I recently stumbled upon the OCBIL theory. In the words of Hopper (2009): “OCBIL theory aims to develop an integrated series of hypotheses explaining the evolution and ecology of, and best conservation practices for, biota on very old, climatically buffered, infertile landscapes (OCBILs). Conventional theory for ecology and evolu- tionary and conservation biology has developed primarily from data on species and communities from young, often disturbed, fertile landscapes (YODFELs), mainly in the Northern Hemisphere.” As a geomorphologist, and in particular a biogeomorphologist interested in coevolution of landscapes, biota, and soils, the OCBIL-YODFEL contrast is extremely interesting—mainly because it implies a key role for landscape age, stability, and geomorphic disturbance regimes in the development of ecosystems and evolution of biodiversity patterns.



One of my major research interests is the coevolution of soils, landforms, and biota. I’ve been working in this area pretty steadily since about 2000, but until 2013 I was completely unaware of some work being done along the same lines, over about the same time period. This is the work of W.H. Verboom and J.S. Pate from Western Australia, who among other things developed the “phytotarium concept.” Phytotarium defines the specific plants and microbial associates driving specific pedological changes during niche construction. This concept, and a wealth of work on biogenic origins of pedological and geomorphological features such as clay pavements, texture-contrast (duplex, as they call them in Australia) soils, and laterites, was highly relevant to my own thinking (e.g., Phillips, 2009a; 2009b), but though I consider myself familiar with the biogeomorphology and pedogenesis literature, then and now, I had somehow missed it.

Deep sandy duplex (vertical texture contrast) soils, Western Australia. Photo credit: Dept. of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia.

UK's Legal 101 Class

 Last week, I attended Legal 101: An Introduction to the University of Kentucky’s Office of Legal Counsel.  It was an interesting course, and I would recommend that, if you work here, you take it.

 The course matter covers everything from how Governance works at the University to how we are affected by State funding and laws.  Some more specific topics covered include: UK contracts and signature authorizations, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, ethics, copyrights, privacy, open records (FERPA and HIPAA), use of technology (including social media), and more.

 I was surprised at how much I learned and the amount of subject matter that touches areas we deal with on a daily basis—from making purchases, to using your UK email, to protecting our students’ information. 

 For instance, did you know that, due to UK policy and the Open Records law, information sent or received through your computer is subject to be reviewed or subpoenaed?  Or, how about the fact that including a favorite comic strip in presentation or handout could be a copyright violation (unless it falls under the doctrine of fair use—which it might for educational purposes)?  Ok, one more.  Did you know that the use of any UK logos (including trademarks and images) is prohibited on personal social media profiles?

Brad's Blurb

Dear Staff,

It was encouraging seeing everybody who could make it to the A&S Staff Awards Recognition Luncheon.  It was a great opportunity for the College to recognize the entire staff for your hard work and exemplary efforts over the last year.   Congratulations to everyone that received service awards and to the Staff Excellence Award nominees and recipients.   Here is a recap of the awardees:

5 Year Service Awards:  Nijad Zakharia, Sarah Condley, Daniel Whittaker, Jennifer Ellis, Kari Burchfield, Peter Idstein, Mohammed Shammisaldeen, Samir Gunjan, Emily Denehy, Seth Taylor, Sara Perkins, Joe Wiley, Hayward Wilkirson.

10 Year Service Awards:  Jaime Brown, Melissa Cowan, and Marc Heft

15 Year Service Awards:  Mike Adams, Lynn Webb, Michael Stottman, Brian Doyle, and Lori Eckdahl

20 Year Service Awards:  Kim Reeder and Pam Webb

25 Year Service Awards:  Christine Levitt and Stacey Wilks

30 Year Service Award:  Arthur Sebasta

40 Year Service Award:  Adrienne McMahan

Bi-Weekly Outstanding Staff Award:  Diane Riddell

The Monthly Outstanding Staff Award:  James Morris

Four Elements for a More Fulfilling Workplace

I recently read a provocatively-titled article in the New York Times’ Sunday Review called "Why You Hate Work." Though the title is rather strong, the findings were pretty interesting. Not one to pass up commentary on work culture (and how to make it better), I read the piece, written by Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, whose blog is full of great work-related research, and Christine Porath from Georgetown University, based on a study they conducted. They found that there are four major factors that influence how we feel about our jobs.

Sycamores and Hillslopes

Below are some recent photographs of sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) in limestone bedrock at Herrington Lake, Kentucky (about37.78o N, 84.71o W). As you can see, the tree roots and trunks exploit joints in the rock, and accelerate weathering both by physically displacing limestone slabs and widening joints by root growth, and by facilitating biochemical weathering along both live and dead roots.

Sycamores rock

These are some nice examples of root/bedrock interaction, and the general phenomena are not uncommon, though usually much more difficult to see. The Herrington Lake shores also appear to illustrate a process by which the sycamores accelerate weathering and mass movements (other trees are also involved, but Platanus occidentalis seems to be the most common and effective):

1. Plants colonize the exposed bedrock, with roots exploiting bedrock joints.

2. Tree roots accelerate weathering and loosen joint blocks.

3. While the tree is still alive, root growth envelopes rock fragments and the trees provide a physical barrier to downslope transport.

Brad's Blurb

Dear Staff,

This week brings us several key staff events with the College of Arts and Sciences Staff Appreciation Luncheon on Wednesday and the UK Staff Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday.  I hope everyone can find time to attend and enjoy some “downtime” with colleagues and friends. 

The Aspire Mentorship Program officially kicked off with the recent announcement of the initial mentee/mentor pairings listed below.  Congratulations to everyone that was nominated.  The program will continue to expand with another group selected later this summer. 

1. Erin Norton (Dept. Manager-Appalachian Studies) with Adrienne McMahan (Assistant Dean of Student Affairs)

2. Stacey Wilks (HR Payroll Specialist) with Aaron Vaught (Sr. Scheduler & Data Analyst-Recruitment & Enroll Planning)

3. Megan Koshurba (Staff Associate-A&S Front Office) with Melissa Cowan (Grants Analyst-IBU)

4. Andy Johnson (Scheduler and Data Analyst-Recruitment & Enroll Planning) with Peter Idstein (Academic Coordinator-Dept. of EES)

5. Jessica Pennington (Education Case Officer-Student Affairs) with Kim Reeder (Staff Associate Sr.-Psychology)

6. Lara Hillenberg (Academic Advisor) with Jenny Casey (Dept. Manager-Department of Psychology)

Five Things About Me

Mary BoultonOriginally from the Cincinnati area, I moved to Lexington where I completed a BA in Hispanic  Studies. After undergrad I returned to Cincinnati where I worked in global marketing for Procter & Gamble, but decided to complete my MA in Diplomacy and International Commerce. During my graduate program I worked in the research unit for sub-Saharan African Studies at the Foreign Service Institute in D.C. and after at the Center for Poverty Research at UK prior to my time at A&S. 
1. What do you do in your spare time? In my spare time I enjoy playing with my daughter and working on projects around the house with my husband. I also enjoy traveling.
2. What is your favorite movie or book? Besides traveling and spending time with my family, I enjoy reading, watching movies and trying out new restaurants. One of my favorite movies is “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” I love the combination of humor and story-telling the movie combines. 

Antarctic ice, sea-level, & rivers


The long-speculated collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet is underway, and also appears to be on an unstoppable trajectory. According to the recently-published research documenting this (Joughin et al., 2014; McMillan et al., 2014; Rignot et al., 2014) it will likely take a couple of centuries for the ice sheets to transfer their water to the sea (in the case of land ice). Among other things, this means that already rising sea levels will accelerate (see this NASA summary discussion on past meltwater pulses and their effects on sea level:



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