News | Research

INSTAAR research is featured in thousands of news stories 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. Selected highlights are listed below. Additional stories are noted @INSTAAR on Twitter.

Out of its nest box for the first time, a young chickadee squints in the sun and stretches its wings.

Chickadees crossbreed, despite biological barriers

Aug. 29, 2023

Researchers in the Taylor Lab study interactions between higher-elevation dwelling mountain chickadees and the closely related lower-elevation dwelling black capped chickadees. A recent study in Global Change Biology investigates barriers that prevent the two species from mating and what happens when they do mate and produce offspring.

A group of paleontologists, wearing backpacks and sun hats, walk down a gully of eroding sedimentary rocks with a open vista of grassy plains in front of them. Photo by Rick Wicker DMNS

Ecosystems after the asteroid

Aug. 21, 2023

Julio Sepúlveda (INSTAAR Fellow and GEOL Associate Professor) is part of a team of scientists from seven collaborating institutions who were awarded a new research grant that will fund an investigation of the ecological and environmental changes that occurred on land after the asteroid impact and mass extinction event at the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary.

Meredith Zettlemoyer kneels in a patch of alpine plants, a clipboard propped against her knee.

Scientists at the Mountain Research Station investigate changing behavior of an alpine plant

July 26, 2023

A group from the University of Georgia is looking at alpine cushion plants—compact green mounds with small leaves and ephemeral flowers that hug Niwot Ridge and are found in many alpine areas across the world. They are studying how the flowering time and reproduction of these plants is changing as the climate warms and snowmelt advances.

A wildfire burns along a forested ridgeline, sending billows of grey-white smoke into the air.

‘Zombie fires’ are occurring more frequently in boreal forests, but their impacts remain uncertain (The Conversation)

July 17, 2023

Are zombie fires something to worry about? As a team of scientists who have dedicated our careers to understanding changing boreal fire regimes, we decided to find out for ourselves.

A male Wilson's Warbler, a bright yellow and olive colored small bird with distinct black eye and black cap.  Photo: Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash

The birds are all right

June 20, 2023

Birds continue to thrive in Colorado’s Snake River watershed, despite increasing heavy metals and rare earth elements in streams, finds a study by Kelly Watson and Diane McKnight.

Black and white photo of a nuclear bomb test's mushroom cloud with nearby ships and palm trees in the foreground

Large or small, nuclear war would wreak havoc on the ocean (Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine)

May 31, 2023

Nikki Lovenduski was part of a collaborative study that found that nuclear war would wreak havoc on the world’s oceans, causing them to cool rapidly and become choked with sea ice. Ocean marine life would die out, and marine ecosystems would take decades—possibly even longer—to recover.

Lines divide Sierra Nevada watersheds. Average is a modeled estimate for years 2000-2021. Figure by Leanne Lestak and Noah Molotch.

Scientists take flight to map California’s vast snowpack and measure flooding threats (L.A. Times)

May 26, 2023

Noah Molotch is quoted in this Los Angeles Times article about mapping the recent historic snowpack in California using laser pulses and spectrometers from the air. The flights are collecting data to estimate when and how fast the snow will melt, helping officials prepare for the runoff, manage water releases from dams, and asses areas at risk of flooding.

CU Boulder researchers collect snow measurements near the Continental Divide in Colorado for the snow survey last May. Photo by Kate Hale.

Earlier snowpack melt in the West could bring summer water scarcity (CU Boulder Today)

May 25, 2023

Snow is melting earlier, and more rain is falling instead of snow in the mountain ranges of the Western U.S. and Canada, leading to a leaner snowpack that could impact agriculture, wildfire risk and municipal water supplies come summer, according to a new CU Boulder analysis. Kate Hale and Noah Molotch are authors on the study.

nowpack in the Roaring Fork Valley in western Colorado, as seen during an Airborne Snow Observatories Inc. flight in mid-April.

Scientists are using lasers to uncover the secrets of Colorado’s snowpack. So what does it mean for your water supply? (Colorado Sun)

May 12, 2023

In Colorado, 83% of the state’s water supply comes from surface water fed by winter snowpack and spring runoff. Colorado’s snowmelt also flows downstream to millions of other users in the Colorado River Basin. Having the most accurate snowpack measurement possible is vital for water agencies, which use the data to figure out how much ends up in home faucets and on farms for irrigation. The search for new, more accurate ways to measure snowpack is on.

A map slider compares compares the 2022 and 2023 snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

A boom year for Sierra Nevada snow (NASA)

April 28, 2023

After three years of busts, 2023 was a boom year for snow in the Sierra Nevada. Data provided by INSTAARs Noah Molotch, Leanne Lestak, and Kehan Yang provide a detailed picture of snowpack across the range and at different elevations, which helps the California Department of Water Resources and other water managers better forecast snowmelt in California.