Radioisotopes have potential for medical diagnosis and treatment

Isotopes - atoms of an element that are chemically identical but vary in neutron number and mass - are essential to nuclear medicine. In an effort to return to a stable mass, isotopes known as radioisotopes emit radiation that can damage diseased tissue and can be traced in certain environments, making them useful for medical imaging and cancer therapy, as well as tracking environmental change in oceans and soil, studying the fundamental science of nuclei and safeguarding national security. Read more.

Clam analysis reveals how the oceans affected climate over the past 1,000 years

Alan Wanamaker, working as a postdoctoral researcher from 2007 to 2009, was charged with beginning to compile a 1,000-year record of the marine climate for a spot in the North Atlantic just off the fjords and fishing villages of North Iceland. He was at Bangor University in Wales, working with James Scourse and Chris Richardson, professors in the School of Ocean Sciences. Before Wanamaker were thousands of clams, each specimen of Arctica islandica taken from 80 meters of seawater on the North Icelandic Shelf.

Those clams - dead and alive, some able to live up to 500 years in the icy water - were the research group’s sensors under the sea. Just like tree rings say a lot about growing seasons over time, annual growth increments in the shells can tell researchers a lot about ocean conditions over time. Read more.

The clean lab

A new Center for Isotope Geochemistry opens in Boston College’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department

The new Center for Isotope Geochemistry in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences provides researchers with state-of-the-art lab space and technology to analyze materials for new insights into earth processes and human activity across billions of years. The $2.5-million lab came online earlier this year and so far has hosted more than two dozen professors, graduate students and undergraduate researchers.

In addition to Earth & Environmental Sciences, the center expects students and faculty from other disciplines – such as physics, chemistry, biology, and even history and theology – to explore how the lab’s unique technology can support their work. The facility has also drawn earth science researchers from other universities. Read more.

Earth’s carbon-climate feedbacks varied in past warming episodes

Records from drill holes in the eastern equatorial Pacific indicate that Earth’s orbital eccentricity played an important role in controlling climate as the planet warmed.

Embedded within the Earth’s long-term cooling trend over the past 65 million years are several climate spikes—swift transitions to “hothouse” conditions—that had profound consequences for life. These spikes could serve as analogues for the future of our warming planet.

The cause of these spikes may in part be due to changes in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. But the complex feedbacks between the Earth’s climate and the carbon cycle have been hotly debated, and there is little scientific consensus on this issue. Read more.

Mammoth and mastodon behavior was less roam, more stay-at-home

According to research conducted by the University of Cincinnati, the fuzzy relatives of modern-day elephants liked living in greater Cincinnati long before it became the trendy hot spot it is today - at the end of the last Ice Age. A study led by Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology, shows the ancient proboscideans enjoyed the area to such an extent that they probably resided there year round and were not the nomadic migrants as previously thought. Read more.