Scott Auerbach studies minerals known as zeolites, with special interest in exploring whether zeolites may be used to convert plant biomass such as cellulose into gasoline. Auerbach is interested in converting biomass to biofuels for two reasons. First, because plant biomass is renewable via fuel crops, while petroleum requires much more time to make and second, the growth of fuel crops removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, providing a "carbon neutral" process for making and using liquid transportation fuels. Despite the promise of a biofuel-based energy economy, Auerbach says that "we still haven't perfected the process of making biofuels, which makes today's biofuels too expensive for broad market adoption. That's why we need more research into shape-selective catalysis in zeolites." Read more

Organizers Li-Jun Ma, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and mycologist Rob Wick of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture have announced that the campus will host the third biennial conference known as MassMyco, a regional meeting on for fungal biologists in Massachusetts and surrounding states, to be held Sept. 24-25. Read more

Raymond Bradley, Distinguished Professor in Geosciences and director of the Climate System Research Center, with others, recently received a two-year, $241,000 NSF grant to use new molecular techniques to reconstruct the past history of environmental changes in the Faroe Islands, a key location for people migrating across the North Atlantic over the past 1,000 years. Read more

The current severe drought in parts of New England is notable, says hydrologist David Boutt, Geosciences, but not extreme in historical terms and nowhere near the depth of dry conditions observed in the acute five-year drought experienced in 1962-67, when the water level in the Quabbin Reservoir was 20 feet lower than it is today. Read more, Boston Globe

State-of-the-art climate and ice sheet models developed by Robert DeConto, Geosciences, and David Pollard at Penn State were used for a new study of past conditions on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The study suggests the region may again add to significant worldwide sea level rise with continued global warming, say geologist Reed Scherer and colleagues at Northern Illinois University. In the current issue of Nature Communications, Scherer, DeConto and colleagues report that they have discovered new evidence that helps to settle a decades-long disagreement among climate scientists about the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Pliocene, three million years ago, and what the presence of diatoms and algae fossils at high altitude today says about past climate conditions there. Read more, Washington Post