Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Snapshot: Where Geology Meets Early Modern History

A Millstone Quarry in Upper Bavaria

By Katrin Kleemann

 

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Photographs by Katrin Kleemann, CC BY 4.0. 

The Mühlsteinbruch Hinterhör in Altenbeuren, Upper Bavaria—this millstone quarry was the first stop on a recent LMU geology field trip to the Northern Limestone Alps. The site is an official geotope of Bavaria (geotope means “Earth place” and refers to a spot in nature where the Earth’s history becomes visible). At this unique spot you can learn about the area’s early modern history as well as its geology; this is one of very few geotopes that was formed by humans.

Between 1572 and 1860, the quarry was used to produce millstones for the surrounding mills (which were transported on the nearby river Inn), explaining the characteristic round shapes that can be seen at this outcrop. But without the perks of modern technology, how did the quarry workers extract the circular millstones? Using a chisel and hammer to create the outlines of the round shape, they would drive wooden wedges into these circular borders and water the wedges regularly causing the wood to expand and fracture the rock, freeing the millstone from the wall.

Yet it is not just these insights into the innovative techniques used by people in the past that are revealed; this spot is also particularly interesting from a geological perspective. The 28-meter-thick layer is mainly made up of sandstone and marlstone, and belongs to the Helvetic Nappes; sheet-like bodies of rock that were once located in the shallow waters of the southern margin of the European continental shelf, created before the Alps were formed. During the formation of the Alpine mountains, the Helvetic Nappes (layers) were thrust northward and upward, deformed by the continued folding during the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods, explaining why a once-seabed is now found more than 500 meters above sea level. Fossilized oysters with thick shells can be found there, indicating that this spot must have once been located either in shallow water or perhaps at a river delta. The oyster shells had to be thick survive the pressure of strong tidal currents in the coastal waters.

 

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Snapshot: Start with a Bang

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For many, a New Year celebration would not be the same without fireworks. But have you ever noticed what happens to all that leftover packaging wrapped around the rockets and bangers? It seems that an awful lot falls to the floor and gets swept up along with the broken bottles and spilt food that litter the city streets on New Year’s Day. This is just one pile yet to be collected in Munich, where this year 140 employees have already helped gather 50 tonnes of post-party rubbish, an increase from last year’s figures. That’s a lot of waste for a couple of hours of wonder and dazzling lights…


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Snapshot: RCC Olympic Table Tennis

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Combining a well deserved break from the computer, green surroundings, and fresh air, some RCC’ers recently held their own table tennis competition! They took advantage of the warm weather and Munich’s outdoor facilities to share in the spirit of the Olympic Games. Thanks to all those who took part and a special congratulations to gold medalist Alan MacEachern!

 


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Snapshot: As Far As the Eye Can See

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Mudflats in coastal North Frisia at low tide. Photograph: Brenda Black.

The low-lying islands and shores of Germany’s western coast are as much water as they are land, subject to both frequent storms and the daily ebb and flow of the tides. For humans, living in this landscape means living with the weather: although humans have long shaped the landscape, using dikes to claim the land from the sea, it is a precarious balance, and storm floods regularly submerge all but the highest points of the islands. At low tide, much of the water between the islands is transformed into miles of mud laced with deeper channels into which the receding water flows. Continue reading


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Doctoral Students Attend Workshop

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Photograph: Munich Re.

Environment and Society doctoral candidates Ruhi Deol and Vikas Lakhani participated in a workshop entitled “Risk, Livelihoods, Capacity, Recovery, Insurance, and Tourism” on 24 May 2016, organized by Prof. Dr. Gordon Winder of the Geography Department at LMU, and the RCC. They presented their research projects to representatives from the Munich Re Foundation and visiting professor Dr. Mukesh Kanaskar, a RISK award winner from the All India Institute of Local Self-Government, Mumbai. Ruhi and Vikas are both members of Prof. Winder’s Disasters Research Group.


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Snapshot: Hochschultage Science Slam

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Contestants and organizers of the “Expert Slam: Alternative Wirtschafts-Quickies” on Thursday, 9 June. Photograph: Annka Liepold.

The Hochschultage Munich, cosponsored by the RCC, took place in the second week of June this year. Following a stimulating talk given by Oliver Richters at the RCC’s weekly Lunchtime Colloquium, speakers and spectators gathered in the evening for some creative wordplay at the Expert Slam. Contestants and organizers gave short, original talks on alternative economic approaches, and included representatives from Cradle to Cradle, Transparency International, and the Social Entrepreneurship Academy Munich.


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Snapshot: Lunchtime Colloquium

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RCC fellow Pey-Yi Chu presents her work at the lunchtime colloquium: “Conquest versus Adaptation: Permafrost and Socialist Industrialization in the Soviet Union.”

The RCC’s weekly lunchtime colloquium series is always a hub of activity at the center. Here people meet, greet, and discuss their interests over a buffet lunch before watching a presentation given by an RCC fellow or guest speaker. The talks often focus on the speaker’s most recent project or research interests. Each talk is followed by a question-and-answer session designed to stimulate discussion and allow the audience to engage and develop their understanding of the presenter’s academic research. Developed as an outreach program, the lunchtime colloquium series allows researchers to bring their work to a wider audience; the talks are accessible, aimed at non-specialists, and are all completely free and open to the public.