News and Updates


Earth is nearly 4,000 miles deep, and other than the outermost few miles, is inaccessible to humans. Seismology is the only tool to accurately image the deep interior of Earth. Over the last few decades, seismologists have used the tool of seismic tomography to map out the interior of Earth (much like medical CT scan tomography to image the human body).

Ed Garnero, a geophysicist at Arizona State University, will share his research on Earth’s dynamic interior at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting on Feb. 13.

For nearly 30 years, Garnero has focused his research on the area between Earth’s uppermost mantle to the innermost core.

In his lecture “Interpreting Earth's Largest Internal Seismic Anomalies: Deep Thermochemical Piles,” Garnero will discuss how modern research shows that many surface processes on our planet are related to dynamic phenomena within. He will be sharing cutting-edge images of Earth's interior, which reveal two massive continental-sized blobs half-way to Earth's center that likely relate to where the most massive eruptions happen at Earth's surface.

“One blob is located beneath the Pacific Ocean, the other is nearly on the opposite side of Earth, beneath the Atlantic and part of the African continent,” says Garnero, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “The massive blobs are important because they appear to play a role in convective processes, including where mantle plumes originate – plumes are thought to give rise to Earth's hotspot volcanoes.”

Observations, modeling and predictions show the inner Earth to be chemically complex and continuously churning and changing. Tomographic images constructed from seismic wave readings point to differences in the speeds of waves that go through the mantle. This difference in wave speeds provides a sort of map of the major boundaries inside the mantle – where hot areas are, where cold areas are, where there are regions that might be a different composition, etc.

“These continent sized blobs have properties that result in seismic waves traveling more sluggishly through them,” explains Garnero. “Our recent research adds to the body of knowledge that supports these blobs being chemically distinct from the rest of the mantle rock.”

(Nikki Cassis)


It’s been more than 40 years since astronauts returned the last Apollo samples from the moon, and since then those samples have undergone some of the most extensive and comprehensive analysis of any geological collection. A team led by ASU researchers has now refined the timeline of meteorite impacts on the moon through a pioneering application of laser microprobe technology to Apollo 17 samples.

Impact cratering is the most ubiquitous geologic process affecting the solid surfaces of planetary bodies in the solar system. The moon’s scarred surface serves as a record of meteorite bombardment that spans much of solar system history. Developing an absolute chronology of lunar impact events is of particular interest because the moon is an important proxy for understanding the early bombardment history of Earth, which has been largely erased by plate tectonics and erosion, and because we can use the lunar impact record to infer the ages of other cratered surfaces in the inner solar system.

Researchers in ASU’s Group 18 Laboratories, headed by Professor Kip Hodges, used an ultraviolet laser microprobe attached to a high-sensitivity mass spectrometer to analyze argon isotopes in samples returned by Apollo 17. While the laser microprobe 40Ar/39Ar technique has been applied to a large number of problems in terrestrial geochronology, including studies of texturally complex samples, this is its first time it has been applied to samples from the Apollo archive.

The samples analyzed by the ASU team are known as lunar impact melt breccias — mash-ups of glass, rock and crystal fragments that were created by impact events on the moon’s surface.

When a meteor strikes another planetary body, the impact produces very large amounts of energy, some of which goes into shock heating and melting the target rocks. These extreme conditions can ‘restart the clock’ for some mineral-isotopic chronometers, particularly for material melted during impact. As a result, the absolute ages of lunar craters are primarily determined through isotope geochronology of components of the target rocks that were shocked and heated to the point of melting, and which have since solidified.

However, lunar rocks may have experienced multiple impact events over the course of billions of years of bombardment, potentially complicating attempts to date samples and relate the results to the ages of particular impact structures.

Conventional wisdom holds that the largest impact basins on the moon were responsible for generating the vast majority of impact melts, and therefore that nearly all of the samples dated must be related to the formation of those basins.

While it is true that enormous quantities of impact melt are generated by basin-scale impact events, recent images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera confirm that even small craters with diameters on the order of 100 meters can generate impact melts. The team’s findings have important implications for this particular observation. The results are published in the inaugural issue of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s newest journal, Science Advances, on Feb. 12.

“One of the samples we analyzed, 77115, records evidence for only one impact event, which may or may not be related to a basin-forming impact event. In contrast, we found that the other sample, 73217, preserves evidence for at least three impact events occurring over several hundred million years, not all of which can be related to basin-scale impacts,” says Cameron Mercer, lead author of the paper and a graduate student in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Sample 77115, collected by astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt at Station 7 during their third and final moonwalk, records a single melt-forming event about 3.83 billion years ago. Sample 73217, retrieved at Station 3 during the astronauts’ second moonwalk, preserves evidence for at least three distinct impact melt-forming events occurring between 3.81 billion years ago and 3.27 billion years ago. The findings suggest that a single small sample can preserve multiple generations of melt products created by impact events over the course of billions of years.

“Our results emphasize the need for care in how we analyze samples in the context of impact dating, particularly for those samples that appear to have complex, polygenetic origins. This applies to both the samples that we currently have in our lunar and meteoritic collections, as well as samples that we recover during future human and robotic space exploration missions in the inner solar system,” says Mercer.


Image caption: Photomicrograph of a petrographic thin section of a piece of a coherent, crystalline impact melt breccia collected from landslide material at the base of the South Massif, Apollo 17 (sample 73217, 84). Different mineral and lithic clasts, as well as impact melt phases are evident. Determining the ages of different melt components in such a complex rock requires carefully focused analyses within context of spatial and petrographic information such as this. In their article published in the Feb. 12 issue of Science Advances, Mercer et al. used the laser microprobe 40Ar/39Ar technique to investigate age relationships of three of the distinct generations of impact melt shown in this image.

Credit: Brad Jolliff, Washington University in St. Louis.

(Nikki Cassis)


March 06, 2015
3:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.

Radically new visions of the future will be showcased as part of Arizona State University's Emerge 2015 – a one-day event featuring visionary Jad Abumrad, host of the award-winning show Radiolab, and 10 spellbinding "visitations from the future," including theatrical performances, improvisation, games, dance and hands-on opportunities to design and build the future.

Part performance, part hands-on interactive experience, the annual Emerge event explores the ways we are already creating the future, and asks us to think about how we ensure it is the future we hope for – rather than one we dread.

The theme of Emerge 2015 is The Future of Choices and Values.

“Humans today have unprecedented power to harness and reshape matter, energy and even life itself. Emerge asks what kinds of futures we should build together, at a moment in history when what we can do is almost unlimited,” said Joel Garreau, founding co-director of Emerge and professor of law, culture and values at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Exploring the unknown

Emerge dares brilliant creative and technical minds to bring questions about the future to life through performance, technology and storytelling. The event gathers artists, designers, scientists, engineers and audiences to imagine optimistic, thoughtful futures.

Each of the 10 “visitations from the future,” as well as the performance by Abumrad, are different ways of responding to the open question about what kind of futures we can envision, and what kind of futures we want. Because the teams behind each of the visitations are drawn from such diverse backgrounds, their answers could not be more different.

“There’s a really wide range of experiences at Emerge this year," said Megan Halpern, director of collaboration and research for Emerge 2015. "I’m especially excited to see how seriously Emerge takes the idea of play, and how the teams are incorporating opportunities for the audience to express their ideas creatively.”

Abumrad, the headliner for this year’s event, is the creator and host of Radiolab, the popular public radio show about “curiosity,” broadcast on over 500 stations across the nation and downloaded more than 9 million times a month as a podcast. In his Peabody Award-winning program, Abumrad combines journalism, storytelling, dialogue and music to craft compositions of exploration and discovery.

At Emerge, his exciting performance, called “Gut Churn” – which includes video and live sound manipulation – begins with a simple question: What does it mean to “innovate?” How does it feel to make something new in the world?

On one level, this is a personal story of how Abumrad invented a new aesthetic. On another, it is a clinic in the art of storytelling. On a third and more profound level, the lecture is the result of a three-year investigation into the science, philosophy and art of uncertainty, which all began with the two words in his title – gut churn. What use do negative feelings have during the creative process? Do those feelings get in the way, or do they propel us forward?

Event details

The event is set to take place from 3 p.m. to midnight, March 6, at the university's SkySong Innovation Center in Scottsdale, and is free and open to the public, with registration requested through

In addition to Abumrad, a host of talented artists, thinkers and creators, will be in attendance including Jonathon Keats, conceptual artist, Forbes art critic and novelist; Don Marinelli, co-founder of the world-renowned Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center (ETC); Rachel Bowditch, theater director and associate professor at ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre; Toby Fraley, Pittsburgh-based artist and creator of the exhibition The Secret Life of Robots; Megan Halpern, co-founder of Redshift Productions, an arts-science performance and outreach company and postdoctoral researcher at ASU’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society; and many others.

Emerge 2015’s ASU sponsors and partners include the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; the Center for Science and the Imagination; the SkySong Innovation Center; the Office of the President; the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development; the School of Earth and Space Exploration; the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; LightWorks; and the ASU Art Museum. Additional sponsors and partners include KJZZ 91.5, Scottsdale Public Art, Whole Foods Market and the Arizona SciTech Festival.

The 10 visitations from the future featured at Emerge 2015 are:

Bodies for a Global Brain, created by Eben Portnoy, Zoe Sandoval and Jeff Burke

A performative vision of a future in which humans connect their consciousness to global cloud computing networks, seeking connectedness and enlightenment. Originally funded by Google and presented by students from UCLA, the performance integrates Google Glass wearable devices with live theater.

Ars Robotica, created by Lance Gharavi, Sai Vemprala, Matt Ragan and Stephen Christensen

What if we could teach robots to dance? How would it change the relationship between humans and machines? ASU roboticists and performance artists are taking on that challenge using the Baxter industrial robot.

Johnny Appledrone vs. the FAA, created by Donald Marinelli

A one-man show about government surveillance, swarms of DIY drones and an alternative Internet, inspired by a story of the same name from ASU’s science fiction anthology "Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future" (HarperCollins, 2014), written by Lee Konstantinou.

The Happiness Project, created by Scott Cloutier

Sustainability researchers and community members explore how we can work together to build happier neighborhoods through sustainability interventions.

Future Design Studio, created by Megan Halpern

Create your own prototypes of artifacts from the future. From parking tickets to coffins, the Future Design Studio asks you to imagine what everyday objects will look like in the future, and then invites you to watch as improv performers from The Torch Theatre create the world in which your objects exist.

The Artwork Forge, created by Toby Fraley

A coin-operated robotic art-dispensing machine that scans the Internet for inspiration and creates customized paintings on 4 by 6 inch blocks of wood.

Abraxa, created by Rachel Bowditch

A roaming atmospheric performance exploring utopian experiments, dreams and the concept of the ideal city, created by Rachel Bowditch of ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre.

Lego Future Fairy Tales, created by Marcus Snell and Tamara Christiansen

Create your own fairy tale from the future in an epic Lego build led by experts in the art and science of Lego Serious Play.

You Have Been Inventoried, created by Eric Kingsbury

An interactive exploration of RFID and data visualization technology explores a future where the smallest elements of your behavior can be digitally tracked, stored and shared with people around you.

The Deep Time Photo Lab, created by Jonathon Keats

Build a pinhole camera with a 100-year exposure time to hide somewhere in the Phoenix area, invisibly monitoring changes in the urban landscape between now and 2115.

To learn more about Emerge 2015, visit

Image: Radiolab creator and host Jad Abumrad will present "Gut Churn," a multimedia performance about storytelling and innovation, at Emerge 2015.

Joey Eschrich,



Ariel Anbar, President's Professor in SESE, has been elected a Geochemistry Fellow by The Geochemical Society (GS) and The European Association of Geochemistry (EAG).

In 1996, The Geochemical Society and The European Association for Geochemistry established the honorary title of Geochemistry Fellow, to be bestowed upon outstanding scientists who have, over some years, made a major contribution to the field of geochemistry.

The 2015 Geochemical Fellows will receive their honor at the 2015 Goldschmidt Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, this summer.

Anbar joins professor Everett Shock in this honor.



ASU SIMS facility shrinks geochemical analysis into the nanometer regime

Two secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) laboratories in the Bateman Physical Science Complex were recognized as hotbeds of scientific research, thanks to the expertise of researchers in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (DCB). Professors Richard Hervig, Lynda Williams, and Christy Till of SESE and Professor Peter Williams and postdoctoral researcher Maitrayee Bose of DCB have been awarded $1 million over the next three years to operate their joint laboratories as a national facility for research into the Earth Sciences using this high-sensitivity microbeam analysis technique.

SIMS is an analytical tool permitting measurements of elemental concentration and isotope ratios on extremely tiny areas, so that chemical and isotopic variability on scales from a few micrometers down to several nanometers can be determined.

The spectrometers use beams of ionized atoms to focus on spots as small as 50 nanometers in size, which is less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. The ions strike the surface and blast off and ionize atoms, which are then separated by mass and measured in sensitive detectors capable of counting individual ions. The process of scanning the beam over the surface creates a high-resolution chemical and/or isotopic image of the sample.

Currently, ASU has one of the most extensive arrays of SIMS instrumentation and SIMS expertise in the world. The ASU researchers have been consistently on the leading edge of innovation in micro-elemental analysis. SIMS research at ASU dates back to 1984 with the acquisition of a Cameca (Paris) ims3f ion microscope by Peter Williams, capable of analysis in few-micrometer areas. A more modern and more powerful ims6f microscope was added in 1999 under the leadership of Hervig. Continuing the tradition of being at the leading edge of the instrumentation, Peter Williams (with Hervig, Lynda Williams and other ASU researchers) spearheaded the acquisition of a Cameca NanoSIMS instrument in 2011, with the capability to analyze areas as small as tens of nanometers.

This combination of instruments enables applications to a broad range of scientific problems, including analyses of a wide variety of natural and synthetic inorganic materials from this planet and others, semiconductors and even biological materials.

“We have been operating as an NSF-funded national facility since early 2007,” says Hervig, professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of the ASU SIMS facility. “The 2015 renewal allows us to continue to operate as a facility, and makes the NanoSIMS instrument as well as the existing 6f SIMS lab accessible to students, researchers and faculty.”

On the national stage, this facility is a key player in the mix of instrumentation that is required to conduct state-of-the-art microanalytical geochemistry and petrology.

The SESE researchers are widely known for applying their technique to analyze tiny grains in meteorites thought to pre-date our solar system, small fragments of explosive eruptions, clays and nanopores in oil-shale, and characterization of slow elemental and isotopic diffusion in a variety of earth materials, including volcanic minerals.

“With the ability to analyze elemental concentrations in zoned crystals on the nanometer scale using NanoSIMS, we are now able to reconstruct the life history of a magma up to just a few hours before a volcanic eruption and determine the triggers for explosive volcanic eruptions at volcanoes including Yellowstone,” says Till, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Hervig has developed many SIMS techniques for geochemistry and applied them to natural samples from this and other planets as well as a variety of synthetic materials. Lynda Williams has used this technique on a range of materials at the organic/inorganic interface, specifically on the role of nanopores in understanding more about the properties of oil shales (and the environmental impact of mining them).
ASU also has built a reputation for developing novel analytical applications and instrumentation and for fundamental research aimed at understanding the ion formation process. While a central focus of the SESE researchers is on earth science problems, the lab is open to others, and the team commonly works with materials scientists and electrical engineers on campus and in the ASU Research Park, in addition to microbiologists and chemists.

Geochemists from around the world travel to the NSF-funded National SIMS Facility on ASU’s Tempe campus to use the instruments. Since 2007, from 2 to 12 people (undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, senior research scientists, and faculty) have visited the ASU facility each month. They are usually from the US, but also include visitors from other countries.

One of the anonymous proposal reviewers stated: “We all know that the devil is in the details, and it seems that the scale at which the demons operate gets smaller and smaller with each new advancement in analytical capability. Being able to analyze samples with both the normal and NanoSIMS at the ASU facility will open up new frontiers in our understanding of geological problems, and especially in the ability to examine the timescales of geologic processes.” Another reviewer lauded the facility as “one of the most creative and original SIMS labs in the nation.”

Speaking on behalf of the co-investigators, Hervig said, “We are flattered to be recognized for our scientific leadership and excited at the prospects for unprecedented nanometer-scale geochemical analyses now possible with the incorporation of the new NanoSIMS instrument into the facility. This is high praise for the senior members of the team, but we are particularly pleased that the NSF reviewers agreed with our emphasis on involving younger researchers – Till and Bose – who are pushing the limits of NanoSIMS analysis in the earth and space sciences.”

Image: Images from NanoSIMS showing the location of elements in E. coli treated with natural antibacterial clay. The images represent a cross section through bacteria (The images in B, C and D are close-ups of the yellow box indicated in A. ). The data confirm which elements are critical to the antibacterial process and shows the resolution of trace element mapping by SIMS. Images by Maitrayee Bose and research by Keith Morrison and Lynda Williams in the ASU SIMS Facility.


As one of this year’s Fulbright Scholars, ASU hydrology professor Enrique Vivoni will have an opportunity to work with some of Mexico’s leading experts in his field to advance his collaborative studies of the shared water resources between the U.S. and Mexico.

The Fulbright award will enable Vivoni to spend nine months starting in August 2015, conducting research at the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada (CICESE) in Ensenada, Baja California and the research center of CONACYT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología).

Vivoni is an associate professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Each year, the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program awards about 800 highly sought after teaching and/or research grants to selected U.S. faculty and experienced professionals, enabling them to engage in collaborative studies and research in more than 125 countries. Award recipients are chosen for exemplary achievements and proven leadership in their fields.

Vivoni’s research activities focus on the intersection of hydrology and its allied disciplines – ecology, meteorology and geomorphology – for improving understanding of water resources in this region. He has made significant contributions to the understanding of ecohydrologic processes in semi-arid areas. In recent years, his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, NASA, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

During his time in Ensenada, he will be conducting atmospheric and hydrologic research related to climate change in northern Mexico. Vivoni’s Fulbright project will build upon a decade of investigation in northern Mexico with a range of collaborators from US and Mexican institutions.

“I am most interested in generating cross-border knowledge on water resources that can help both countries confront and adapt to changing land cover and climate conditions,” says Vivoni, of his upcoming trip.

Vivoni's most notable accomplishments include a 2008 U.S. Fulbright Scholar Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a Kavli Fellow, and a Leopold Leadership Fellow.

Credit: ASU Magazine

(Nikki Cassis)



Founding Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies, Dr. Carleton B. Moore, has been inducted into the Mineralogical Society of Arizona's Hall of Fame! This award recognizes, among other things, Dr. Moore's many contributions to education and public outreach through presentations to schools and clubs in Arizona (Photo: Dr. Carleton B. Moore hosts the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies booth at the Sedona Gem & Mineral Club Annual Show. Image credit: ASU/CMS).

Dr. Moore was editor of the journal Meteoritics for 20 years. He was a member of the Lunar Sample Preliminary Examination Team for the Apollo program, and a principal investigator for the returned lunar sample program for all the Apollo missions. Dr. Moore’s research efforts have focused on the geochemistry of meteorites, lunar samples and analytical geochemical problems. Additional research interests have taken advantage of the great statistical depth present in the Center for Meteorite Studies collections, including statistical studies of meteorite compositions and homogeneity, the origin of the low calcium achondrites, trace elements in iron meteorites, and high- and low-temperature phases, including organic compounds, in carbonaceous chondrites.

Dr. Moore received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1960, and served as Founding Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies for over 40 years. In 2011, on the occasion of the Center's 50th anniversary, the ASU meteorite collection – the largest university meteorite collection in the world – was officially named the Carleton B. Moore Meteorite Collection

(Center for Meteorite Studies)



More than twenty-four universities and colleges launch the Inspark Science Network to improve outcomes in science courses with traditionally high failure rates

More than 200 faculty members and college presidents will discuss the future of science education and demonstrate groundbreaking technology that will power the Inspark Science Network today at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

Established to lead a digital revolution in science education, the Inspark Science Network was launched by Arizona State University (ASU) and Smart Sparrow to develop and share courses that will help students complete general science education courses. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $4.5 million grant to Smart Sparrow for the new initiative. Success in general science education courses has been a barrier to college completion, particularly for low-income and first-generation students.

“Having more students successfully complete college science courses is a huge benefit to our society and will strengthen our nation’s competitiveness,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Efforts like these, which utilize technology to engage students in a more meaningful way and encourage them to learn science through the exploration of the worlds around them, will be vital in removing traditional barriers to a college degree.”

Australian technology firm Smart Sparrow, a pioneer in adaptive learning authoring platforms, will provide tools that enable faculty to create and share digital courses, with an emphasis on allowing individual educators to exert pedagogical control and track student progress using sophisticated analytics.

As part of the launch of Inspark, over 200 college and university presidents and faculty members are gathering today to demo the new technology powering the network. The day will include a panel discussion featuring President Crow, Nobel Laureate Lee Hartwell, Maricopa Community Colleges Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Maria Harper-Marinick, and Director of the ASU Origins Project Lawrence Krauss.

“The Inspark Science Network will empower teachers to create learning experiences that combine the power of adaptive learning with the magic of great classroom instruction,” said Dr. Dror Ben-Naim, CEO and Founder of Smart Sparrow. “We are proud to establish a world-leading team of experts, and contribute toward creating tools that will have a lasting and significant impact on student success.”

The Inspark Science Network is an initiative of Smart Sparrow, in partnership with ASU’s newly established Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX). ETX, directed by Ariel Anbar, a President’s Professor in the School of Earth & Space Exploration and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at ASU, is an initiative designed to promote active learning, teaching science as the means by which we explore the unknown, rather than simply learning what is already known. Founding Inspark partners also include Achieving the Dream, The University of Texas at Arlington, and e*mersion, a science animation company.

With help from Achieving the Dream, a national organization focused on improving outcomes for low-income and traditionally underserved students, Inspark will produce innovative courseware and work to ensure that faculty and community colleges around the country can access the network. George Siemens, Executive Director of The University of Texas at Arlington’s Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Lab, will lead a research effort to test the efficacy of the new courses and networks.
Professor Anbar will guide the Inspark Science Network in developing “smart courses” that teach basic science concepts through the exploration of intriguing questions, placing traditional science content in a compelling context.

“We believe science is fundamental to teaching students how to be critical thinkers and successful contributors to the future of our society,” Anbar said. “This network will pull together like-minded professionals who are passionate about teaching and committed to ensuring that all students succeed.”

Representatives from community colleges across Arizona will be participating in the special events today at ASU. Among the initial twenty four teaching partners are universities and community colleges such as American Public University System, Houston Community College, Lorain County Community College, and Miami Dade College.

For more information or to register in the Inspark Science Network please visit



Arizona State University hydrologist Enrique Vivoni has been awarded a Leopold Leadership Fellowship –– a prestigious North American program focused on communicating scientific research to a wide audience. Vivoni, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, is one of 20 Leopold Leadership fellows for 2015.

Water in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico is a contentious issue that traverses disciplinary boundaries. Vivoni’s research activities focus on the intersection of hydrology and its allied disciplines (ecology, meteorology and geomorphology) for improving our understanding of water resources in this region. A hallmark of his research achievements has been the collaborative studies on the shared water resources between the U.S. and Mexico.

“I am honored to be chosen as a Leopold Fellow and I look forward to serving as a focal point for water resources issues in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico,” Vivoni said. “The leadership skills developed through the Leopold Leadership program will be useful for addressing societal needs related to water resources sustainability.”

Vivoni is internationally recognized in the fields of distributed hydrologic modeling, ecohydrology of semi-arid regions, North American monsoon studies and integration of engineering tools for advancing hydrologic science.

The Leopold Leadership Program, based at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, is a competitive fellowship for outstanding academic environmental scientists who are actively engaged in outreach to decision-makers and the public about their work. Each year, the program selects up to 20 midcareer academic environmental scientists as fellows.

The fellows were chosen for their outstanding scientific qualifications, demonstrated leadership ability, and strong interest in sharing their knowledge beyond traditional academic audiences. The fellows will receive two weeks of intensive communication and leadership training in how to deliver information about their research to journalists, policymakers, business leaders, and the public.

The Leopold Leadership Program was founded in 1998 to fill a critical gap in environmental decision-making: getting the best scientific knowledge into the hands of government, nonprofit, and business leaders and the public to further the development of sustainable policies and practices.

The list of 2015 Fellows is below, and more information about the program is available at

Image: Arizona State University professor Enrique Vivoni has been named a Leopold Leadership fellow for 2015.
Credit: ASU Magazine

(Nikki Cassis)



Alberto Behar, a research professor at Arizona State University, who has been operating, designing, building, testing and deploying scientific instruments and robotics in extreme environments for more than 20 years, died Jan. 9, when the plane he was flying crashed north of Los Angeles. He was 47.

Alberto possessed an inquisitive mind. He was passionate. He was driven. He was an explorer. He was widely known for his energy, enthusiasm, and technical excellence. He brought optimism and an accompanying smile to every room he entered.

“Alberto Behar was a uniquely talented engineer, developing ways to measure changes in our natural world in the most challenging environments – the ocean depths or the Antarctic ice cap,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. “With those around him, he shared both a brilliant mind and a big heart: his students were full partners in a grand adventure. His colleagues quickly came to know his caring nature and irrepressible good humor. We will all miss him tremendously.”

Today much scientific exploration in extreme environments on Earth and in space is done using mobile robots. Alberto dedicated his career to better understanding Earth and beyond by developing instruments that allowed for exploration of regions too dangerous or inaccessible for human explorers.

Alberto had once said that new innovations are a way of overcoming the limits on our ability to explore: “Technology is how we get our senses to a remote location where we can’t actually go ourselves.”

During the course of his career, Alberto has developed instruments and robotics that have reached deep in the ocean’s hydrothermal vents, next to volcanoes, under thick ice sheets, in to the stratosphere and on to other planetary bodies. He participated in the exploration of Mars, serving as the Investigation Scientist for both the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument on the Curiosity rover and the High Energy Neutron Detector on the Mars Odyssey orbiter.

A Greenland research paper, of which Behar was an author, was released today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The lead author Laurence Smith of UCLA contacted PNAS and asked to have the research dedicated to the memory of Behar. The Acknowledgments section will now begin with: "This research is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alberto Behar, who tragically passed away January 9, 2015."

The life of an explorer

Alberto’s parents emigrated from Cuba to the United States. Alberto was born and raised in Miami, Fla. and attended the University of Florida, majoring in computer and information engineering sciences. He went on to earn two graduate degrees: a Master of Engineering in Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Master of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in robotics from University of Southern California. In 1998, he obtained his doctorate in electrical engineering (astronautics minor) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Before coming to ASU in 2009, Alberto spent 18 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) operating, designing, building, testing and deploying scientific instruments and robotics in extreme environments.

“From his submarines that peeked under Antarctica to his boats that raced Greenland's rivers, Alberto's work enabled measurements of things we'd never known,” said Thomas Wagner, the Cryosphere Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters. “His creativity knew few bounds.”

Training the next generation of explorers

Alberto was one of the first of a new breed of faculty to join the School of Earth and Space Exploration, according to Kip Hodges, founding director of the school. He was a researcher and educator who actively bridged the gap between science and engineering.

“From the moment he began working toward becoming part of our community, Alberto showed a natural affinity for working with undergraduates through project-based learning and he became a tremendous mentor,” Hodges said. “To him, engineering was an enabling strategy for scientific research, and his enthusiasm for the field was extremely inspirational for many ASU students, not just those with majors in our school.”

Jim Crowell, a researcher in Alberto’s Extreme Environments Robotics and Instrumentation Laboratory, was hired by Alberto following his May 2012 graduation.

“I first started working for Alberto as a student. My last semester, I did a research project with him; the project was a system to analyze the depth of some glacial rivers in Greenland,” says Crowell. “Alberto was my boss, mentor, teacher, and friend. More than anything, he was an incredible mentor and a great friend. He inspired me every day, and he’s the only reason I stayed in Phoenix after I graduated. He always wanted the best for me and my career.”

Alberto’s colleague Jack Farmer, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, describes him as “an engineer par excellence” with an amazingly diverse experience designing and testing robotic platforms for the exploration of extreme environments on Earth and ultimately, other planets.

“He brought this amazing experience, along with his infectious enthusiasm for exploration, to the classroom and SESE students were clear beneficiaries,” said Farmer. He and Alberto served together on the MSL team, and shared many experiences during the first 90 days of the mission, as they lived and worked on Mars time.

A passion for life

Alberto was deeply passionate about exploration and discovery and he was highly successful in his career, but he never lost sight of his true love: his family.

“When he wasn’t talking about work, he was talking about his wife and children. He absolutely adored them,” says Crowell. “He told me to focus on my life and having a family. As much fun or important as a career seems, he understood that family and living life was much more important than anything else.”

He is survived by his wife Mary and three children: his son Indra and daughters Isis and Athena.

Friends, colleagues and students agree that Behar was a man of science, with a passion for sharing knowledge and exploring the unknown.

Lance Strumpf, chief pilot at Briles Wing & Helicopter, Inc., became friends with Alberto through aviation. Alberto held dual airline transport pilot and instructor ratings in helicopters and airplanes, as well as Scientific and Rescue SCUBA Diver Certificates and an Emergency Medical Technician Certificate.

“Alberto worked his way onto my staff as a helicopter pilot,” says Strumpf. “He was always welcome in our home. We all loved Alberto. He spent evenings at my house, dinners and at times slept over. He was part of the family. My family spent a week with his family in Scottsdale for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. He toured us through his lab at Arizona State University and gave is a private tour at JPL during the construction of the Mars Curiosity. He loved to share his knowledge.”

“I once asked him what the purpose of one of our projects was,” recalls Crowell, “and he said simply: ‘Because we don’t know.’ He was truly the embodiment of exploration.”

Image:  Alberto stands in front of his "drone-boat", which safely collected measurements of water depth and spectral reflectance needed to calibrate a satellite-based algorithm to map meltwater depths on the ice sheet. Courtesy of Larry Smith