An illustration of hydraulic fracturing and related activities. Photo credit: US Environmental Protection Agency.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Fracking, the hydraulic fracturing technology by which shale rocks are fractured by a pressurized liquid to release oil and natural gas, is controversial with proponents citing an increase in domestic oil production and lower gas prices, and opponents voicing environmental concerns and worries over small tremors that have sometimes followed fracking.
On April 9, Susan L. Brantley, a distinguished professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, will give a free public lecture at the University of California, Riverside in which she will discuss fracking’s impact on water.
“In Pennsylvania, shale gas is accessed at depths of thousands of feet while drinking water is extracted from depths of only hundreds of feet. Nowhere in the state have fracking compounds injected at depth been shown to contaminate drinking water,” Brantley and a colleague wrote last year in an opinion piece in the New York Times.
Susan L. Brantley is a distinguished professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University. Photo credit: Pennsylvania State University.
Brantley’s research focuses on understanding water chemistry at the surface of the Earth and how water in the Earth’s crust interacts with the rocks through which it flows. She investigates chemical, biological, and physical processes associated with the circulation of aqueous fluids in shallow hydrogeologic settings. She is particularly interested in questions concerning the measurement and prediction of the rates of natural processes, including chemical weathering with and without micro-organisms. Her recent work has focused on the effect of microbial life on mineral reactivity, and measuring and modeling how rock turns into regolith.
Brantley is the director of Penn State’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. She joined the university in 1986, and was named distinguished professor in 2008. She was educated at Princeton University, receiving her B.A. magna cum laude in chemistry in 1980, an M.A. in geological and geophysical sciences in 1983, and a Ph.D. in the same field in 1987.
Among her many honors and awards, she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the Geochemical Society and European Association of Geochemistry, and the International Association of Geochemistry, and a Presidential Young Investigator. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Toulouse II—Paul Sabatier and the University of Lausanne.
On April 23, Scott Wing of the Smithsonian Institution will give a talk titled “Global Warming 36 Million Years Ago: What It Means for Us.” On May 7, Scott Doney, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will give a talk titled “Climate Change and the Ocean.”
Global climate and environmental change, and the associated degradation of ecosystems, together form the biggest issue facing society today. UCR’s EDGE Institute aims to examine life in this changing environment, focusing on carbon (molecules to organisms), nutrients, and water at various temporal and spatial scales. It brings together UCR scientists from the biological, chemical, and physical sciences to examine particular questions or issues.
Directing the institute will be the holder of the Wilbur W. Mayhew Chair, recently endowed by anonymous donors who are passionate about the ecology of the southwest. Their $1.5 million gift honors Mayhew, a pioneering ecologist, UCR faculty member and co-founder of the UC Natural Reserves System. His work resulted in the preservation of key natural habitats throughout California for future generations of scientists and students. These habitats are invaluable today as laboratories of the natural world.