Friday, July 17, 2015

Geology Field Camp Part Two

Hiking Pancake Summit was the first challenge I faced at UNR Summer Geology Field Camp. Being many, many moons older than the "kids" in my class, overweight, arthritic, and studded with neurological pain was to say the least - interesting. However, I found that "mind-over-matter" is a practice that I have mastered over the past 17 years after my injury on the job.

Each mapping day was a challenge of terrain, sagebrush, thorny plants, loose scree (rock fragments) on steep slopes, and fatigue. It was mentally as well as physically demanding due to our tight schedule. Pancake was a five-day hike and mapping with one day off (which really means you do laundry and work as much as you can on all the reports due for the project), and staying up all night to complete everything that was due on day six at 2PM.

The beauty of nature was inspiring, however I held onto thoughts that pushed me to complete each day and to not give up (believe me when I say I cried several days from pain and fatigue and wanted to quit and just go home...)

The following became my inspiration, my strength, and my daily ritual...

I thought about my two little beautiful granddaughters in Hawaii, and hope that someday they see my example and know that dreams can come true anytime in your life.

I also thought about my little California granddaughters who are really princesses and they dress like this everyday (really). I see them as often as school schedule allows, and try to instill in them the importance of a higher education. I love to teach them about rocks...and both these little ladies, I mean princesses, are excellent rock finders. [I can't wait til they are older so they can carry rocks for me as we hike around].

I thought about my late father, who recently passed away on June 14, 2015 after seven long years of suffering a disease similar to Lou Gehrig's. My dad had only a tenth grade education. He was proud of me attending a university, and took me his dream as a little boy was to go to Cal. I wished he had had the same opportunity as I found in my life to go to college and get a degree. It is an accomplishment that no one can take from you, or minimize in any way.

Last, I would tell myself that I need to put my "big girl panties" on and buck up and take one day at a time. After each completed day hiking and mapping the geology around Pancake Summit became a huge accomplishment for me. I treated each day as a "win" and that pushed me to continue.

I have come such a long way, a lot of money, and sacrifice of being with family to NOT do this. 

Truth is, I am happy I was able to finish it despite the lost of my day the last week of camp. But he was with me. I heard him on the winds atop of mountains we hiked. I heard him in the running streams and rivers we came across. I felt him every step, helping me to hike with the weight of equipment, 6 L of water, and a change of clothing. 

We all have the capability of finding strength in those we love, and those who love us...they are far away, or across oceans, and even Heaven, but they are embedded deep in our hearts and minds. They push us each step of our journey...and I cannot be more grateful for their love and support.

Dad, I wish you could have stayed long enough to see your daughter receive her B.S. in Geology, and although I know you will not be physically there in the audience of well-wishers, you will be there in heart and in spirit. You were a great father, and a true inspiration in my life. I will listen for you on the winds in my future hikes, and feel your strength as I take each step in my life.

To my little four angels (princesses) - I am doing this mostly for you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Geology Field Camp - Part One

One of the dorm rooms at the Field Station
New Ruth, Nevada is small mining town located in central eastern Nevada, near Ely. New Ruth is the home of  the Robinson Mining Company open pit copper mine, and the University of Nevada-Reno's Evasovic Geology Field Station. The Field Station was my home for a little over a month, where we mapped geology in 3-5 day projects.

Field Camp is 6-week adventure that tests all the education, techniques, methods, and scientific theories that geology students learned from 100-level classes through the 400-level classes. Field Camp presents projects that pull together all that you learned, and allows you to deliver a completed field map, final map, geologic history of the map area, lithic descriptions, cross-sections, and stratigraphy columns.Although the Field Station is far from luxurious, it provided us hot showers, a roof over our head, and flushing privies - all good things when you have hiked all day with heavy packs. Our first night we have a beautifully colored sunset (below).

First sunset at Ruth Field Station, May 22, 2015

The "deliverables" for each project were due by the next day following the completion of the mapping/hiking days assigned to the project. If you did not work on anything after each day, it called for you to work through the night (after an exhausting day of hiking and climbing 8.22-12 miles). Working through the night however is not the best way to deliver your project to those grading them because you miss a lot of little things that can really hurt your grade. I found it much more productive to work on my deliverables each night, even if it is just setting up a template for the final item.

The first of the geology mapping planned for us was that of Pancake Summit. Pancake Summit is located about an hour west of the field station, near Eureka, Nevada.

The Pancake range is one that is truly remarkable once you start hiking into it. From Highway 50, it might not seem like a wonderful place to hike and map geology, however once off the highway, the range provides beauty, interesting geology, fossils, and critters. Afternoon clouds rolled in and giving us nice coverage, although a little rain here and there, however a few days we dodged the rain, which seemed to fall all around us, but never right on us.

Lunch break at Pancake range, day 3 of 5

More to follow...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Genoa Fault Field Trip

Been too long since my last blog...this summer I thought it would be "fun" to knock out my last Calculus and Chemistry classes, and take on a third for my core humanities. Boy was that dumb! Taking Chemistry122 in 4 weeks was crazy, and at least I had 6 weeks for Calculus, but passed it all so thankfully that was three classes eliminated from my Fall and Spring semesters.

This semester is Geological Engineering Data Analysis, Geological Structures, Optical Mineralogy I, and American Experience/Constitution Change...all the GEOL classes with labs. I am loving Optical Mineralogy as it plays into much of what I did this summer in my undergraduate research project. I am looking forward to learning a lot in GEDA using MatLab, which is supposedly an intuitive computer program we can write our own code far NOT so intuitive, but it is just the beginning of the Fall semester, so I cannot judge too hastily the goals of this particular class.

Structures landed us our first field study class to the Genoa Fault outcrop located just south of the little (and quite lovely) town of Genoa, NV. The day unfortunately coincided with my 4th granddaughter's First Baby Luau day, which I missed out on. But as my "professor" stated very coolly I must say, "she won't remember it." Wow right, the compassion huh? Hopefully one day she will have grandchildren, and her tune will change - guaranteed!!!

I did however, enjoy the geology trip, despite missing Lucy's birthday. Here she is at my house last week as I threw her a pre-birthday celebration knowing that I would miss her actual party...

Cute, isn't she. Love that kid. But I love geology too, and as an older student, it is sometimes stressful to balance family life with college life. I knew that Lucy would forgive me if she was able to understand at 1 year old, that her "Guigui" (don't ask)...missed her party because she was learning about trend and plunge, and the rake of fault movement within an excellent example of an exposed fault plane.

Our measurements were taken from the footwall which is where all the students are standing on top of the talus debris. The students are a mixture of mining engineers, geological engineers, geophysicists, and geologists. Guess who was done first with their measurements? Right, the geologists! It was fun though to watch the engineers figure out how to use a Brunton compass to measure strike, dip, trend and plunge.

UNR students taking measurements on the exposed footwall of the Genoa Fault. Note the hanging wall is far right in picture

The exposed section of the Genoa Fault above, is not the only place where it has been exposed for geologists to admire. There are other places, all which I would love to check out sometime in the near future. However, if you ever find yourself driving your car down Highway 395 in Nevada, just between Carson City and Minden, take the short side trip west towards the town of Genoa and the Historical Mormon Station, and turn left at the stop sign in town. Drive is fairly quick and you cannot miss this gigantic structure on your right as you drive. Take brunton and water as you will want to play...

Students working at deciphering grain size, lithification, and other data for their report at the handing wall of the Genoa Fault.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

Sorry I have been away for such a lengthy period. First my dad was hospitalized with his third pneumonia this year, then my mom went in for chest pains, and my son-in-law for vomiting up blood. To say the least, I have spent more time in California than anticipated, as I had registered for 11 units this summer semester.

Started Chemistry 122, and hoping it goes well. 4 weeks, 2 hours of lecture each day with two three-hour labs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fortunately I am taking it with Dr. Martin, who I had for Chemistry 121.

Enjoying a wonderful summer storm with A LOT of thunder, and down pours. We all need the rain so no complaints here. I sat looking at the rain coming down, and realized just how peaceful I felt looking at it. I think as students, and definitely as adult children of aging parents, stress in ways we do not realize. I started having stomach problems of recent, and my brother who has been struggling with his own medical issues told me about Kefir. So I starting drinking it everyday and it is amazing how good my stomach is beginning to feel.

Taking Calculus 182 tests really pushed me to the limit with stress as I am not the best math student, but I work very hard and put in 8-10 hours everyday studying...but I learned a great trick from a friend who teaches. While out to dinner at a mutual friend's house I told her how stressed out I get. She shared with me some research she had read. I have tried everything, so although I trusted this woman sincerely, I doubted anything would help me stay calm. I have to admit that I was a little excited for my third Calc exam where I had planned to use this technique. It was worked so well for me I have been sharing it with everyone I talk to.

If you have test anxiety try these few steps:
  1. Sit in chair with feet flat on ground. Tighten your legs, butt and stomach muscles as hard as you can. I even clenched my fists. Hold it for 15-30 seconds. Release.
  2. Take three nice deep breaths and exhale slowly. 
Your body will react as if you just ran away from your test. The body and brain start working together and thinking that the danger has passed (kind of like the Fight-or-Flight Syndrome idea). Blood starts flowing back into your brain and you think clearer.

So hopefully this will help someone else as much as it helped me. It improved my test grades by 1.5 letter grades. If only all my classes were geology...I never feared a geology test. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

The most important skill to have at work

Recently I was contacted by an individual asking me what I thought was the most important skill one needs to be successful at work.  Pondering this request, I thought of many skills that were important to have, that aids in making one's work experience as successful and enjoyable as can be. Communication skills however won out as the most important skill to have. Communication however is broad, and does incorporate various aspects of human communication including electronic communication.

I have been guilty in the past of writing emails that were either not clear in their meaning, or were misinterpreted because of various reasons. Learning to communicate electronically is difficult, even for seasoned professionals who have remarkable speech communication skills. The issues with electronic communication is that the reader often incorporates their mood or emotion into reading an email, memo, or other electronically-sent letter. When this occurs, your writing can be misinterpreted, skewed, or worse, offend the reader.

My personal rules in writing communication that I send electronically are:
  1. Completely understand the program you are using to write the letter or memo (Outlook, etc). Know all the features to prepare a great document.
  2. Never write a sensitive-material letter when upset, angry, or in a foul mood, this just ends up becoming a rant on the computer screen.
  3. If I am upset, I do type it out...but NEVER, EVER send it. It is only one way that I can get it out of my system, if I have no one around to listen to me. Once I am done, I erase it from my computer so that I do not accidentally send it. Writing it down on paper is another way to sort out your thoughts.
  4. Always be professional when writing, Even if the person is some you know well. If it is business-related...write professionally. Dear Mr. or Sir, Dear Madam or Miss, Sincerely yours, etc. Business communication can be seen by many and leaves a lasting impression.
  5. Before hitting the SEND button - P R O O F R E A D - always!
  6. Finally, be clear and be concise.
Communication is key in any business and it provides the cornerstone for relationships developed through work. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

It Pays to Beg

Last semester I had a wonderful professor, Dr. Gordon for Geochemistry II. I loved the class, and really learned tons from her. My lab partner, Rick and I begged and begged Dr. Gordon for some undergraduate research work. She was busy with her grad students, understandably as they were getting their defenses together and graduating from grad school. It was a hectic and at times, chaotic semester. Nothing really developed for Rick and I, but we were persistent and kept telling her about our interest in getting lab experience.

At the very end of the semester, it happened! We were taken under the wing of our Dr. Gordon, who gave us an interesting research project on metamorphic rocks from the Himalayas. The project was originally a masters' project, however other possibilities came up for the rock samples. So, we started working in the heavy liquids lab at the Paul Laxalt Mineral Research building. It is a project that will take us in mid-June to UC-Santa Barbara where we will be working at the Laser-Ablation Split-Stream Petrochronology lab for three days. I am so excited to have this opportunity, and to learn how to work in the lab.

Frantzing at 0.3/20-degrees

My experience so far is using the Frantz magnetic separator that we are using to separate out some of the magnetic grains in the rock samples. We then follow-up using methylene iodide (CH2I2) and perform a heavy liquid separation in hopes of sinking monazite out of the samples. It is time-consuming process, but the real excitement comes when you look into a different world via the microscope. Seeing these beautiful crystals tinier than a pin-head is amazing.

MeI in separatory funnel with sample

I could never thank Dr. Gordon enough for her courage to take Rick and I on as undergraduate researchers, and her enthusiastic approach to teaching us all that she has. I am grateful for being accepted at a Tier 1 research university, where students like myself have these awesome experiences. 

Moral of the story: it pays to be a pesty undergrad.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Where is the End?

Today at 12:30 PM I attended my last Final of the Spring 2014 semester. On my walk towards Fransen Hall, I walked down the tree-lined path next to the Quad. The Quad at UNR is the place where graduation for the College of Science - Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering happens. The site of the white plastic chairs all in  rows lined perfectly, with care reminded me why I was there. Why I sold my house in Modesto. Why I left my Mom and Dad, sister, brother, kids, and grandchildren behind to move to another state. It reminded me of all the hours spent  leaning over textbooks, reading chapter after unforgiving chapter. Why I came to a university where I knew no one.

Photo credit:

I lingered during my walk to Fransen Hall, reflecting on the long path I have been walking. Wondering what it was going to feel like to walk up and receive my B.S. in Geology. What lies afterwards for me. Teaching? Working at a mine? Whatever door opens for me, I will walk through it proudly, knowing that I worked and sacrificed for something that is so important to me. Something no one can ever take away from me. Knowing that my Mom and Dad, now in their eighties will be proud of their daughter, who at the ripe old age of 54 earned her B.S. First in my family to go to college. Daughter of a man with a tenth grade education.

This semester has one filled with hard-earned success. I had to take English 102 Composition as one of the core classes needed, since Nevada does not accept California's community colleges courses that are equivalent. Do not know why, just is. I absolutely hated English in high school. I really did not care for my English teachers, they seemed boring and stuffy. I was, however, amazed on how much I enjoyed English 102 with Professor Frank Merksamer. He is a quiet spoken, caring man who taught me "the conversation." Burkean Parlor style. I enjoyed all the homework he gave, writing reflections of the stories we read. I learned to consider a compassionate viewpoint towards animals. I learned what speciesism, biopolitics, and consumerism. I learned more than I thought I ever would in this class. I appreciate Professor Merksamer because he gave me an appreciation for English. His class was one of my favorites.

I also completed GEOL 260 Intro to Field Mapping. This class was very different than Frank's. Our instructor became ill during the semester, and the class was a little rocky (no pun intended). I had to purchase about $100 of books to understand the class. I felt that most of the class was self-learned, and not that this is bad, but wished a little more from it then what I received. I did receive an A, however I worked very hard for it. It did not come easy because the class was not a lecturing class whatsoever. GEOL 212 - Earth Materials and Geochemistry II was my favorite though. I loved learning about the geochemistry of igneous (new rocks made from magma), sedimentary rocks (cool stuff you see on Colorado Plateau), and metamorphic rocks. Up until this class, metamorphic rocks were probably my second favorite type of rock, first being igneous rocks. Dr. Stacia Gordon teamed up with Dr. John McCormack to deliver a wonderful (but not easy) semester.

I have the next FOUR days off. Meaning I have nothing on my plate but my personal life. I am going to California to attend my dear friends' annual wine party, see my Dad (still recouping from pneumonia), and of course my best girls....Mom, daughter-Megan, grandaughters-Eowyn and Lucy. Because Mother's Day was the weekend BEFORE Finals, I had to stay in NV so we will be celebrating Mother's Day this weekend.

On Monday the 19th I start my Summer Sessions. I am tackling Calculus 182, Chemistry 122 and Ancient/Medieval Cultures. I feel that there is no end to school and wonder if my classmates feel the same way. Last week, several of the Geology majors met at Mike and Scott's house for a barbecue for "Dead Day". UNR has what is called  "Dead Day" which is no classes, and basically you just don't do any thing related to school...and I didn't. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my classmates, relaxing, laughing and eating. I think we ALL needed that day more than ever. I am grateful that this semester, we all got closer as majors, and lean on each other when it gets a little rough.

I know the end is somewhere even if I cannot see it now. Seeing all those white lawn chairs gave me hope. And I know that soon, my family and friends will be sitting in those white chairs when I get my degree. I cannot wait.