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.

Small airplane on the ground being prepared for science flights

Researchers work to better understand environmental impacts of fracking (Denver 7)

Oct. 18, 2021

Armed with state-of-the-art equipment, researchers from the University of Colorado and University of Maryland spent a week flying above fracking sites in Weld County, Colorado to gather data surrounding possible methane leaks around fracking sites. This article includes a 2.5 minute video.

Two mountain streams come together, one with rusty red acid rock drainage

New contamination concern for Colorado streams (EOS)

Oct. 14, 2021

Abandoned hardrock mines and climate change cause metals and other elements to leach into streams. They also put rare earth elements into the water, as found by Garrett Rue and Diane McKnight in their new study.

Two mountain streams come together, one with rusty red acid rock drainage

Climate change increases rare earth elements in Colorado’s Snake River (High Country News)

Sept. 16, 2021

A new study by Garrett Rue and Diane McKnight suggests lower stream flows, caused by climate change, as a primary culprit.

Students involved in Diane McKnight's ongoing research on water quality in the Snake River collect tracer samples along a tributary.

Rare earth elements and old mines spell trouble for Western water supplies

Aug. 30, 2021

Acid rock and mine drainage into Western streams is a problem. Climate change is making it worse.

People in a boat and wading in floodwaters

Study finds global surge of flood exposure is from population shifts far more than climate change (Sustain What)

Aug. 6, 2021

Too often, rising climate risk is conflated with rising CO2. That takes the heat off national and local leaders who can cut drivers of risk on the ground now. Andy Revkin collects in-depth perspective from scientists and others on the global risk of flooding, the inequities and policies that are driving up that risk, and what we can do to manage it. Revkin cites work that involved Albert Kettner and Bob Brakenridge of the DFO Flood Observatory.

Map of global flooding on a particular day

New global map shows populations are growing faster in flood-prone areas (MIT Technology Review)

Aug. 5, 2021

Satellite imagery reveals how floods are changing and who’s most at risk. A new global floods database involved Bob Brakenridge and Albert Kettner of the DFO Flood Observatory.

Example of an arid zone with sparsely vegetated landscape

Expert Q&A on efforts to reverse desertification (drylands reseeding) (Univ. of Victoria)

July 22, 2021

Restoration of degraded drylands is urgently needed to mitigate climate change, reverse desertification and secure livelihoods for the two billion people who live in these areas, say an international group of ecologists who examined the success of seeding drylands with key native plant species. Their study is published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Lead author Nancy Shackelford started the project as a postdoc in Katie Suding's group.

Researcher works in a stable isotope lab that contains lots of blue and beige gas flasks

New analysis shows microbial sources fueling rise of atmospheric methane (NOAA Research News)

June 17, 2021

The sudden and sustained rise in atmospheric levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane since 2007 has posed one of the most significant and pressing questions in climate research: Where is it coming from? Now a research team has tested the leading theories for surging methane levels by analyzing the stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C-CH4) from methane captured in a large set of global air samples to determine if one of the theories is more feasible than the others.

Researchers study the fall tundra in the Colorado alpine

Longer growing season could transform the tundra (Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine)

June 11, 2021

Across the tundra, warming temperatures are causing plants to stay greener longer and flower earlier—and that could reshape life there, according to new research led by INSTAARs. The findings, published today in Nature Communications, synthesized 30 years of experimental warming data from 18 different tundra sites across the globe and found that not only are leaves coming out earlier and staying on the plants longer in this critically understudied biome, but their reproductive cycles are not responding in the same way. This change could not only have cascading effects through the ecosystem, but could also change the balance of carbon between the land and the atmosphere.

Cows in a muddy field

A mysterious rise in methane levels is sparking global warming fears (New Scientist)

May 21, 2021

In INSTAAR's Stable Isotope Lab lie rows of metal flasks holding clues to the cause of an alarming rise in a powerful greenhouse gas. They contain samples of air from around the world that Sylvia Michel‘s team of methane detectives analyse to reveal whether the gas came from burning fossil fuels and wood, or from wetlands and cow guts. Note that a subscription is required to read this article.