Sunday, November 9, 2008

Trees/Animals in the Field Meme

I know, it's been a while since you have heard from me. I got married (woohoo!), moved to Houston for an internship (big oil), and am writing up some thesis stuff. I feel like I am working two jobs, sometimes three when my previous job calls me for advice! So, my presence from the geoblogosphere has been absent. I have been keeping up with everyone elses' posts though! We have matured into a wonderful community and it is getting hard to keep up with all the great posts.

Here are a few quick posts.

Tree Meme
I can't remember which blog brought this up (I did a search and it didn't come up, so sorry for not giving credit). An alternate origination of some dropstones were a tree washing out to the ocean and the root system still entangled rocks. As the wood rots, the rocks drop into the sediment below. It reminded me of this picture.

My picture of a tree's roots holding onto rocks is from the beach around Vancouver. While most of these rocks were probably placed their by beach-combers like ourselves, I can easily see how trees could transport rocks out to the deeper ocean sediments.

Animals (Domesticated or Not) in the Field Meme
Huge Bees! (2 inch wingspan)

Huge Owl!
(Yes, it's blurry, but it was so big I had to put the picture up. Standing this owl was almost 3 feet tall, sage brush for scale.)

Huge Dog!

And the best field assistant... Sorry other field assistants, she is the cutest and has been with me the longes :-)

Monday, August 25, 2008


Just a quick post since I am in frenzied-writing mode and in family-is-in-town-for-MY-wedding mode...

Hypotheses post of a Venn diagram reminded me of another image I use in lecture to try and demonstrate connections. I give a lecture on using SEM and XRD in paleontology to a paleo techniques class every other year. I frequently use this diagram in the lecture to demonstrate some of the connections between geology and paleontology.

Unfortunately, because of time, I have to skim over the diagram and can't really get the students to sink their teeth into how much all of this is really connected. I've thought about rearranging the lecture to follow one connection to another and to keep it going, but it just doesn't work well with the topic I am asked to teach. But, I also know that these students will take an entire class on Taphonomy so they will develop the connections between geology and paleontology much more in that class.

If anyone wants to see the SEM and XRD in paleo PTT, just let me know and I will pass it along.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rocks and Minerals Blog

I came across the Rocks and Minerals blog the other day, but I have no idea who runs the site. There were also some other sites linked to it (listed below). They look like dictionaries or encyclopedias being developed. I might offer to help add defintions if it is a serious effort, but I don't know who owns the sites or if it is affiliated with an institution. Anyone else have any info about these blogs?
Linked to this blog were the following related sites:
Geologic Terms Index

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Catching up on my Science and Nature

In my RSS reader I have a bunch of feeds from journals. Some work wonderfully, while others are even poor substitutes for the e-mailed table of contents. (Come on, who only wants their RSS feed to have the Online Early Articles, but NOT the table of contents!) I tend to read the smaller geo blogs and their postings in the morning over breakfast, but the journal blogs get left on a weekly basis till I have a chunk of time to cath up with them.

Today while cathing up on my Science feeds, I noticed a few technical comments and replies that I enjoyed and since they are not blocked by the paywall at AAS I thought some of you might enjoy them as well.

The first is on whether a channel system on Mars is draped with ice or lava. Without having read the original article, this comment and reply summarized their positions and rebuttals well. The way a good comment and reply should be.

Comment on "Athabasca Valles, Mars: A Lava-Draped Channel System"

Response to Comment on "Athabasca Valles, Mars: A Lava-Draped Channel System"

The second is on mechanics of plate tectonics in the past. But are their proposed changes to the mechanics correct/possible?

Comment on "Intermittent Plate Tectonics?"

Response to Comment on "Intermittent Plate Tectonics?"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My contribution to Earth Day

I'm not actually going to do any event for Earth Day. There are some neighborhood cleanups going on, but I am so swamped I don't have the time to spare. Instead, I want to talk about the things I am actively trying to do everyday to help save the environment.

1) Reusable grocery bags. Seriously, this is the easiest one for everyone to participate in. It does take some initial investment in the bags (unless you also have a wonderful mother who sews) but once you start using them, there is no going back to plastic. I bought mine at Resusable I love this set because it can hold a fully loaded grocery cart. If you have trouble remembering to bring them, when you write out your grocery list, write "bring bags" on the top of the list. Soon you won't need to write it down to remember.

2) Biking to work. It's easy for me to complete this one because I only live a mile from work in a small town. But I bike everyday, all year round (even in several feet of snow). I understand this isn't for everyone, but it's a small source of pride for me knowing I am not driving a car in those circumstances.

3) Buying local and organic. I can't always afford to follow this one, but when the price is within reason (my budget) I chose local and/or organic. Since we have such a short growing season here, it is hard to buy local fruits and veggies year-round. There is an orchard nearby we frequent towards the end of the summer and I have a small garden and we freeze as much as we can to last into the winter. Once you have had a garden fresh tomato, you'll never go back to the grocery store ones again. We also try to minimize the processed food we buy.

4) Lights, TV, LED's off. When I leave the room I try to make sure I turn off the lights. (Thank you Mythbusters for showing me that it pays to turn off the lights even if it's only going to be for a second. I never used to care this much.) I can't shut down my laptop at night because I have it set up to backup all my files, but I try to make sure all the other appliances and power strips are turned off. Every little bit helps.

5) Picking up my dog's poop. Yes, when you can see your watershed and you know how many dogs there are in this small town, picking up after your dog makes a difference. Plus it can really ruin a popular trail when people don't. And if my dog hasn't gone to the bathroom, I will pick up after someone else. I will use the plastic bags I receive from non-grocery stores when I forget to bring the reusable bags.

6) Recycle. Duh.

7) Showering less. I enjoy a warm bath or good long shower as much as the next girl, but I realize it's a luxury. So, if I don't think I need to shower, I just wash up with a washcloth. It works out to about every other day for me. Hopefully my friends and coworkers haven't noticed the difference ;-)

Hmmm, I know there are more things that we do to try and reduce our footprint on the world, but I am forgetting them at the moment. So, what do you do to reduce your impact? What do you think I/we/the world should be doing?

Update - Thanks to ReBecca for this link on 50 ways to help the planet.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Climate Debate Articles

I don't have a lot of time to write a post, but I thought people might want to know about this. A journal called GeoJournal (I didn't know this one existed) has published 6 articles debating the science and effectiveness of "An Inconvenient Truth". One intro, 2 "pro," 2 "con," and one summary article. The articles are behind a firewall, but let me know if you want the articles and I can PDF them to you. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll show you the CO2 map for the US

I saw this article about the Vulcan system on the ScienceDaily news feed and thought I might share it. Normally, I don't listen to a lot of the "general news" about climate stuff coming out. I know I am better off reading the journal papers directly to remove the "Oh My We're All Gonna Die" sensationalism. But, this headline caught my eye and after reading the article, I am impressed with the article summary and the project.
Actually it wasn't so much the headline that caught my eye as it was the first line of the article- "A new, high- resolution, interactive map of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels has found that the emissions aren't all where we thought." That did catch my eye. I wondered what could be so different from what I already know about the sources of CO2 (point sources like power plants, moving things like cars, weathering of limestone, etc). This map didn't change my mind as to where I expected the most CO2 (population centers), but it was really cool to see where the CO2 blows off (and up) and the changes observed in low CO2 areas. I also have to admit, I hadn't thought about the diurnal nature of CO2 emissions, but it makes complete sense. Now for the stipulations... This map does not seem to be made from measured CO2 concetrations in the atmosphere, but from other gases monitored by the EPA; CO2 is then modeled from that data (please correct me if I misinterpreted their PPT slides). On a map this size (with this much data) there are probably errors, but I doubt they affect the major trends we see. Also be aware this data is from 2002 (How much more damage have we done since?). Older data isn't bad, it's just nice to know all the facts. Check out the animation if you're short on time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Brian's Crinoid

Well, since this is a popular petroleum industry field trip location I am not surprised multiple images of this crinoid are floating around out there. So here's my version of the Lake Valley Formation "curled crinoid" photo.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My first Spammer...

Well, I just received my first comment SPAM. I'm not sure whether I should be grateful because maybe, just maybe, it means I am getting some decent traffic (which I am, thank you!). Or if it was just a coincidence they found my page and decided to SPAM me. In any case, I hope you are all enjoying the content.

(I tried to think of a way to make a geology joke about the spammer, but the closest I got was "Don't TREAD on me... Lame. I know.)

In any case, you can find the articles I have "starred" in my shared GoogleReader home page. It's not a geology post, but enjoy perusing the high quality posts of others!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rough Draft of Landslide Activity

Wow! The landslide activity went great on Saturday. The kids liked it, they were interactive, and they could identify landslides and hazards areas when they were done. The powerpoint is finished, but for a more detailed explaination I wrote up a description of the activity. It's in really rough shape, just a brain dump, but I will update it as time premits. The activity went so well, I want to get a formal write-up of the activity done for teachers. There is a lot of ways this activity could be modifed for different age levels and group sizes. I have placed all the relevant files in this folder for anyone who is interested. Let me know if you have tried a similar activity or if you try this activity - how did it go?
As I develop this, I might try and make some assessment tests for this activity and practice it on some local schools in town. I want to make sure it really is a good learning activity, not just fun playing in the mud!
(Yes, the activity went so well I am still glowing about it)

Hat tip to Brian for introducing me to GeoMapApp.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Updated Blogroll

I have updated my blogroll to reflect my GoogleReader subscriptions. If you're not on there, let me know and I will add you. The links in the blogroll may lead to the RSS feed rather than the web page, but that's all I had time for while updating. Back to writing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Landside Activity...

I am designing an activity for a group of 8th grade girls on landslides. I am going to have them generate a couple of landslides with different substrates (wet/dry, different grain sizes, different cohesion). I'm going to try a few different materials this weekend to 'field test' the activity and make sure it will work. If anyone has some advice or experience, I'd appreciate any tips.

The Plan:
Introduction on 'Women in Geology'
Rita Colwell
Mary Kraus
Kitty Milliken
Michele L. W. Tuttle
(I could go on forever. What successful female geologists would you recommend?)

Introduction on 'Landslides'
What they are (generally)
Driving forces (interactive - have them make educated guesses on why they occur)
Different types (chart - relate to features the have seen)
Generate their own landslides (different materials, mud, sand, pebbles, sandstone, then wet vs. dry then collect all the data from each group - I just hope the materials work as expected)
Identifying Landslides (show them a bathymetric map of Hawaii, identifying areas of landslide hazards, huge landslides, small landslides, and implications for development)

That should fill up an hour to an hour and a half. If their is time, I will fill it with opportunities for women in geology. It's a hot field to get a job right now!

Do you have any suggestions? I'll write up a more detailed activity as I work out the kinks. Here are some resources I've been using in the mean time.

Landslide Hazard Manual
Map of Hawaiian Islands
USGS Bathymetry of Hawaiian Islands
Oahu Field Trip
Oahu Topography

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Great Warming - and I missed it

We were reading about framing science in our discussion group and I came across a link for a movie called The Great Warming. Apparently it's been out in theaters since Nov 2007. How did I not hear about this?
Granted, I live in a small town so it's not likely that it would be screened here, but I figured I would have heard something about it from the great-omnipotent-geo-paleo-blogosphere (see updated Blogroll). The reason I think I should have heard something about this movie is that there are several interviews from church leaders and screenings specifically designed for churches and I read some pretty rabid vocal atheistic science blogs. Normally they would be up in arms about such a video. Mixing science and religion? But, it seems like the producers have "framed" the movie for different audiences. This is also evident in their DVD sales where you can buy 4 different versions of the movie (National Wildlife Federation version, Church/Synagogue version, Faith version, and Extended version).
I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment on the quality of the science presented and I am not willing to pay $29.99 to see it. Has anyone else seen this movie? Is it everything the reviews say it is?

Just for reference this is loosely based on the book "Storm Warning - Gambling with the climate of our Planet" by Lydia Dotto, then as a 3-part documentary in Canada in 2004, then a 1 hr PBS special on the movie called "Global Warming: The Signs and the Science" and has since turned into a movie.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Mt St. Helen's Video

Thanks to Nobel Intent who posted a link to the time lapse photo of the Mt St. Helen's eruption over the past few years (2004-2007). I loved seeing how the lava dome affected the glaciers. Just thought I would pass it on as well if you haven't seen it yet.
Time Lapse Video of Mt. St. Helen's Eruption
Looks like you need Windows Media Player to play it...
If you can't get the link to work, try directly at DEM showing dome growth and look under the header September 2004 - July 2007 DEM showing dome growth.

More on Death Defying Feats

Well, since Geotripper and Highly Allochthonous already brought up what will a geologist do for fun I thought this would be a good time to post a link my sister sent me recently. (If you are afraid of falling from great heights, don't even click the link.)
A little background: My sister lives in Okinawa Japan and she is going to take a 3 week trip through northern China (if they finally get a decent ticketing agent who doesn't mess things up). Before she and her husband leave, my fiancee and I want to visit. Since the plane ticket is often the most expensive part of the trip, we are also considering making it an extended vacation and visiting China (maybe even Tibet) with them. Things are still in the preliminary stages, but hopefully it all works out. In planning for this trip, she sent me a link of a hike in China. She knows I love rocks, hiking, and rock climbing and she thought this would be right up my alley. Well, it is, in a scary sh**-your-pants sort of way.
I loved the personal account provided at the bottom of the page (if short on time, just skip down and look at their pictures). While I would be scared at times, I would love to do something like this. I am not worried that I wouldn't be able to do it, it's only a couple of hours, there are handholds and you can purchase a harness for $5, but I know that I would have moments of puckering. Now, I wouldn't be as stupid as some tourists described, I'd at least have proper footware, gloves, harness, etc. And most of the hikes are just stairs, up and up and up. After reading this account by someone who is more along my risk tolerance level, I know I would have fun doing this. The scenery, the rocks, and the hike itself are worth the risk to me. How about you?
(Some commenters on the web pages above have questioned the percieved risk, but in places it is fatal if you fall. So I'm still considering it a risky endeavor.)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Journey to the center of the Earth

Well, I might be making my submission to the Accretionary Wedge a bit early. I just received an e-mail from Earth Science Week (AGI) and they are advertising for a movie called 'Journey to the Center of the Earth - 3D.' It is a remake of the Jules Verne classic starring Brandon Frasier. While the book may be good for entertainment purposes, I'm not sure this movie will have much relation to geoscience education (i.e. reality). AGI says they will be developing a booklet of geoscience information and activities and will use the movie to explore “science fiction and science fact.” If the booklet is done well this could be a great learning opportunity, assuming the booklet is widely distributed and people read it. The skeptic in me says most people going to see the movie will not read the pamphlet, but the optimist hopes they will. I have not been impressed with the Earth Science Toolkit they sell for Earth Science Week (all flash, no activities - the web site is infinitely more helpful), but hopefully this pamphlet will address specific points about what the center of the Earth is actually like. Maybe they can even try and correct the geologic misconception that the mantle is liquid. I guess we'll have to wait and see when the movie and pamphlet comes out mid-July.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Things that made me go hmmmm?

Well, I was inspired by Geotripper on my flight from Bozeman, MT to Seattle, WA to take a few pictures. The skies were clear, the sun was up, and I was awake. As I stared out the window I realized my camera was in our carry-on and it would be the perfect opportunity to test my aerial photography skills. Besides features that I easily recognized, there were a few features that made me go "hmmmm." It only took me a minute or two to figure out what was going on by looking at the surrounding topography.

First, I managed to get a nice picture of the Montana Fold and Thrust belt. Just off to the left is one of the last thrusts to propogate out into the foreland basin.

Second, we came across what looked like rolling fog (it was first thing in the morning so fog was possibe). But, knowing the elevation and the season it had too be clouds. The elevation of the mountins was so high, it was neat to watch the clouds move around the mountains and down the valley.

Third, I saw all these meandering lines in the forest. I guessed they were logging roads and sure enough they led to clear cut swaths but in others places there was selective logging. It was amazing how much logging was going on in this area.

So even without a GPS on the plane I was able to figure out where I was and spot some interesting details from the plane. It was the most fun I've had on an 8AM flight. (I am not a morning person!)

And, just to make everyone jealous, I am in Vancouver skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb. Here's a picture of one of the cornices we dropped before tearing it up in the bowl. This is our friend Brodie who came all the way from Peru. Woohoo! Ok, off to the pub! Hope everyone else is having fun too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Evolution for Guiness

As a scientist and prodigous beer drinker, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pass this video along. Hat tip to Laelaps.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Testing for misconceptions in the classroom

I came across this web site when trying to pick a geologic misconception to discuss. It was interesting and I thought I would point it out. It is a 73 question test designed to assess student learning in Earth Science classes. The questions have been carefully designed and modified after many student and teacher interviews.

What specifically brought this to my attention is one of the sample questions they provided. The students had to have a misconception of how geology worked in order to get the sample question wrong.
Sample GCI Question #2. The following maps show the position of the Earth's continents and oceans. The o's on each map mark the locations where volcanic eruptions occur on land. Which map do you think most closely represents the places where these volcanoes are typically observed?
A surprising number of students chose the equator/tropics “because it’s warmer there.” This demonstrates that some students often have misconceptions about how geology works. However, I wonder if this portion of students are those that don’t pay attention in class and don’t do their homework? Any rudimentary discussion on plate tectonics covers the Ring of Fire (which was one of the choices) and so they should be able to answer this question. If these are legitimate “studying” students, why are they getting this question wrong?

Assessment tests like this can be useful in finding out what concepts students are not understanding (especially if they are observed in a large portion of the class) and help make us better instructors. But when would you apply this test? The 73 question set is designed for you to make into a 15 question test. I think I would try this test during the middle of the class to see if there are any concepts I need to clear up before continuing. I don’t think it would replace my normal exams with this test because I don’t agree with a bunch of the questions on the test. It may be because I am over-thinking some of them. For example:

3. If the single continent in #73 did exist, how could scientists estimate the time needed for the single continent to break apart and form the arrangement of continents we see today?

(A) Scientists do not yet have a valid method for estimating the time needed to break continents apart.
(B) Through comparison of fossils found in rocks
(C) Through analysis of carbon in rock
(D) Through analysis of uranium and lead in rock
(E) Through comparison of different layers found in rocks

I am guessing the correct answer is (B) fossils and they are using examples like Lystrosaurus that are found in South America and Africa. However, the rifting phase also generates a lot of igneous rock so U/Pb dating is also possible. While (E) is a little more ambiguous and doesn’t give us time (without fossil or isotope data), it’s exactly what geologists do. We compare layers of rocks and we can compare those in South America and Africa and find similarities that tell us they used to be together.

They designed this multiple-choice test to have answers that are ambiguous along with the correct answer. I find those tests particularly difficult because you can over-think them. You can usually think of a reason to include another answer (especially frustrating if it’s choose all that apply), but you don’t have any way to explain your choices. I think that’s what demonstrates real knowledge, having to explain why you chose those answers. I understand they chose multiple-choice for ease of grading, but I think tests where students have to demonstrate their knowledge are better (but much more time consuming to grade).