Geography 368:
Desert Southwest

University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Arik Arnevik

Introduction to Ground Penetrating Radar and its General Use Applied to Fault Investigation

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a research tool that has many different applications to answer all sorts of questions ranging from the amount of rebar in a bridge to the depth until the water table. One such application is in the investigation of fractures in earth’s crust called a fault. GPR can be a much more cost effective and less invasive process than other traditional methods of fault exploration such as trenching. GPR uses electromagnetic frequencies ranging from 25-1000 MHz that are sent from a transmitter into the ground and reflected back to a receiver unit to create a reflection profile showing the internal stratigraphy of the imaged area. Results of GPR profiles, enhanced using the GPR unit’s software, must be interpreted accurately in order to properly asses any feature of study. Background knowledge of the study area is also of critical importance to final interpretation. While GPR is a great tool, it does not come without its downfalls. Ground composition, electromagnetic noise in the area, depth of a feature, and resolution are all factors that determine the effectiveness of GPR profiling.

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Jackson Becker

The Next Furnace of America: Microalgae Biofuel Production in the Desert Southwest

As evidence of global climate change continues to become more obvious in recent years, the world is desperately searching for a saving grace. The combustion of fossil fuels contributes heavily to climate change, and the need for an alternative fuel source is increasingly important. Microalgae biofuels may provide the saving grace the world needs. Microalgae production for the use of biofuels provides a renewable, environmentally friendly, and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Only requiring light and carbon dioxide, algae has the capability to grow virtually anywhere, however the Southwestern region of the United States would make the most suitable environment for microalgae production. With high amounts of solar radiation, very few cloudy days, and consistent annual temperatures suitable for algae cultivation, the desert Southwest could be the next furnace of American energy.

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Matt Drahnak

Earthquake Triggered Landslides in California

California’s geographic site and situation allow for landslides to occur much more often than in other regions of the west. The state of California’s population is still growing exponentially and large urban center such as Los Angeles are still expanding into the mountainous regions nearby. Three factors will be analyzed to help better understand earthquake induced landslides. First, geology including soil type, topography (degree of slope), and last, the clustering of landslides. The case example to help analyze all of these factors will be the state of California, and now this paper will now take an in -depth look at earthquake induced landslides and how and why they occur.

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Meghan Kelly

Indigenous Mascots in the American Southwest: A Content Analysis

The use of indigenous images for the purpose of sporting mascots has been a hot topic in the past forty years in the United States.  Although waves of indigenous based mascts have retired since the 1970s, there were 787 high school indigenous based mascots as of 2005.  Literature has noted that misrepresentation, cultural appropriation, and racial stereotyping in relationship to the use of indigenous mascots has lasting effects on the minority group involved, particularly the youth.   This study examines the controversy surrounding the misrepresentation of indigenous peoples, specifically in the Southwest region of the United States.  Because of the  visual nature of Indigenous images and mascots, a visual methodology – a content analysis - is used to examine the accuracy of Indigenous high school mascots in comparison to indigenous artifacts from the Southwest Museum of the American Indian.  Indigenous high school mascots of the Southwest do not completely reflect the colors of the indigenous peoples that are native to that region.  Colors such as red, brown, black and grey were found in both the museum’s indigenous artifact collection and in the indigenous high school mascot imagery. However, blue, purple, and green were displayed in the indigenous high school mascot imagery but were non-existent in the historic artifacts concluding that through a visual methodology, a content analysis, indigenous high school mascots were not completely accurate in their representation of indigenous peoples of the Southwest. 

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Joe Reber

An Exploration of the Present and Future State of Concentrated Solar Power in the U.S. Southwest

The burning of fossil fuels is one of the major factors promoting global warming. In the United States (U.S.), fossil fuels accounted for nearly 70% of total energy production. Investments in renewable power are important to slow climate change. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s SunShot vision study predicts that, in the next 50 years, solar power will be the U.S’s primary renewable energy source. The U.S. Southwest contains some of the best solar resources in the world, with conditions especially favorable for concentrated solar power (CSP). CSP is an energy generation method which uses mirrors and a steam turbine to capture the sun’s thermal energy and convert it to electricity. CSP is currently too expensive to be installed at a large scale. However, it can be made cost competitive with advancements in technology and through the use of specific financial incentives. If cost reductions are achieved and CSP potential is fully utilized, annual electric-sector carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. may be reduced by up to 28%.

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Dave Simenson

Human Impact on Biological Soil Crusts: Desert Southwest

Tourists visiting national parks in the southwest region of the United States will find an increasing number of signs warning about stepping off the path. Rightfully so: each step causes damage to that environment which takes decades, even centuries to repair. Not well known by visiting tourists, biological soil crusts are an important life source in arid regions. This paper will provide a brief analysis of the major functions of these organisms, and focus on how our interactions with them will shape the landscapes of tomorrow.

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Jessica Stodola

Effects of Utility-Scale Solar Developments on the Gopherus Agassizii in the Mojave Desert

The Desert Tortoise (gopherus agassizii) was placed on the threatened species list in 1990 to protect its’ declining number through the US Endangered Species Act. With the threats to their declining population persisting, recovery of the desert tortoise is slow. The new construction of utility-scale solar developments being built to address the energy crisis adds a new threat through the degradation and loss of habitat. Due to minimal research regarding the impact that utility scale solar developments could potentially have on the desert tortoise populations, the full scale effects are unknown.

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Roy Tianran Yao

Compare and Contrast the Water Environment between Death Valley Pupfish Species and Devil’s Hole Pupfish Species

The two types of pupfish (Cyprinodon) in Death Valley National Park are Death Valley pupfish and Devil’s Hole pupfish. Death Valley pupfish has been existed over 10,000 years and Devil’s Hole pupfish has been existed for over 20,000 years. Both of the pupfishes are endangered species. The average number of Death Valley pupfish has decreased by about 100 since 1990s, and the number of Devil’s Hole pupfish has decreased by 400 since 1995. Comparing the water level, water temperature and the water salinity between the two species of pupfish would help to define the living requirements and reason of decreasing population. The research toward the result is based on 7 journal articles, 4 websites, and 1 book. As the result shows, Death Valley Pupfish and Devil’s Hole Pupfish live in different water environments and functioned differently. Understanding the water environment of the two types of pupfishes will help people building new habitats for pupfishes and increase their population so that would be possible to avoid the extinction of pupfishes from the earth.

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Mary Tubbs-Beaudette

Zion National Park Slot Canyons

Zion National Park (ZNP), in Utah, has one of the highest concentrations of slot canyons in the world. The origin and development of these unique landforms is highly debated. The uplift and faulting of the Colorado Plateau due to seismic activity and the subsequent base level change of the Virgin River, which is a tributary of the larger Colorado River, played a significant part in the beginning development stages of slot canyon formations. Slot canyon formation is dynamic, and the mechanisms of erosion, including mechanical and chemical weathering work in unison to produce the narrow, nearly vertical canyons that are referred to as slot canyons. Wall morphology, fluvial abrasion caused by flash flooding and sediment load, ancient joint-zones in the Navajo Sandstone and chemical weathering due to the hygroscopic, capillary and gravitational forces of water all play a part in the creation of the slot canyons.

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Joey Quintana

Fish and Fish-Eating Birds at the Salton Sea: Successes and Slumps

The Salton Sea is a human made body of water located in the former Salton Sink, located in southern California. The Salton Sea was created by anuncontrolled flooding event of Colorado River in 1905. Once thought by investors to be a new “French Riviera” in the middle of California, this thought steadily decreased in popularity among investors as problems with the Sea began to emerge. Over the past 100 years the Salton Sea has undergone changes to its’ water quality. This salinity change then affects the wildlife population. As salinity levels in the Sea rose, the fish population rose as well. The fish increase also resulted in a greater avian population at and around the Sea. In the second half of the 21st century, a Botulism outbreak traced back to the Salton Sea has became an issue for both the fish and avian population and is the source of much debate today.

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