White Sands Science Symposium

Top Left: Dunes at sunset, NPS;
Top Right: Mammoth tracks, NPS;
Bottom: Ryan Ewing collecting data for dune field evolution research.

A two-day science symposium was held on June 7-8, 2012 to showcase the scientific research occurring at White Sands National Monument (NM). Researchers from across the country came together to share their knowledge of this unique ecosystem and present cutting-edge research conducted from diverse fields of science including biology, archeology, geology, paleontology, climatology, and hydrology.

Goals of the symposium were to encourage new collaboration among White Sands researchers, highlight recent discoveries, and synthesize findings into a “state of the science report” that can be used by White Sands NM for staff training and interpretive programming for the public. The symposium included lectures, a poster session, and panel discussions. 

Specific presentations included: 

  • Aeolian sand dune dynamics using airborne and ground-based LiDAR to construct dunefield patterns and migration processes at White Sands NM.
  • Dune field evolution through sand sourcing and transport across the dune field (linking wind, sediment transport, vegetation, and groundwater together).
  • The use of the monument as an analog for dunes on Mars.
  • Space observations and thermal resources as a framework to study water dynamics, soil moisture, dust emission, and the effects of climate change.
  • Hydrological investigation that highlighted the importance of a high water table in sustaining the dune system.
  • Discoveries at the microscopic scale on the geomicrobiology of the sand and lake environments.
  • Geochemical and hydrological processes that control gypsum deposition at White Sands.
  • Biomineralization and carbon sequestration by microorganism, and calcium partitioning and sequestration in foliage from plants.
  • Discovery of over a thousand Pleistocene megafauna fossilized prints (mammoth, camel, saber-toothed tiger, and dyer wolf) with embedded seeds that had a radio carbon date of 18,000 years before present.