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.

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon on its way to Lake Mead. Bas Vermolen/Getty Images.

The search for solutions to Colorado’s water crisis (5280)

March 6, 2023

An extensive essay in 5280 outlines the history, status, and potential responses to Colorado's ongoing--and growing--water shortage. Noah Molotch describes his work calculating snow-water equivalent using remote sensing as part of the piece.

Surface scatter of Aepyornis eggshell exposed by active wind erosion of sand dunes in which the birds nested. Photo by Gifford Miller.

Ancient eggshells unlock discovery of extinct elephant bird lineage (CU Boulder Today)

March 1, 2023

More than 1,200 years ago, elephant birds roamed the island of Madagascar. While these ostrich-like giants are now extinct, new research from CU Boulder and Curtin University in Australia reveals that their eggshell remnants hold valuable clues about their time on Earth. Published today in Nature Communications, the study describes the discovery of a previously unknown, separate lineage of elephant bird that roamed the wet, forested landscapes on the northeastern side of Madagascar—a discovery made without access to any skeletal remains.

Snow covers the rugged terrain of Sierra Nevada mountaintops.

How the winter storm could impact California reservoirs (Newsweek)

Feb. 23, 2023

Southern California is bracing for a cold winter storm that is expected to bring up to 5 feet of snow accumulation in certain areas. Noah Molotch and other LTER hydrologists are interviewed about the state of California's snowpack and water supply.

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.

Lead author Erik Funk with a rosy-finch.

Rosy-finches are Colorado’s high-alpine specialists, and researchers want to know why (CU Boulder Today)

Jan. 20, 2023

Birds that can live at 14,000 feet and also breed at sea level might have evolved more quickly than previously thought, finds research led by Scott Taylor. The findings add to scientists’ understanding of biodiversity and may also help inform conservation decisions in the face of human-caused climate change.

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.