 25, 2022

Warren Sconiers—an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder interested in plant-insect interactions, insect ecology, and climate change—shares his story as part of Black History Month.