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Cataclysm Classic Goes Live May 20!

Cataclysm Classic Goes Live May 20!

Cataclysm Classic™ launches worldwide on May 20 at 3:00 pm PDT.  Explore new zones, dungeons, and raids, engage in PvP combat, and discover the mysteries of the Darkmoon Faire. With the launch of Cataclysm Classic, the adventure begins anew. Are you ready to face the challenges that await?

What’s Inside Cataclysm Classic

With the launch of Cataclysm Classic on May 20, players will begin their journey from level 80 to 85 through new zones, new dungeons and raids, engage in PvP combat in Tol Barad, and delve further into the mysteries of the Darkmoon Faire on Darkmoon Island.

  • 7 New Zones: Mount Hyjal, Vash’jir, Twilight Highlands, Uldum, Deepholm, Kezan, and Gilneas.
  • 9 New Dungeons : Blackrock Caverns, Throne of the Tides, Vortex Pinnacle, The Stonecore, The Lost City of Tol’vir, The Halls of Origination, Grim Batol, Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep
  • Dungeon Journal Introduced
  • 3 New Raid Dungeons: Throne of the Four Winds, Blackwing Descent, and Bastion of Twilight
  • Boss Based Raid Lock system: Allowing players to do either the 10 or 25-player raid version of each boss in the same week. Lockouts are based on individual bosses.
  • Tol Barad PvP Zone
  • Darkmoon Island: Discover the mysteries Silas Darkmoon has in store for you.
  • Flying in Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor

Unveiling Cataclysm Classic Zones, Dungeons, and PvP Season 9

Cataclysm Classic provides seven new zones to explore, nine new dungeons, and more beginning May 20 at 3:00 pm PDT globally. May 28 also introduces the start of a new PvP Season followed by the opening of three raid dungeons on May 30 at 3:00 pm PDT globally. Take a journey into the shattered lands and plumb the depths of what this classic experience has to offer.

Learn more in our previously published article .

Battle for Control of Tol Barad

An island off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms, Tol Barad is a historic land sought-after by the leaders of the Horde and the Alliance. Its strategic, isolated location makes it an ideal stronghold from which to conduct military strikes. In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic, a battle will be waged to seize control of this prized territory. Should you triumph, unique rewards await you. 

Similar to Wintergrasp in Wrath of the Lich King Classic™, Tol Barad will serve as an 80 vs 80 battleground. The winning faction will gain access to a hub on Tol Barad Peninsula to complete daily quests before the next battle begins. Reachable by portals in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, or via a level-85 mage teleport or portal, Tol Barad will accept up to eighty players per faction to engage in brutal combat across the island's surface. Battles will take place every two hours and thirty minutes, giving the offensive faction a chance to claim territory. Learn more from our overview .

Ignite Your Cataclysm Classic Journey with Fiery Upgrades

Cataclysm Classic will require only a WoW® subscription or Game Time to play. However, these optional upgrades can heat up your experience during your adventures in Azeroth.

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Blazing Heroic Pack

The Blazing Heroic Pack includes Lil’ Wrathion pet for both WoW Classic progression 2 and modern World of Warcraft characters 3 , the Avatar of Flame flying mount 2 for WoW Classic progression characters, and a Runebound Firelord flying mount for modern World of Warcraft characters 3 . WoW Classic progression characters will also enjoy Hammer Regalia Transmog Set 4 and Town-In-A-Box Starter Set toy 4 .

Blazing Epic Upgrade

The Blazing Epic Upgrade includes everything in the Blazing Heroic Pack, plus a Level 80 Character Boost and 30 days of Game Time.

Upgrade Now

Certain restrictions apply. Visit  for more information.

We look forward to joining you in these new adventures within the shattered lands of Azeroth!

  • 1  Available on or before August 31, 2024.
  • 2  Available in WoW Classic progression immediately after the purchase.
  • The toy, Transmog set, and Avatar of Flame mount only available on WoW Classic progression realms (currently Wrath of the Lich King Classic™). The Runebound Firelord mount only available on modern WoW® realms.
  • Requires WoW® Subscription or Game Time.
  • Boost only available on WoW Classic progression realms. and usable only on the WoW game account for which it was purchased or redeemed.

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Bowen Yang’s Dangerously Authentic Journey: “I’ve Had to Learn It the Hard Way”

By David Canfield

Image may contain Face Head Person Photography Portrait Accessories Formal Wear Tie Purple Glasses and Clothing

Bowen Yang as a straight guy. The concept for one of Saturday Night Live ’s strongest pretaped sketches this season couldn’t sound sillier or lighter. Yet for its star, it marked a subtle breakthrough. Here was a versatile performer who’d imbued the series with a crucially modern queer aesthetic—as, still, one of the few openly gay cast members in its history—sending up the persona he’d smartly honed over five seasons. The sketch succeeded by playing into audiences’ assumptions of “what Bowen is going to do on my television,” as Yang puts it on this week’s Little Gold Men (listen or read below). And it reflected a broader mantra that the Emmy nominee brought with him this season: Try anything and everything.

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From Yang’s stellar work opposite hosts including Ryan Gosling and Kristen Wiig to his definitive spoof of ex-congressman George Santos, the mantra has served the comedian well. He’s steadily emerged as an anchor of SNL ’s current ensemble and continues to stretch himself, keeping viewers on their toes. Plus, the creative breakthroughs have arrived at a major inflection point for Yang. He’s starring in big-ticket Hollywood productions like the upcoming Wicked movies. He’s getting schooled by SNL legend Tina Fey on the rules of being, well, famous. And he’s navigating the intersecting, maddening mazes of mental health, career opportunity, and personal fulfillment. There’s no better time to catch up with Yang about it all.

Vanity Fair: I last spoke to you when you were in your second season on SNL. How would you chart the evolution for you from then to now, or season five?

Bowen Yang: I was thinking about this today. Maybe it sounds so press-friendly to say that everything’s changed and nothing’s changed at all, but I really feel that way. Nothing fundamentally has changed about the job since that time, and yet I feel a sort of healthy comfort. It’s tough to feel too much comfort. It’s potentially sort of—not dangerous. Or maybe it’s a red flag to feel comfort at SNL, right? Maybe that means it’s your time to go. But I feel like there’s a comfort setting in for me that makes it so that the day-to-day is not quite as tumultuous or perturbing as it once was.

I would be really rattled back in the day, early on, when on a Friday morning they’d be like, “Oh, maybe we’re going to order up a Weekend Update piece from you.” Always a huge gift and a great privilege, but that would really stress me out in an earlier time. Now it’s like, Okay, this is part of my charge as a cast member here. This is part of the work.

In the past few years, you’ve experienced a bit of a change in profile too. How have you balanced other commitments with the show?

This is when Lorne Michaels comes in. Whatever you think about the situation, however you think it’s unique to you, however you think you might be the exception to the rule, Lorne is here to be like, “Actually, it might not be so good on the body for you to fly back and forth between New York and London to go shoot a movie.”

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Wicked, for example.

I’ll say Wicked, for example. [ Laughs ] Which was an incredible experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I really thought I could hack it. I was like, Okay, I’ve got my nootropic gels that I’m going to suck on the airplane, and I’m going to take my little CBD potions that are going to help me fall asleep and get over the jet lag. I had all these things in the armory, and then none of it really could beat back that tide. It really did get to me just on a somatic level—I was just like, Wow, my body is refusing to lift an arm, or whatever. It really got to that point that was a little mentally fraying. It was a tough summer, just between the strikes and the constant bouncing back and forth.

Last time we spoke, you said you went into SNL thinking you were going to try to do everything. Then you learned what your wheelhouse was and thought it was okay to zero in on that. I’m wondering how you’ve broken that rule, because it feels like this season you’ve broken some new ground for yourself.

I’m so glad you say that, David. In a way, that was not intentional. The reason why the wheelhouse was broken and rearranged and reconfigured and the blueprints are all drawn up again is because I did not go into the season with any intention. I went into this being like, I’m just going to do whatever, and it kind of afforded me some latitude. That’s the whole point of the show: It’s a variety show. Let me try to figure out how to work in a pretape setting that I haven’t done before. Let me do a backstage piece where I’m playing a version of myself that is so ridiculous and heightened and I’m actually straight. It was nice to have a little finger bowl in each of these areas: the cold open, the pretape, and Update, obviously, which is a really nice place to return to.

Was there anything this season that felt like jumping off a cliff?

Yeah. It was jumping off a cliff in that I didn’t know what I was doing until minutes before, which was the George Santos cold open . The expulsion. I didn’t get the lyrics until minutes before, both for dress and air, because there were changes between both performances. I didn’t see a script until minutes before I walked out. That was kind of thrilling, also completely destabilizing for me because I was like, This isn’t how I work. Not in a histrionic way, but just like a, Oh no, this is not the process. It was just going to be me at a piano—fake-playing, but still, the image of someone at a piano was so specific in SNL vocabulary. And I was like, Okay, I understand that it’s a subversion of that, and so self-indulgent for the character of George Santos to be doing this and playing himself off, but it was pretty scary. It was something that Lorne sat me down for, which he never usually does…. He called me into his office, sat me down, and was like, “You’re doing Santos. You’re singing ‘Candle in the Wind.’ How do you feel?” I’m like, “I guess I can do it.”

It’s a great show of faith, right?

Yeah. Of, “Good luck,” like, “Don’t fuck it up.” [ Laughs ] That is the peak experience at the show: just fly, and if you crash, great. If you soar, even better.

Let’s talk about “Bowen’s Straight,” which you alluded to. You’ve described it as “a harrowing journey to conception.” The sketch took literal years, right?

I believed in it so much because—by my own doing, or by the way that an audience is able to digest me in a very quick way—there’s this, “I have my preconceived notions of what Bowen is going to do on my television.”

It’s going to be gay.

It’s going to be gay. [ Laughs ] This is what we were talking about years ago. This is the wheelhouse: “No problem, I don’t have to feel self-conscious about this; I don’t think it is harmful. I don’t think it’s me painting myself into a corner.” There was that investment over time into that idea that the audience’s predictive capacity with me is going to be spot-on. My enthusiasm around doing that sketch wasn’t about proving anybody wrong, it was just about having this layer of awareness around that idea. What a perfect thing to be like, “Oh, I’m just doing this—it’s my meal ticket.”

The character of Bowen in this context is someone who has maintained this image for so long, and finally the audience gets to see what it’s about. And Sydney Sweeney, who for some reason is really titillated by this, is the audience surrogate and gets sort of pulled into that.

And man, she sells it.

I can’t get over how well she sells it. She’s so good. I told her to her face. I was like, “You know, Sydney, you’re one of those actors who, the first time I saw you do something”—for me, it was Euphoria, and it was seeing Cassie in that first Cassie-centric episode, and I was like, Who is that? She’s one of those actors where you’re like, Oh, something’s going on here. This person is really compelling. And that sustained itself throughout the entire week when she was hosting. I was really captivated by the way she was approaching things and the way she was finding ways into sketches. And we were running this in her dressing room before the read-through on Wednesday, and when she shoots me that glance, like she’s spellbound, we all screamed in her dressing room because it was like, Oh my God, what’s happening? [ Laughs ] So many little things, like her looking at her own hair when I say that I’m into blondes—that was totally her.

Was there another sketch this season that you felt like you really had to fight for, that you felt really proud made it through?

It wasn’t so much of a fight as much as a, “This’ll make sense.” My writing partner at the show, Celeste Yim, and I had this idea for a sketch. We were watching a bunch of TikToks of Troye Sivan doing dances to his song, and we’re like, “There’s something mesmerizing about this, but he seems to know that it’s a little goofy. What’s going on here? What do we do with this?” And then Asha Ward, another writer, was like, “What if he’s just a sleep paralysis demon ?” The challenge from there was, how do we package that idea? There’s already a lot of layers there. How do we communicate to people who Troye Sivan is? How do we tell Lorne who Troye Sivan is? [ Laughs ]

It felt like all these stage gates we had to clear, but then I think we just had to get it right for read-through, and then from read-through, it was basically the version of what we performed on the show. It was pretty successful in that setting. Lorne thought, I don’t know what this is really about, but I trust it. It was mostly just us from Wednesday on to Saturday being like, “Is this going to work? I don’t know if this makes any sense. Do we have electrodes on Sarah [Sherman] ’s head so that when she describes it, he shows up?” All of these logic-staging questions that we had. It was solving this really crazy puzzle. I think we ended up doing it.

In my corner of the internet, it was a much-talked-about sketch, which makes me wonder how much you track how people are responding to things, and whether healthy distance is important. How has that changed for you?

I think healthy distance is incredibly important…. I keep talking about this movie Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon, and it came out in 1997. This pop star who wants to transition to acting comes across this blog that’s written in her voice as if it was her: “This is what happened on set today.” And she’s like, “I never wrote this, but how does it know?” It reflects back this version of herself that is manufactured by the internet, and she doesn’t understand what her reality is anymore because of this. That is the Twilight Zone / Black Mirror, before Black Mirror, example of what it can do if you really dive into this really distorted ocean of opinions and analysis and digestion and all these things. I’ve had to learn it the hard way: It’s not the right thing.

I am going to ask you now about “authenticity is dangerous and expensive,” which is something Tina Fey told you on your podcast , Las Culturistas. It went viral earlier this year. I would love to know how you heard it, how you’ve processed it, and how you’ve related it to what you were talking about there.

Yeah. I’ve watched that a million times. [ Laughs ] It’s such a Tina Fey piece of writing at the end of the day. She’s a genius. Authenticity is dangerous and expensive. It’s both correct and also so devastating to everyone involved. It’s dangerous and expensive to who? To the person who hopes to be authentic? To the audience that wants authenticity? What is it? I think it works all these different ways, and when I heard it, it was like vehicular manslaughter. I was like, This is crazy. She was directing it literally at me! I think I’m still in the process of processing. We’ve been doing the pod since, and every week there’s been that sort of baseline throughout each episode where it’s like, Okay, but how honest—how honest should we be on there?

Another barrier, or another yardstick of distance for us, is, Okay, maybe people don’t need to mainline our thoughts all the time, and we’re just like anybody else where I don’t want to know what someone else is thinking at all times, on every situation, on every topic. Right now, today, that is my interpretation of “authenticity is dangerous and expensive.” No one should want anyone’s unfiltered thoughts constantly—or even in small doses. We have these filters for a reason, and we can modulate our response to things or our opinions on things for a reason. That applies to everybody.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Science | June 2024

Journey Into the Fiery Depths of Earth’s Youngest Caves

What Iceland’s volcanoes are revealing about early life on our planet


Speleologists in metallurgical “cooling suits” emerge from the extreme heat of a lava tube formed by the eruption in 2021 of Mount Fagradalsfjall.

By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

Photographs by Robbie Shone

Francesco Sauro first explored a cave when he was 4 years old. He was with his dad, a professor of geography, in the Lessini mountains, near the northern Italian village of Bosco Chiesanuova, where his father had grown up. His dad was also an amateur cave explorer, and the trip was a kind of preordained rite of passage. “The only memory I have about those caves is that I cried,” Sauro recalls. “I was very scared because of the darkness.” When Sauro was 12, and visiting the area again with his family, the founder of a local museum told him that a nearby cave held the bones of ancient cave birds. “In that moment, my curiosity overcame my fear,” Sauro says. From that day on, he was hooked.


In the nearly three decades since, the 39-year-old geologist has trekked into dozens of caves around the world: on islands in the Atlantic Ocean, inside glacier mills in the Alps, beneath the forest floor of the Amazon rainforest. In 2013, he discovered some of the world’s oldest caves inside the mountain known as Auyán Tepui in Venezuela. All told, he’s surveyed more than 60 miles of these hidden worlds, including several caves that were unknown to humankind. Some were millions of years old. Others formed tens of thousands of years ago. Recently, he explored caves that are even younger: pristine cavities known as lava tubes, forged inside cooling mounds of molten rock during the eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano, in southern Iceland, in 2021. For explorers looking to set foot on uncharted territory, few spaces can match the novelty. But beyond that elemental thrill, these infant caves offer an exceedingly rare opportunity to study cavernous worlds almost from their moment of origin.

Cover image of the Smithsonian Magazine June 2024 issue

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This article is a selection from the June 2024 issue of Smithsonian magazine

Lava Feilds

The most common caves on Earth are formed when rainwater mixes with carbon dioxide in the soil and turns into a weak acid, dissolving soft, soluble rock such as limestone below. Similar “destructional” caves are formed inside mountains and rocky formations made of less soluble material such as basalt, when flowing water slowly erodes the stone over long periods of time. “Constructional” caves, by contrast, are forged when flowing lava begins to cool, creating a top, crusty layer that solidifies into rock. As the molten lava beneath the crust flows out, it leaves behind a new cavity—a lava tube. “These caves are built in an instant of geologic time,” Sauro says. Lava tubes can range in size from a small hollow barely three feet in diameter to a large chamber more than 150 feet tall. They can be formed as a single conduit, or as a series of small, interconnected tubes. Some might be “tiered” one on top of another—a stack of caves.


Somewhere between 50 to 70 of the planet’s 1,500 or so active volcanoes erupt every year. When Mount Fagradalsfjall began to erupt in March 2021, capping what had been more than 800 years of dormancy, the world looked on with fascination, in part because an eruption elsewhere in Iceland a decade earlier spewed giant clouds of ash into the atmosphere over Europe, impacting air travel. This time there was no such disruption. Instead, tourists from Iceland and around the world swarmed to the site, some getting within 500 or so feet of the eruption, to glimpse the brilliant red and crimson lava gushing from the mountain and cascading down its sides. “It was the first case where we had cameras everywhere around the volcano, and images coming from the thousands of tourists that were going there to see this incredible show,” Sauro says.

Mineral deposits

Sauro, a full-time speleologist and president of a geographical exploration society called La Venta who also works with NASA and the European Space Agency to help train astronauts in planetary exploration, monitored these developments from his home in northern Italy. He spent hours each day looking at photographs and video footage from the site. This rich stream of information was not just giving researchers the ability to track how and where the caves were forming. It also presented a rare chance to study the interiors of caves that hadn’t yet been touched by living matter: to observe the cooling process, the formation of minerals and the early microbial colonization of those environments in unprecedented detail. And because the caves were formed from lava surpassing temperatures of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, the environment inside would be completely sterile. “I was thinking: Hey, as soon as the eruption stops, this will become like an incredible laboratory,” Sauro recalls. “This will become a new world.”

Mount Fagradalsfjall is not actually a single mountain but a cluster of small ridges on a plateau on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 25 miles southwest of Reykjavik. The surrounding area is flat and covered in moss. The eruption began in a valley between the ridges. As it continued over the next few months, Sauro began making plans. He knew it was imperative to access the caves as soon as physically possible.

Mineral Sample

That time was of the essence was a lesson that speleologists had learned in 1994, when studying lava tubes formed after Mount Etna erupted in Italy. When they entered the tubes nearly a year after the eruption had stopped, at which point the temperature inside was still a dangerously high 158 degrees, the researchers found rare crystals and minerals. Returning six months later, however, those minerals were gone. They were “metastable”—holding their form only at high temperatures. As the lava tubes cooled, they had disappeared, and so had the opportunity to examine them in detail.

To prepare to enter the new caves in Iceland, Sauro and his team needed a precise understanding of where exactly they were forming and which tubes presented the easiest and safest access. Gro Pedersen, a geologist at the University of Iceland’s Nordic Volcanological Center, was tasked with collecting images. She and Birgir Óskarsson, from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, surveyed the volcano from an airplane, flying over it once every two weeks or so between March and September 2021. They also collected other images captured by drones and satellite imagery. “Because of the different angles, we were actually able to create a topographic map, in addition to a good visual map of the lava flow field,” Pedersen says.

Bogdan Onac

Sauro and his colleagues, who had received a grant from the National Geographic Society, finally got close to the volcano in September 2021, about a week after the eruption subsided. Using their maps, the team identified windows, or “skylight points,” on the surface—locations that were potential entrances into newly formed caves. They flew a drone equipped with thermal imaging cameras over the site to map the temperatures of different parts of the volcanic landscape. In May 2022, they were able to approach the entrances of several caves, but thermal cameras indicated that inside temperatures were still reaching 900 degrees. “There was burning air coming out,” Sauro says. “The winds outside were cold. The contrast between the exterior and the interior was crazy.”


Sauro and his expedition members finally entered one of the caves that October, wearing metallurgist suits designed to withstand high temperatures and breathing from portable tanks filled with compressed air, because the air inside was too hot to breathe and laden with toxic gases. The walls were still radiating heat like a furnace, and in certain places the floor was nearly 400 degrees. Sauro and two other team members, equipped with thermal imaging cameras to monitor conditions, advanced cautiously, like a line of soldiers, allowing for the person in the middle and the person in the rear to pull back the line leader in case the expedition suddenly turned dangerous. “The air temperature could change from 100 to 200 degrees [Celsius] in just one meter,” Sauro says. In one tube Sauro entered, the cave wall was still glowing, with a temperature of nearly 600 degrees Celsius (1,100 degrees Fahrenheit). “It was one of the most impressive things I saw,” he says. Pedersen visited the caves after they had cooled further. “I know very few places on Earth where you can go into things that you have seen being born,” she says. “That’s kind of amazing.”

Two lines of research interested Sauro and his colleagues. First, they were eager to study the minerals they would find inside the caves—those formed on the cave walls and other rocky surfaces. Second, they hoped to discover when these extreme habitats would be colonized by micro-organisms and discern which microbes would thrive. Learning how such newly formed caves might begin to harbor life could help researchers refine their ideas about how life developed on Earth, and it would also provide guidance about how and where to look for signs of life, current or past, on other planets, such as Mars. “We know that lava tubes were constantly forming in Martian volcanoes,” Sauro explains. “So they could have been quickly colonized, becoming a kind of Noah’s Ark for Martian life—if life ever existed there.”

Detail #1

Concerned that some minerals could change or disappear over time, the researchers brought a scanning electron microscope to the site to produce high-resolution images of the samples to help them identify them. Rogier Miltenburg, a technician with the biotechnology company Thermo Fisher Scientific, housed the instrument inside a tent next to the volcano, and he ran a generator inside the tent to maintain the vacuum needed for the microscope to function. The conditions were precarious: Once, when it was raining, a river started to form through the tent. “I had the power supply on the floor, and luckily the water sort of diverted around it,” Miltenburg recalls. “Otherwise we would have had a short.”

Detail #2

The researchers came across a variety of minerals along fissures and grooves on the cave surfaces. “We found this beautiful white stuff. And then we said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s green there, that’s blue there,’” says Bogdan Onac, a mineralogist at the University of South Florida who was part of the team. Using sterile spatulas, the researchers scraped off samples and packed them in vacuum-sealed bags. Since the temperatures in the lava tubes were so high at the outset, Onac was expecting the minerals to be completely dehydrated crystals, so he was surprised to find some whose texture resembled that of wet sugar, indicating that, in spite of the high heat, water molecules in the environment had been incorporated during mineralization. After collecting samples, Sauro and his colleagues would turn around and walk to the tent for a look at what they had found. By ascertaining a sample’s chemical composition from the images produced by the electron microscope, they could usually identify the mineral within half an hour.


The team had expected to find some minerals such as mirabilite, which is made up of hydrogen, sodium and sulfur. But they also found novel minerals formed from the combination of copper with sodium, potassium, sulfur and other elements, resulting in rare substances that the team is currently studying in greater detail. One surprise mineral, for instance, was wulffite—an emerald-green crystal whose composition includes sodium and potassium along with copper sulfate. “It has only been found once before in the history of mineralogy, in a Russian volcano site,” says Fabrizio Nestola, a mineralogist at the University of Padua. Nestola, who is conducting detailed analyses of the mineral samples at his Padua lab, is certain that some of the minerals will turn out to be entirely new to science, potentially revealing as yet unknown processes by which mineralization takes place.


Sauro’s microbiologist colleagues, meanwhile, collected samples from patches of rock surfaces marked by “biofilms”—areas that had begun to be colonized by bacteria. After extracting samples and analyzing DNA from them at laboratories off-site, the researchers found that different micro-organisms had flourished in different parts of the same cave. “The first data indicate that environmental bacteria, mostly those associated with soil, begin the colonization,” says Martina Cappelletti of the University of Bologna, a microbiologist. “They are probably initially transported inside the cave through air currents.” These micro-organisms can thrive because they are able to subsist on rocks—that is, to derive energy from oxidizing inorganic materials. Over time, as the caves cooled, the diversity of microbes inside the caves increased. The findings suggest that such life-forms, which would not require water or organic matter to survive, should have the best chance to establish a foothold in extreme environments—whether in the distant past or on other planets.


Indeed, tracking microbial colonization will help scientists searching for life elsewhere in the universe. Even on planets where surface conditions today seem inhospitable, lava tubes may once have provided temporary or enduring refuge to life-forms that rapidly colonized the interiors and survived. “If some specific microbial life is able to quickly colonize lava tubes on Earth, why could this not have happened on Mars?” Sauro says.

Collapsed Lava Tube

Penelope Boston, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames, Moffett Field, describes lava tubes as “a model for what we may potentially find on other bodies in the solar system.” And volcanic activity isn’t limited to Earth and Mars. Even Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, has active volcanoes, suggesting that planets and moons beyond our solar system may have volcanoes—and lava tubes—too. That’s why Boston sees great value in studying the caves Sauro is investigating. “I think that designating places around the world where we have this ability to see an early history of microbial colonization from the get-go is something that deserves worldwide attention,” she says.

Lava lake

The eruption of Fagradalsfjall has subsided, but Sauro has been following news about other volcanoes in Iceland with interest. This past March, when a new eruption started on the Reykjanes Peninsula , at Mount Hagafell, a few miles west of Fagradalsfjall, he mused about “new tubes forming, literally, right now.” These uncharted caverns could be his next hunting ground.

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Yudhijit Bhattacharjee | READ MORE

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine , has also written for Wired , the New Yorker and others.

Robbie Shone | READ MORE

Cave explorer Robbie Shone has photographed cave systems in some of the remotest parts of the world.


Young whale's journey highlights threats facing ocean animals

A young whale's journey across the Mediterranean highlights the many threats facing ocean animals, researchers say.

Scientists from Greenpeace and the universities of Exeter and Haifa studied whales and dolphins in the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Israel.

They found Cuvier's beaked whales, bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales -- including a young adult male previously seen off southern France.

The distance between sighting locations makes this the furthest recorded movement of a sperm whale in the Mediterranean -- and means the whale made a hazardous journey.

Audio analysis provides further evidence that whales off the Israeli coast are part of the wider regional population, as their vocalisations matched the "Mediterranean dialect."

The researchers say their findings demonstrate the need for targeted protection at key locations.

"Marine life in the Mediterranean faces numerous threats -- from fishing and pollution to noise and boat strikes," said Dr Kirsten Thompson, from the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter.

"The journey of this particular whale must have gone through narrow straits -- either the Sicily Channel or the Strait of Messina, both of which are extremely busy, noisy and potentially dangerous for a deep-diving sperm whale."

The whale -- known variously as Kim, Elia and Onda by researchers in different regions -- was probably travelling with other young males, which typically leave their birth group at this stage of their lives.

"The fact that these whales pass through narrow, shallow seas means that listening devices could be installed at those points to protect them," Dr Thompson said.

"This could create an alert system to prevent ship strikes."

Dr Thompson added: "The Mediterranean is the busiest sea in the world, with rich wildlife and a high human population.

"Unfortunately, some species like these threatened whales are facing further industrial development, with oil and gas exploration and the construction of a new gas pipeline between the eastern basin and Italy.

"Some state that further hydrocarbon extraction is a violation of EU environmental protection legislation -- this expansion is not just bad for our future climate targets but for the wildlife that is already struggling in this busy sea."

Relatively little research has been done on whales and dolphins in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In this study, visual-acoustic surveys were conducted during April and May 2022.

Acoustic detections found: sperm whales (three encounters), Cuvier's beaked whales (one encounter), bottlenose dolphins (one encounter) and unidentified dolphins (17 encounters).

The study was funded by Greenpeace International.

  • Dolphins and Whales
  • Marine Biology
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Issues
  • Sperm Whale
  • Humpback Whale
  • Bowhead Whale
  • Right whale

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Exeter . Original written by Alex Morrison. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference :

  • Kirsten F. Thompson, Jonathan Gordon, Thomas Webber, Yotam Zuriel, Kim Kobo, Dan Tchernov, Sabina Airoldi, Biagio Violi, Alessandro Verga, Adrien Gannier, Elena Fontanesi, Davide Ascheri, Aviad P. Scheinin. Threatened cetaceans off the coast of Israel and long‐range movement of a sperm whale . Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems , 2024; 34 (5) DOI: 10.1002/aqc.4155

Cite This Page :

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online msw student spotlight justin tash smiles in army fatigues

From serving in the Air Force to serving his community - Justin Tash's journey to a career in social work

  • Tatiana Del Valle
  • May 9, 2024

Serving in the United States Air Force for seven years, Justin Tash witnessed the mental health struggles among colleagues and experienced his own emotional health battles while growing up in a military family and serving on active duty. 

In the Air Force, most of his days consisted of flying planes, but Tash discovered a knack for helping people through some of the most challenging times of their lives as a volunteer victim advocate in the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. As a survivor of sexual assault himself, he had been in their shoes. 

“I understood what it was like and what people felt when they went through those traumas,” he said. 

Transitioning to Civilian Life

When Tash’s time in the military was cut short when he was unexpectedly medically discharged, he decided to dedicate his post-military civilian career to helping people in need. Since he had been connected to the military for his entire life, the adjustment to civilian life took some time. 

His father was on active duty for most of his childhood, and his college years were spent in the Corps of Cadets program at Texas A&M University, a Tier 1 Senior Military College. He had never fully experienced life outside of the military. 

Tash took a year off to figure out what he wanted to do next and eventually landed on social work. “After some research, it became clear that you can do everything under the sun with social work as long as it has some kind of mental health moniker, even behavioral health or public health in general, social work can apply,” he said. 

He said that finding an online program was important because he wanted to work remotely and had already spent so much time away from his wife and family while in the Air Force. 

Choosing USF

When he discovered USF’s Online Master of Social Work, everything clicked into place, he said.

“What was different about USF is that it was designed to be online from the ground up, and I really appreciated that,” Tash said. “Another big selling point was Dr. David Kilmnick, the Online MSW program chair, due to his robust background in social work and his work in macro-level problems. His work inspired me to focus on some of these same issues in the future.”

Tash also found that the USF Office of Veteran Success was very supportive in guiding him on using his GI Bill to help pay for tuition. 

Since starting the program, all his expectations have been met, and many have been exceeded. 

Building Connections Online

“A lot of the issues that people have with online classes are not accurate to my lived experience as an Online MSW student,” he said. “Because of the cohort model, there’s a certain element of support among your classmates that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Tash emphasized that students in the program want to make connections and discuss what they’re learning.

“The online structure makes building relationships with peers much more deliberate,” Tash said. “We get on Zoom, make study groups, and chat. It’s honestly more accessible than approaching somebody in person.”

He said another benefit is that instructors are proficient with using the technology required for online classes, which allows them to easily take advantage of tools like breakout rooms, polls, and other features of virtual meeting platforms. 

Preparing for the Future

Now in year two of the program, Tash is finishing the rest of his classes while completing his clinical internship at a charter high school in the Orlando area. Since he wants to work with children and adolescents, this is the perfect opportunity for him to get real-world experience. 

“I’ve been very privileged to form meaningful bonds with a lot of these kids at my internship, and I’ve heard a lot from my peers about really positive experiences they’ve had,” he said. 

Once he earns his master’s degree, Tash would like to land a position involving macro-level policy, focusing on policies that impact children and families. 

To learn more about the Online Master of Social Work , visit the website or contact Tiffany Young at [email protected] .  

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USF Innovative Education is a powerhouse of creativity and collaboration, offering a range of faculty-related services including learning design, multimedia development, technology integration, and support for teaching and learning. We help faculty transform courses into dynamic learning experiences, providing training and support for various programs. We work with both experienced and new faculty, assisting them in integrating technology and staying up to date with educational trends.



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  4. Visit the Paarl Wine Route in the Western Cape (GL)

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  1. Journey

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