Questions I’m Pondering

This page is a list of questions that I’m thinking about regarding the geosciences and my attempts to answer them. Many of them are things I thought of during my Earth Systems Science class lectures and discussions, some were generated from talks I’ve attended, and others were thought of out of the blue. Some of them might seem basic because I have not completed many geoscience courses.


1. How do scientists find new deep sea organisms?

2. When and how did scientists discover there are organisms living in the deep sea?

3. What kinds of organisms live in the deep sea?

4. What happens when deep sea creatures die? Can we collect their dead bodies?

5. What happens when marine organisms in general die? Where do their bodies go? How do they decompose?

6. Why haven’t scientists captured deep sea specimens yet? [this may include an incorrect assumption that they haven’t]

7. What big questions are deep sea scientists wanting to answer?

8. Why do we study deep sea organisms?

9. Does climate change affect deep sea organisms?

10. How do we know how long deep sea creatures have existed?

11. Do marine species have fossil records? How do we know how long some marine species have existed for? How are they fossilized?

12. Will humans be able to visit the deep sea one day?

13. What kind of research is going on regarding finding new species in the Amazon rainforest? What is it like to do explorations there? Do we fund a lot of this research? How long are these expeditions?

14. What do we know about Indigenous communities in the Amazon? Do they know that most of the nutrients are not in soil but instead in trees? Do they grow food?

15. What do Brazilians (in general) think about the Amazon rainforest?

16. What caused species loss of giant pandas?

17. Did slavery contribute to biodiversity changes in Africa? How did colonialism contribute to biodiversity loss?

18. Are aquariums and zoos good or bad for animals?

19. What organisms survived the dinosaur extinction and why?

20. How do people discover underwater volcanos?

21. How do people track underwater volcano eruptions?

22. Is it dangerous to be nearby when an underwater volcano erupts?

23. Life thrives in areas around underwater volcanos when they erupt. Does life thrive after volcanos above the water erupt?

24. When and how did we discover underwater volcanos?

25. Are there consequences of us putting cables underwater? Do organisms try to eat them?

26. Does space debris impact Earth’s atmosphere? Does it affect other planets? (Thank you to Gabriel P. Andrade for telling me about space debris)

27. How do explosions impact the atmosphere? Do nuclear weapons make climate change worse?

28. How do rocket emissions impact the atmosphere?

29. You have a lot of bacteria not from your body in your microbiome. What happens to them when you die?

30. How many undomesticated horses are there in the United States?

31. What do raccoons eat besides garbage?

32. Do we have the same microbes inside us as other organisms?

33. Are birds territorial? If so, how do they mark their territory?

34. How large of an impact do we have to make on an astronomical object that will change its orbit?

35. Why do rodents chew wires?

36. Do marine organisms bite underwater cables? How do humans protect against that?

37. How do trees repair themselves after being damaged?

38. How do scientists track changes in the upper atmosphere (instruments they use)?

39. Algal blooms sequester oxygen and can cause dead zones in the ocean. Does this happen for lakes and rivers too, especially in areas with recently increasing algae growth?

Attempts to Answer (with dates of research)

21. How do people track underwater volcano eruptions? March 18th, 2021

NASA has two satellites called Terra and Aqua with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer sensors (MODIS). Researchers at the University of Hawaii used an algorithm to take this data to develop the MODIS Thermal Alert System (MODVOLC) to track volcanic eruptions globally. They look for hot spots or high temperatures and complete their global coverage once every 2 days.

Relevant resources:

26. Does space debris impact Earth’s atmosphere? Does it affect other planets? March 17th, 2021

The best article I could find on this topic was called Space Littering Can Impact Earth’s Atmosphere, on From the article, I learned a bit about scientists researching the impacts of space junk on Earth, but there seems to be a lot of room for future research.

According to a paper, Orbiting Debris: A Space Environmental Problem, de-orbiting debris does not supply any long term changes to the ozone layer.

Michael Zolensky, an astromaterials researcher at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, noted a substantial increase in large solid particles in the stratosphere between 1976 and 1984.

“More study is needed on the density of particles, types of particles, how long they are suspended in the atmosphere, and whether or not the amount of de-orbiting detritus has increased over time.

Scientists at the Aerospace Corporation are also trying to discern if satellites and launch vehicles that return to Earth affect the Earth’s atmosphere.

An article from called What is Space Junk and What Can We Do About It? gives an example of large space debris negatively impacting the environment: In 2012, a Russian rocket’s booster landed in Siberia, possibly leaking toxic chemicals into the ground and causing cancer. Although the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center did some research into this topic, they determined that there was no issue with the leftover rocket parts. However, they may be putting commercial interests ahead of public health concerns.

28. How do rocket emissions impact the atmosphere? March 17th, 2021

Martin Ross, senior engineer at the Aerospace Corporation, co-wrote a report on rocket launches affecting Earth’s atmosphere. The report also included advice for policy considerations.

Ross also wrote a paper with Darin Toohey, Manfred Peinemann, and Patrick Ross titled Limits on the Space Launch Market Related to Stratospheric Ozone Depletion (article download on ResearchGate), which focuses on estimating ozone layer depletion as the space industry grows.

Relevant resources:

38. How do scientists track changes in the upper atmosphere (instruments)? August 12th, 2021

My original theory was that there were sensors attached to weather balloons. I was half correct- weather balloons are released from various locations around the world to track atmospheric conditions. However, since these balloons are released from land, there are several limitations. They largely only track the conditions over land. Since most of Earth’s surface is water, we use satellites help to fill in the gaps. In addition, it is impossible to release balloons from all land areas, so the satellite data completes the coverage where weather balloons fall short.

Thank you to Dr. Jiwoo Lee (Lawrence Livermore) for helping me with this answer.