Eclipse 2017 in pictures


This was the extent of the solar eclipse in Northern Virginia. The photo on the left shows the darkest point of the eclipse. The photo on the right shows post-eclipse sun.


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Published articles

Mason researchers getting citizen scientists ready for August eclipse

July 17, 2017

Regaining mobility after a spinal cord injury, with help from an exoskeleton

March 28, 2017

Attacking tumors from the inside

December 6, 2016

Mason research could lead to new lung disease treatments

November 29, 2016

Next year’s eclipse will give Mason scientists rare glimpse into ionosphere

October 24, 2016

The Mason Spirit

Armor All

Spring 2008

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Community members, students adopt Fairfax highways

FAIRFAX, April 29, 2013 — Edward L. Weiner and and Lake Smith live very different lives, but they give back to their community—and the environment—via the same outlet.

Weiner is an attorney, while Smith is a senior at George Mason University, where he studies government and international politics. Both men participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program.

“It’s something we enjoy doing for the community,” Weiner, a partner in the Fairfax, Va.-based law firm Weiner, Spivey & Miller, PLC, said.

Weiner and his colleagues maintain a section of Ox Road through the program, and he said he and his peers make the time they spend collecting litter into a fun office event.

“It only takes an hour or two [to complete the work],” he said, but added that his group sometimes has to schedule the time for days other than the days set by the program.

“Early Sunday mornings [are when we prefer to maintain our area],” Weiner said.

Smith participates in the program with members of his fraternity, Delta Chi.

“We’ve adopted [Route] 123 from Braddock Road all the way down to Main Street,” Smith said.

Like Weiner and his colleagues, Smith said he and his peers enjoy the service aspect of the endeavor.

“We just figured it would be a great way to give back to our Mason community,” Smith said.

Like other participants in the program, Smith said his group is obligated to remove litter from their assigned area four times each year.

“We usually tend to it twice a quarter, just to make sure we’re keeping up with our obligation,” Smith said.

The work allows Smith and his fraternity brothers to both fulfill the community service requirement for their organization and make life nicer for fellow members of the community.

Cynthia Mercer, Adopt-a-Highway adoption coordinator for Fairfax, said Weiner and Smith are luckily only two of many volunteers in the program.

“It makes a significant contribution [to the community],” Mercer said of their work.

Many of the other Adopt-a-Highway volunteers are as varied as Weiner and Smith, Mercer said.

“It’s a broad base of groups. It’s a conglomerate,” she said.

Mercer did not speak to the benefits that volunteers reap, but Weiner said he knew of at least one.

“Anyone who participates in this will not litter,” he said.

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Leaders of The Great Cloth Diaper Change report new diapering record to Guinness World Records

Participants in The Great Cloth Diaper Change hold up the clean cloth diapers they will use to help set a new world record.

Participants in The Great Cloth Diaper Change hold up the clean cloth diapers they will use when they try to set a new cloth-diapering record.

FAIRFAX, May 13, 2013—Officials with The Great Cloth Diaper Change have informed Guinness World Records leaders that they set a new world record during their April 20, 2013 event.

Representatives of The Great Cloth Diaper Change recently reported on their website that they have informed record officials that participants changed 8,331 babies into cloth diapers during the international event.

Angela Torres, Real Diaper Association board member and one of the hosts of the Fairfax Great Cloth Diaper Change event, said that those present not only broke the record, but also advanced community knowledge about cloth diapering.

“[The Great Cloth Diaper Change] also lets families who don’t already know that there is a tremendous amount [of] support in their communities where they might not have thought to look before,” Torres said.

Officials with The Great Cloth Diaper Change indicate on their website that the previous record—which they set in 2012—was for 8,251 babies being changed into cloth diapers at the same time.

Those leaders also report on their website that participants in The Great Cloth Diaper Change in 2011 set a record that year. They write that the 2011 record was 5,026 diaper changes.

This story is an update to the following article.

Parents diaper babies to set record, help the environment

FAIRFAX, April 21, 2013—Parents and babies assembled at Fairfax Christian Church on Main Street recently to help set a new world record for the most cloth diapers changed.

They arrived with bags, blankets and bottles and a common goal: to raise awareness about the benefits of cloth diapering.

“We bring cloth diapering families together, educate parents and caregivers about cloth diapering and help them make the change using simple, reusable, real cloth diapers,”   Angela Torres, one of the hosts of The Great Cloth Diaper Change — Northern Virginia event, said.

“We also want the general public to know that cloth diapering is not some underground practice, but something that is normal in a growing number of households,” Torres said.

Melissa Poulin, a Centreville mother who brought her young daughter to the event, said cloth diapers are the standard in her house.

“I’ve used them since she was three months old. It’s just way better for the environment,” Poulin said.

Courtney Belcher, a mother from Quantico, Virginia, said she has been diapering her son in cloth diapers since he was two months old.

“I like the whole cloth diaper advocacy,” Belcher said.

Lisa Martinez, owner of 2 the Root, a cloth diaper service that serves residents of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia said she had a similar commitment to cloth diapers when her child was younger.

“I cloth-diapered my son from birth to potty,” Martinez said.

“The kids potty train up to a year faster in cloth diapers,” Martinez said.

Hannah Neas, a cloth diaper store owner from Sterling, Virginia, said she and her spouse enjoyed other benefits of cloth diapering.

“My husband would say [he most appreciated] the [reduced] expense,” she said. “I would say [I most appreciated] the health benefits.”

The event was part of a larger, international attempt by parents and caregivers to set a new record for the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Great Cloth Diaper Change website states that: “As of 4/2/13, 285 hosts [had] registered to hold world record events in 17 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, Germany, Spain, Finland, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the US.”

Heather McNamara said that during the one minute that it took for parents participating in the Great Cloth Diaper Change to change their babies’ diapers, parents using disposable diapers would send 876,000 such diapers to landfills.

McNamara is executive director of the Real Diaper Association, an organization based in San Diego, California. She said that parents and child care providers send 39,000 tons of disposable diaper waste to landfills each day.

Regarding the outcome of the record attempt, McNamara said: “Actually, we don’t have a final tally yet. We have numbers from 125 events of 285 for over 5,000 babies, but there is still a lot [of information] to come in.”

“We should have an unofficial number by Friday, with official numbers expected back from Guinness on May 1,” she said.

Sara Wilcox, PR & marketing executive for Guinness World Records North America, Inc. said her organization has received a claim for this event.

“At this time, we are waiting on documentation to be sent in to our offices for our records team to review and determine if a new record has been set,” Wilcox said.

“This is a new record category,” Wilcox said.

Putting diaper waste into perspective

Fairfax County officials indicate on their website that they anticipate that the population of the county will have grown by more than 19,000 people by 2015 over where it was in 2011.   Leaders of The Great Cloth Diaper Change estimate that each baby uses about eight diapers per day. If one estimates that those babies are born at a rate of about 4,000 per year, those babies would generate 32,000 diapers per day for about two years. That amounts to more than 11 million diapers per year and more than 23 million diapers before those babies are potty-trained.

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Journalist Jim Lehrer speaks at Mason

Journalist Jim Lehrer speaks with Jack Censer, dean of Mason's College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Journalist Jim Lehrer speaks with Jack Censer, dean of Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Journalist Jim Lehrer almost didn’t become a newsman, and when he did, he made mistakes.

Lehrer revealed these things and others when he spoke to a multi-generational crowd in Meese Conference Room in Mason Hall Wednesday afternoon.

Lehrer told the group he originally wanted to be a professional baseball player, until he met a certain someone.

“I was touched by a teacher,” Lehrer said.

A seventh grade teacher gave him a good mark on an essay and inspired him to pursue a career in writing, he said.

“I went home that night and told my mother, ‘Mom, I’m going to be a writer,'” Lehrer said.

From there, Lehrer said he overcame challenges getting into journalism school, worked long hours in the newspaper industry, and even erred when he interviewed a president.

“On the day the Monica Lewinsky story broke, I had an interview scheduled with Bill Clinton,” he said.

“I assumed it was not going to come off,” he said.

When it did, Lehrer said he ended up getting coverage that was used by all the major television networks.


The three nightly news anchors for those networks were all in Havana covering a visit by the pope, he said.

With all of those viewers watching, though, Lehrer said he made a mistake.

When he asked the president about his relationship with Lewinsky, Lehrer said he failed to recognize that Clinton spoke of his actions with Lewinsky in the past tense.

He did not notice this at the time, he said.

His daughter told him of the error after the fact, he said.

“I just didn’t hear it,” Lehrer said, but said he got away with it.

“I’ve never been through anything like that,” he said.

In addition to sharing stories from his own career, Lehrer also offered his ideas about the future of the journalism profession.

“This is the time to go into journalism,” Lehrer said.

“We’ve got to have information,” he said.

Journalism students may have a difficult time finding jobs. Lehrer said he recognizes that.

“All of these news organizations are hungry for ideas, [though],” he said.



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Fairfax residents bike to keep air cleaner

FAIRFAX, April 30, 2013 – Bruce Wright often gets around Fairfax by bicycle–in part to reduce air pollution–and he thinks other area travelers should do the same.

Wright is chairman of an organization called Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, an eight-year-old group which aims to make bicycle travel by Fairfax residents safer, more convenient and more prevalent.

“Our main goal is to ensure that cycling is an integral part of the transportation network in Fairfax,” Wright said.

How integral does Wright want bicyclists to be on Fairfax roads?

He said it should be a whole-family affair.

“Most kids now are driven to school, which [contributes to] air pollution,” Wright said.

Chuck Turner, director of air quality monitoring for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said that while that may be true, by and large, air pollution is on the decline.

The exception? Northern Virginia.

“The trend is improving, [but] we still have some work to do,” Turner said.

“Ozone is the primary issue in Northern Virginia,” Turner said.

“The whole Northern Virginia area [does] not meet the air quality standard for ozone,” Dan Salkovitz, meteorologist for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said.

Even though this region does not have much industry, the number of cars on the road in the area detracts from local air quality.

“Bikes are a great help [to air quality],” Salkovitz said.

Every time people are on bicycles instead of in cars, they are playing a small part to improve the quality of the air and of the environment, Salkovitz said.

While cyclists make a contribution to the air quality of the community when they cycle, however, Salkovitz said they do put their own health at risk.

This is especially true when cyclists are stopped in traffic behind automobile tailpipes.

“In that situation, you’re exposing yourself to pollution,” Salkovitz said.

Wright himself sees other challenges to bicycle travel, including poor neighborhood street design, but said people should give bicycle travel a chance.

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Official: Humans are causing long-term damage to oceans, and, in turn, themselves

FAIRFAX — Humans are polluting and overfishing the world’s oceans, and are setting sea creatures—and themselves—up for serious, negative, long-term effects.

Dr. Alonso Aguirre, executive director of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, Va., made this point during a recent visit to a George Mason University communication class.

“We have six times more plastic than plankton,” Aguirre said.

With regard to fishing, the main problem is that of the by-catch, or the assortment of animals fishermen catch while fishing for other creatures, Aguirre said.

“For one pound of shrimp, you get ten pounds of juvenile fish,” he said.

Dolphins and larger fish also frequently become part of the by-catch, he said.

“Dolphins identify the big schools of fish and tuna follow to go feed on the small fish, too. So when the fishermen come, they throw the net around them, then [the] dolphins lose the capacity of their sonar, because the net interferes with their movements,” Aguirre said.

Other ocean-dwelling animals do not become victims of the by-catch, but die, as well, Aguirre said.

For instance, 6,500 football field-size patches of patches of coral die each day, Aguirre said.

“Up to 35 percent of 1,000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction,” he said.

Humans are not helpless in this situation, however, Aguirre said.

Fishermen harvested 712,000 metric tons of farmed shrimp in 1995, and continue to harvest it today.

“Don’t eat it,” he said.

Officials at Monterey Bay Aquarium offer different advice on this matter. Aquarium officials state on their website that people should: “Become Aware [about the environmental impact of shrimp farming and shrimp consumption].”

Those officials write: “Shrimp farm development has destroyed millions of acres of coastal habitat worldwide. Try US farmed shrimp instead, a product raised under tighter US environmental standards.”

What does Aguirre recommend that people eat instead?

“I can tell you with security that most shellfish are okay to eat—clams, oysters, mussels. Some fish are good, too, like Atlantic salmon,” Aguirre said.

Diners should be more cautious when consuming tilapia, though, because those fish have high levels of contaminants, Aguirre said.

Aguirre then said listeners and eco-minded diners and shoppers should review the information available from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. From there, consumers can get an informational card for their wallets or an app for their phones, he said.

Consumers can obtain that information at:

Fisheries can also apply to have their establishments marked with a special sustainability seal, he said.

“Only about 25 percent will get it,” he said.


Mason students: Want to do more than dine safer? Come learn.

Dr. Alonso Aguirre, executive director of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, wants eco-minded Mason students to consider studying at his school.

“We just built a brand-new campus—a $15M facility—where we have space for about 120 students,” Aguirre said.

“So far, we have graduated 98 students, half of them from Mason,” he said.

Students who study at the school, which is located near Shenandoah National Park, study the scientific, economic and political aspects of the biodiversity changes that are occurring in the world, he said.

Among other courses, “We have applied communications where we actually teach science communication so scientists can translate what they do in the field and the lab to the general public, Aguirre said.

“It’s really a practical experience,” he said.

Interested students can find out more by visiting:

A version of this story appears in the book: Principles of public relations: Student handbook and guide to PR communication 330

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