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Kentucky Geological Survey Seminar Gives Geoscience Perspective on Climate Change in Commonwealth

By Doug Curl and Elizabeth Chapin

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 23, 2022) — The Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) at the University of Kentucky hosted its first seminar focusing on the intersection between geoscience research and climate change on May 12. The 61st Annual KGS Seminar highlighted how interdisciplinary research is vital to shaping Kentucky’s future when it comes to climate change.

“Climate change is here, and the impacts reach far beyond geology," said Bill Haneberg, state geologist and KGS director. "It’s an economic, human health, and policy issue. Our job at KGS is to provide unbiased data and information to help mitigate potential impacts to Kentucky and support science-based decision making."

KGS experts presented talks on climate-related research topics relevant to Kentucky including geologic hazards, remote sensing for environmental mapping, methane emissions from orphaned oil and gas wells, carbon storage and critical minerals.

The day also included poster sessions highlighting KGS research and presentations from Morehead State University Assistant Professor David Long, and UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Associate Professor Wei Ren.

UK College of Arts and Sciences Assistant Professor Lauren Cagle gave an update on the Kentucky Climate Consortium, a statewide, interdisciplinary research and teaching collaboration for academics. Cagle focused on the need for narratives of climate change that resonate with Kentuckians.

“Here, we don’t have polar bears or beachfront property, but as today’s talks have shown, climate change touches on every part of academia and research in the state,” Cagle said.

Haneberg also presented the 2022 KGS Director’s Awards to a group of KGS scientists involved in the Radon on the RADAR research project — an NIEHS-funded citizen science project through the UK College of Nursing that involved 16 weeks of time-sensitive fieldwork to measure soil radon levels at more than 60 homes in four rural Kentucky counties.

Sarah Arpin, Jason Backus, Andrea Conner, Matt Crawford, Sydney Gutierrez-Gomez, Emily Morris, Steve Webb and Nolan Whitt received the annual award, which recognizes KGS employees who go above and beyond.

The radon data collected by the KGS team will inform public health efforts to decrease radon exposure, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer and significantly increases the likelihood of lung cancer in those exposed to tobacco smoke.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.