New NSF report focused on research taking place in the "critical zones"

A new report from the National Science Foundation offers a look at the work being done by researchers who are studying what is known as the Earth's critical zone, including the research a Penn State team is leading in the Susquehanna Shale Hills.

"Discoveries in the Critical Zone: Where Life Meets Rock" by Cheryl Dybas, of the NSF, is available as a pdf on the Critical Zone Observatory website.

In the introduction to the report, Wendy Harrison, director of the Division of Earth Sciences at the NSF, says that scientists involved in the projects are "seeking answers."

"They're working to understand Earth's critical zone -- the region between the top of the tree canopy and the base of weathered rock -- and its response to climate and land use changes," Harrison says.

The section of the report focused on the Susquehanna Shale Hills in Pennsylvania notes that the project being led by Sue Brantley, distinguished professor of geosciences at Penn State, has been expanded to include a Marcellus Shale Research Network, focused on collecting data about water quality in the region where natural gas drilling using deep horizontal drilling has taken off.

"Successfully developing new energy resources while maintaining healthy ecosystems is the very heart of sustainability," Brantley says.

For the full report, go to the Critical Zone Observatory or the NSF.