From the Editor

Happy New Year!

You may have noticed that our cover now sports a bar code. The code is there because Geotimes now appears on newsstands and in bookstores around the country. One of our goals when we redesigned Geotimes two years ago was to make the magazine more accessible through improved graphic design and diverse editorial content. Although the geoscience community remains the magazine's core audience, this new distribution pathway is also an opportunity to reach a broader audience of readers who are interested in what earth science can tell us about our world.

Geotimes is also reaching new audiences through its Web site,, which received more than 15,000 unique visitors during December. Subscribers to the print magazine still receive unique content, but the Web provides visitors with a sampling of what the magazine has in store for them. The Web site also features Web Extra, weekly news updates written by Geotimes staff writers and contributing writers. This feature allows our subscribers to use the site for keeping up on the latest geoscience-related news. And it gives our staff writers an opportunity to cover topics in a more timely fashion than is possible with a monthly magazine. Some Web Extras will appear in print, such as the News Note on the Law of the Sea in this month's issue, others just on the Web. Last month, a Web Extra let our readers know why the USGS Web site -- one of the most widely visited in the world -- vanished for four days, the result of a federal court order shutting down all Department of the Interior Web sites until issues regarding privacy of Native American trust fund data could be worked out.

With this month’s print issue, we ring in the new year with a pair of features focusing on the role that soil scientists play in addressing two important environmental issues: carbon sequestration and the loss of productive farmland to urbanization. Our first feature, written by soil microbiologist Charles Rice of Kansas State University, describes ongoing research aimed at improving our understanding of how soils store carbon and how to use them as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide.

One of the major challenges facing agriculture in this country and around the world is the loss of farmland to urban sprawl driven by soaring populations. In our second feature, soil scientists at Penn State describe their efforts to use remote sensing data to assess the quality of farmland being lost to urbanization. These data can help land-use planners and local government officials make decisions about how to manage growth and minimize the loss of highly productive cropland.

U.S. Geological Survey Director Charles "Chip" Groat pulls double duty in this issue. His Comment discusses lessons learned from the survey's partners. And this month's Political Scene reprints excerpts from a Comment that Groat wrote 10 years ago when he was AGI Executive Director launching the institute's Government Affairs Program.

Whether you are a loyal subscriber or just picking up Geotimes for the first time, we hope that you enjoy the read!

David Applegate, Editor

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