Katherine Allen

Basaltic rock, Iceland. Photo: K. Allen, 2010

The Carbon Vault

The skin of the Earth is the color of tar,
Ridged, freshly healed like the seams of a scar.
Through salt-spattered sky, a gray-winged gull sails;
Steam gently rises, the island exhales.

by |June 10, 2016
The Island of Manhattan. Image from the Wildlife Conservation Society


People are sometimes startled
By falcons perched on balconies, raccoons slinking through the park,
Bluefish blitzing herring up the river, coyotes tracing train tracks.
Isn’t it amazing, or isn’t it disturbing, we say,
A creature’s daring foray into our hard-paved empire.

by |September 11, 2015
Foraminifera are tiny protists that live in the ocean. Most of them build shells of calcium carbonate. Their kind have lived in the ocean for millions of years. Photo: Kelly Strzepek.

Tiny Architects

Heaved upwards from your deep and watery grave,
From the quiet murk onto a chaotic, brine-encrusted ship deck,
You’re ever so carefully washed free from the mud,
From all the rinsings of continents that settled out of the sea with you
Like snow, softly entombing your remains.

by |July 10, 2015
This summer, a space probe that has been traveling for 9 years will finally reach Pluto. Image: JHUAPL/SwRI

Finding Pluto

Far away, a beloved dot
Arcs through cold and shrouded spaces,
Not lonely, as we had once thought,
But circled by more rocky faces:

by |June 26, 2015
The global ocean buoy network has been expanding in recent years. Accounting for small, consistent offsets between temperatures measured by buoys and by ships reveals a greater global warming trend than previously calculated for the past 15 years. Image: Maintenance workers on an ocean buoy, NOAA.

‘Faux pause’

New data support the conclusion
The “hiatus” was mostly illusion…

by |June 12, 2015
MESSENGER's last image of Mercury. (NASA)


Alien orbits you plied,
While we vicariously spied
A distant globe …

by |May 1, 2015
Photo: Ricardo Ramalho

An Earth Epic

I hear that the Archean Earth
Spewed lava and was hot,
(While much later, “Snowball Earth,”
Apparently was not),
Some have said that life sprung out of
Spreading-ridge-type stew,
Photosynthesis seems likely
Based on carbon records, too.

by |April 10, 2015
Approximately 75% of crops benefit from insect pollinators, most of them wild. Recent studies indicate that bees are increasingly stressed by toxins, pathogens, and lack of food. Image credit: Dave Goulson (SCIENCE)

Buzz Kill

To feed our own species, we race,
Wild herbage, corn rows replace…

by |March 27, 2015
When sea level drops, pressure at mid-ocean ridges decreases, which may influence the production of ocean crust. A new study suggests that the pattern of hills on the sea floor reflects the timing of sea-level change during ice age cycles. ILLUSTRATION: ADAPTED BY P. HUEY/SCIENCE

Abyssal Rhythm

Since the dawn of mankind, I imagine we’ve gazed
In wonder and awe at the sky’s starry crown;
More recently, we have been deeply amazed
By the long-obscured, staggering view looking down
To the depths of the sea, through crust, and below…

by |March 13, 2015
A super-massive black hole, roughly 12 billion times as massive as our sun, has been discovered at the center of a bright quasar. The light reaching us now from that distant location has been traveling for billions of years, and thus offers a glimpse into the earliest stages of the universe.

The Most Astonishing Thing

The most astonishing thing about the universe, in my eyes,
Is not merely its gargantuan, unfathomable size,
But the way its vastness ferries gorgeous, primordial light,
So that as we look up into the night,
The farther afield our gaze penetrates, the higher we climb,
The farther we can see back in time.

by |February 27, 2015