The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: oak ridge national laboratory

Compass: ORNL mapping effort will aid rescue, risk assessment

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists spent five years mapping virtually every structure in the U.S. and the data is bearing early fruit as it is used for response to disasters such as hurricanes and severe floods. 

Mark Tuttle and Melanie Lavardiere, the team leaders of the project, have mapped "virtually every single structure in the United States and its territories," Compass reports. 

The information is used by disaster responders from the FEMA level and down. During a hurricane, for example, authorities can focus response efforts on the most vulnerable areas using the building-mapping database. 

The database can also be used by insurers to charge rates more according to risk, and for structures covered under the National Flood Insurance Program, as is already happening.

But the data is most valuable for saving lives and determining the most likely location those lives will have to be saved. 

"After disaster strikes, the data can give a rapid indication of the scope of the damage and point responders in the right direction to assist in the recovery. Using the powerful computers available at ORNL, the team can process data quickly — producing in a matter of hours work that used to take months — and get it into FEMA’s hands for analysis," Compass reports.

Published in Feedbag

Tree browning cicadas1 1 Here is some evidence of tree browning and “flagging” caused by the recent appearance of Brood-10 cicadas earlier this summer. Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory 

Tree “flagging” is a lingering sign of the 17-year cicadas’ brief time on Earth

(Alexandra DeMarco is an intern in ORNL’s media relations group.)

On the road leading to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, drivers may notice that many of the green trees lining the entrance to the lab are dappled with brown leaves. At first glance, the sight isn’t extraordinary, as deciduous tree leaves turn hues of oranges and browns before falling to the ground each autumn.

Yet, just weeks past the summer solstice, this phenomenon is out of place and is in fact evidence of another natural occurrence: cicada “flagging.”

This spring, Brood X cicadas emerged from the ground after 17 years and swarmed across the eastern United States, leaving a trail of exoskeletons and echoes of mating calls. Cicadas emerge in such large quantities to withstand predation and successfully maintain their populations, and trees actually play a key role in their life cycle.

A male cicada attracts a female through a mating call, the sound responsible for cicadas’ shrill hum. After the two mate, the female cicada uses a sharp tubular organ called an ovipositor to slit the bark and split the sapwood of young tree branches to deposit her eggs there. These incisions, however, damage a tree’s vascular system and can cause stalks beyond the incision to die and wither, leaving behind twigs with brown leaves that resemble flags dangling from the trees.

The eggs then grow into nymphs that make their way to below ground. An oft-repeated misconception is that they’ll stay dormant for 17 years. Actually, during that time, they go through 5 life stages while feeding on the xylem (tree sap) of roots. This may further weaken saplings that were heavily infested with cicadas.

Published in Earth
5BABPNUwStudents listen to a presentation from an Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher during National Environmental Education Week.  Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory
 

Scientists link research to students’ lives and communities

(Editor's note: Karen Dunlap is a public information officer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory). 

Esther Parish is one of eight Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists talking to students in nine schools across East Tennessee as part of National Environmental Education Week.

On Monday, she spoke to Cathy Kimball’s fifth-grade class at Lenoir City Middle School.

The discussion covered renewable energy resources, science career paths and how climate change may affect East Tennessee.

Other ORNL scientists, including Debjani Singh, Liz Agee, Shelaine Curd, Spencer Washburn, Colleen Iversen, Keith Kline and Matthew Langholtz are participating in classroom events through April 30.

The national event is organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), which celebrates environmental education.

“I think it is important to reach out to young people about environmental science because the choices that our society makes regarding renewable energy resource development and climate-change mitigation will have long-term effects on their environment, health and future quality of life,” Parish said. She is a member of ORNL’s Environmental Science Division and specializes in geography and landscape ecology.

Published in News
 

ORNL researchers receive 2021 Sustainability Science Award for mapping human influence on U.S. river and stream changes 

Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory mapped and quantified hydrological changes throughout the country due to urban development, energy production and other human factors and won a prestigious award for their efforts.

The team’s analysis was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and received the 2021 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America.

“The Sustainability Science Award recognizes the authors of a scholarly work that make a substantial contribution to the emerging science of ecosystem and regional sustainability through the integration of ecological and social sciences. The researchers will be recognized during the society’s annual meeting in August,” according to an ORNL release announcing the award.

The research coupled U.S. Geological Survey stream-flow records with geospatial modeling to quantify human impact on national water resources and concluded the 7 percent of affected aquatic systems hold 60 percent of North American freshwater fish, mussels and other species.

“This work exemplifies how ORNL’s interdisciplinary research in environmental and geospatial science helps equip decision makers with the tools needed to move our nation toward a more sustainable future,” Stan Wullschleger, associate laboratory director for ORNL’s Biological and Environmental Systems Science Directorate, said in the release.

Lead author Ryan McManamay, an aquatic ecologist and faculty member at Baylor University, was with ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division at the time of publication. Co-authors include ORNL’s Sujithkumar Surendran Nair, Christopher DeRolph, the late April Morton, Robert Stewart, Matthew Troia and Budhendra Bhaduri; Northern Arizona University’s Benjamin Ruddell; and the University of Tennessee’s Liem Tran and Hyun Kim.

“It was a privilege to work with this team that spanned across multiple disciplines and institutions,” said Bhaduri, an ORNL Corporate Research Fellow and director of ORNL’s Geospatial Science and Human Security Division. “Given the impacts of climate change, there has never been a more pressing opportunity to address environmental sustainability. It’s a tremendous honor to make this scientific contribution and to be recognized for it.”

Published in News