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...