Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Geology Field Camp Part 3

At field camp the geology student must apply many aspects of their education to the their field experience. From the basics learned in Geology 101 up to your senior year geophysics class or rock-forming processes (mineralogy). All those seemingly heterogeneous lessons begin congealing into this huge mass of knowledge that helps you to put geology, and more importantly, geologic processes into perspective. You are literally armed with tonnes of info to glean from so that when you go out into the field, you are able to piece major structures, rock units, mineralogy, and other visual keys within the rocks to 'tell' you their story.

This might sound easy, however it was much harder than one can expect. Despite your best efforts in trying to interpret what you are seeing in the rock,  there is always that voice in the back of your head asking you "are your sure?", "did you forget anything?", or "do you even know what it is your are looking at?" The latter being the most annoying for sure. The insecurity of a new geologist in training is numerous to say the least. We all second-guessed ourselves, and other students we were teamed up with. Questions or doubts as to what you observed and what your partners observed can be quite different at times. It may be as little as not seeing/missing a certain contact between rock units,  taking a bad bearing (reading), or placing your colluvium and alluvium in the wrong places on your field map.

What is she talking about? All these crazy-sounding words? Well to help you out if you are not a geology person here are a few brief definitions that I hope helps.

contact: where two very different rock layers or formations make contact with each other.
bearing: a reading off a compass (we use something called a Brunton with is a compass with lots of other tools to take measurements of rocks and contacts).
colluvium: is basically the rock debris found at the base of slopes or on slopes that weather from the rock unit(s) above. Other words for colluvium is scree and talus slope or talus accumulation. The biggest differences depends on materials (homogeneous or heterogeneous, and whether or not water was involved in their placement).
alluvium: debris that is usually the size of gravel or smaller that was deposited by some type of fluid/water flow.

Okay enough with the Webster's lesson. While I was mapping our Antelope Mountain project, which was a five-day project east of Eureka, Nevada, we came across many areas that really challenged our skills. The key to making sense of what contacts and structures we saw was what we wrote down in our field book (a geologists' notebook). Note-taking for geologists is an extensive process because we are looking for so many details of the rocks that lay before us. Of course, in writing our field notes we go back to all those classes from undergrad and upper level courses to ensure we get every piece of information we can from our observations.
Example of Theodolite cellphone camera picture taken at one of many Lake Lahontan sites we visited near the end of our summer field camp.

One part of grading on all of our mapping projects were our notebooks. All I can say is that is it NOT easy to keep your field book looking beautiful and clean...and when you are OCD like me, it is downright traumatic. Equipment is so important to geology and we rely on many tools that help us to read the rocks of our wonderful planet. The best advice I can give to any undergrad geology students in their first or second year at college is to start saving your change. You will be able to save enough to help you start building your field pack with the right equipment.
Fourth day of Antelope Summit mapping project was a bit of a wash(out) as it rained so heavy for a day and a half that we had difficulty getting our vans and trucks back into the area...and you thought the Nevada desert was brown and ugly. This is located in eastern Nevada just east of the town of Eureka, NV.

You can take all the knowledge given to you, and have all the right equipment in your field pack, but always remember that the best tools that will help when you later as you put your project reports together is your field note. Take pictures with your cell phone (and always carry a ruler to show scale) in addition to your field notes. There are even a couple of cool cell phone apps you can get that work well for field work, e.g., Theodolite, Google Earth, Geotimescale 2, etc. Although as you start getting yourself ready for your senior field camp school, the best advice is not to wait until the last minute to put a field pack together...and always carry a lot of water.

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 on...so 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.  NOT to be confused or pronounced like the coastal jewel of Genoa in Italy.

Anyways, back to the field trip. 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 AMAZING...it 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.