Sunday, 19 December 2010

My travels in 2010

I see that Silver Fox is playing a game wherein we recount the travelling we've done in the past year. That page links to others who have played as well. Since I love travel, and have done a fair bit recently, I thought I'd join in, but I'll start with December of last year, just because many of you have only just finished with this year's AGU:

December 2009: I flew to California for AGU, and while there visited with many friends who live in the area as well, then flew to Seattle for my mother's birthday, and then home to Alaska for the first time in many years.


January: I returned to Seattle for a few more days with family and friends there, then back to California for a few more days with friends there before returning home from a month-long holiday based around AGU.

February: Attended a short-course on Microstructures in Verbania, Italy

March: attended a Scientific Writing Workshop in Zurich, Switzerland

April: Petrology conference in Tolouse, France

May: EGU in Vienna, Austria

June: Meeting of my research team in Norway (Trondheim, road trip to Florø, and boat trip to Bergen, then train to Oslo for flight home). Also a non-geology road trip to Germany for a Medieval event.

July: two trips for Medieval Dance events, one in Germany, the other in Scotland.

August: Trip to Ireland to visit friends, to Budapest, Hungary for IMA.

September: Kinetics course in Vienna (went from IMA to Vienna, rather than going home in between), and the European Textile Forum in the Italian Alps, followed by the Italian geological society conference in

October: Back to the Italian Alps with my mother, and then we flew off to Finland to meet family there for the first time, then to Scotland for a job interview.

November: to Stockholm, Sweden for another Medieval Dance event.

December: to Cambridge, UK for another Medieval Dance event.

By my count that is 10 trips for geology meetings, conferences, short courses, or interviews, four for medieval dance events, one for medieval textiles, and six for strictly personal reasons. It is a good thing I like travel!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The most difficult stage of the writing process: what to include?

here are many things I love about being a scientist—doing research, whether it be in the field or the laboratory is just plain fun. Processing the data after gathering it can also be much fun as it is transformed into useful information and patterns start to emerge. However, my least favourite part of any research project is deciding what parts to share with the world in the form of a published paper. Why? Because I suffer from two conflicting tendencies—on the one hand I suffer from Too Much Information Syndrome, where I want to share with the reader *everything* I tried in the course of research and painstaking details about the manner in which some of the avenues of investigation failed to work and exactly why others were more effective. But on the other hand, I also suffer from the tendency to want to cut things too short—to neglect to mention the background information that I understand which is crucial for really grasping what it is that I have done and why it is significant. Somewhere between these two extremes lies the happy middle ground that leads to a published paper. Once I've managed to get past that somewhat daunting decision of what information to include, and what to leave out, the rest of the paper writing becomes a joy once again. It can be fun to craft the perfect sentence which conveys, in the most eloquent manner, the complex concepts that underpin the investigation. I enjoy the editing and revision portion of the process nearly as much as the data-gathering. Therefore, wish me luck as I go through all of the data generated (and still being generated) in my (nearly) 1.5 years as a post-doc (final experiment to be analyzed for the first time on Monday and Tuesday!) and try to determine what parts to share with the world, so that I may move on to the more fun parts of transforming the first draft of the prose into eloquence.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

motivation, 1000 a day, and winter holidays

A year and a half ago I was finishing up my PhD thesis, working really, really long hours and totally focused on the one goal: finish up before boarding that plane on my way to my first post-doc position. Many of my friends commented at how motivated I was, and I replied that plane tickets are a huge motivator.

Jump ahead to the present and I once again have plane tickets waiting for me at the end of the month, but this time they are taking me to visit friends in Scandinavia and enjoy some real winter weather while I keep applying for jobs. Since my friends will have jobs to go to during the days the prospect of not being quite finished with my current research isn't as worrisome as the prospect of not completing that thesis before boarding the plane to head to a job—I know that it will be possible to keep working, even once funding ends. As a result I have not been putting fort the same sort of concentrated effort I did a year and a half ago, but am instead permitting myself some distractions.

One of the biggest distractions, of course, is the need to continue to apply for all of those positions which sound interesting and related to any of the research I've done to date. Each of these applications takes time, and each has a deadline by which if I have not yet applied they will not consider me for the position. One of the other distractions has been my social life. I flew to Scandinavia on the last weekend of November, and to the UK on the first weekend of December. Both trips were to attend events focused on Medieval Dancing. I very much enjoyed both trips and got to renew some old friendships and make some new friends.

Prior to the first of those trips I had been wondering what to do about my 1000 a day—I had chosen to fly carry-on only, and wouldn't be bringing my computer—this means that I'd need to actually print out a pdf or bring a text book so that I'd have something with me to read from the geologic literature. Sadly, a couple of days before my trip I forgot to read my 1000, thus ending a streak of 321 days in a row. My record, by far, and I am pleased to have achieved it. But oh, wouldn't it have been nice to manage an entire year in a row of reading 1000 or more words from the geological literature?

I know how it happened that I forgot, too. Much the same way as the last time I broke a record-breaking streak. Step one: get into the habit of reading your 1000 right before bed for many weeks running. Step two, switch to reading during lunch for a week or three. Step three: encounter a particularly busy day, with no time to read your 1000 during lunch. Think about it a couple of times during the day that it still needs doing, but only while actively in the middle of another, important task. Finish up everything else for the day, do yoga, brush teeth, crawl into bed, and pick up some fiction. Read till you sleep, and don’t remember that the 1000 hadn't been done till you wake.

Having forgotten I then made a decision to take a hiatus from reading my 1000. I will start back up after the first of the year, but I am taking December off (I wound up taking off much of last December, too, as I traveled and visited friends and family after attending AGU). It is strangely freeing to have one fewer "must do" on my list each day. However, I strongly suspect that I will be very happy to start that task back up again with the New Year.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Birthday blogging

I am currently enjoying the final month of my contract—this means trying to accomplish all of the "last things" that have to happen before this research becomes a published paper in between packing my things to go into storage, purchasing tickets for some post-contract travel, and applying for jobs so that I have somewhere to go when the travel phase ends. Needless to say, I haven't been making much time to post blogs, but since I've always taken a random approach to the timing of them anyway, perhaps no one will notice.

Today I get to celebrate my birthday week by playing with expensive toys—more time on the electron microprobe to generate yet more data. I am looking forward to it—there is much fun to be had looking at minerals in that much detail. At this point in my project I've got the routines down to convert the data into useable format, so should be able to have it incorporated with the preceding sessions before the weekend is over. Working on the weekend? You betcha—best way to assure that I am actually done (enough) with my research when the contract ends.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

An alternate hypothesis for columnar jointing

Anyone who has ever taken a geology class has probably heard the explanation to explain columnar jointing in basaltic rocks—cracks that occur as the molten rock cools quickly due to its sudden emplacement in a much cooler setting than where it first melted. However, a friend of mine browsing the web today found a picture which shows another possibility for the long vertical lines that occur in cliffs of columnar jointed rock:

(The above image was found here.)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Extrapolation of the likely composition of a mineral from mixed analyses

I have mentioned before the difficulties of using a microprobe to analyze very small phases. The electron beam with which we do the analysis can, with care, be focused to about 1 micron diameter (remember that there are 1,000 microns in every millimeter). However, should the mineral phase of interest be smaller than one micron, in any dimension, the analysis will yield the composition of not just that mineral, but of whatever happens to be next to it as well.

The below photo shows one of my experiments for which this was a problem. As with all back-scatter electron images the amount of brightness or darkness of any given part of the image is based on the composition of the sample in that location. Brighter areas contain more heavy elements, darker areas more light elements. The brightest grains in this image are the large pale grey crystals, which often have dark centers; these are garnets. The dark centers are the pyrope (Mg-garnet) seeds that were included in the experimental powder to give the new garnet, which is much higher in Fe (iron), a place to start growing from. The narrow stick-shaped crystals which occur in a group on the left hand side of the image are chloritoid. Unfortunately, as you can see by the scale bar on the bottom of the image, they are too narrow to obtain a good analysis. Through careful searching of the sample we found a few places where the chloritoid grains were slightly larger than the others—these were the ones we analyzed, in hopes that we would be lucky. Alas, 15 times we tried, and 15 times we failed to obtain an analysis which was only chloritoid, but instead they were "mixed" results of both chloritoid plus another phase.

How do I know for certain that they are mixed? Look at the below graphs and you can see for yourself. The upper graph shows the composition of all of those mixed analyses with respect to how much aluminum and how much silica they contain (blue-green hollow triangles). It also shows the region (grey circle) within which all of the matrix mica in this sample plots, and the location of where kyanite (Al2SiO5), also present in this sample, plots. As you can see, there is a clear trend going from the solid green triangle towards the mica, and another trend going from the solid green triangle towards the location of kyanite. The lower graph shows the trends for iron vs aluminum. By plotting this data for a variety of different combinations of elements I have come up with my best guess as to the composition of chloritoid is in this sample (solid bluish-green triangles). Is it as accurate as if I'd been able to get a good measurement? No. Does it give me information I can use when doing other parts of my data analysis? Yes, yes it does. Playing with graphs is one of the fun parts of my job—the information they convey communicates so very clearly.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Final experiment of the project

What is probably my final experiment (for this project) is running. We started it yesterday morning. My current contract runs through December. At 2 to 3 weeks per experiment, this one is probably it. This fact left me torn as to what conditions to choose for the run.

I've got a couple of previous experiments which turned out to be very difficult to analyze due to improper sealing of the capsules. Therefore I'd love to re-run them, with properly sealed capsules, in hopes of better grain sizes, so that I can get good analyses of the phases present.

We've got some data from experiments run by a predecessor of mine which use a slightly different bulk composition. In theory the difference between the two bulk compositions shouldn't really matter—most of the difference is in the amount of SiO2, which is still in excess in the bulk composition I use (as we can tell from the presence of quartz). However, when I calculated what phases should be present for each bulk composition using Perple_X, it said that at the P/T of those old runs the new bulk should have different phases. Therefore I'd like to re-run one of those to see if there is, in fact, any difference in the results with the slightly different composition.

And, finally, both my boss and I wanted to do another run in a P/T space that is expected to have both garnet and talc, since this project is about defining the stability field for talc. That makes three different experiments I want to run, and sufficient time available to do one of them. Decisions, decisions!

We eventually decided to go with a totally new run—while the data from the "bad" runs isn't complete, we do know that there isn't talc present at those conditions, which is the single most important question. Therefore there is more value in obtaining new data than clarifying old data in this case.

All in all, this project has convinced me that 1.5 years is simply not enough time for such a project. However, I am pretty certain that if it had been a 3 year contract that was now approaching its end I'd still be sitting here thinking about the other experiments I would have liked to have run, had there been time/budget to do so. Ah, the life of a research scientist—so many questions to be asked, so many things to do to try to answer them, but no matter which ones we choose, it never, really, feels like we've got time enough to obtain all of the data we would like to have…

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

What is the deal with Academic Conferences, anyway?

In a comment to yesterday's post I was asked "What's the deal with academic conferences? Do you have to be within the correct academic circles to attend or is there some degree of public allowance?" I started to type up a reply, and then realized I had enough to say on the topic to warrant making a separate post on the topic.

Most academic conferences are open to anyone willing to pay the admission fee, which is often higher for people who aren't a member of the sponsoring organization. However, it is often worth purchasing a membership to the organization if you wish to attend their conference, as the amount you save on registration fees is larger than you'd spend on the membership, particularly if you are a student, since student memberships are usually quite affordable compared to the "professional" membership rate). If all you want to do is attend as a audience member, hear the talks, have coffee with the folk there, check out the info booths and see what is being sold in the booths offering stuff for sale all you need to is pay the registration fee and you are good to go.

However, If you want to share your research with others you need to look over the various sessions being offered, find one wherein your research fits the theme, prepare an abstract describing your research, submit it (and the abstract submission fee) before the deadline *and* register to attend the conference (and pay the registration fees, too). Often when submitting an abstract they ask if you prefer to do your presentation as a poster or a talk. However, even if you choose talk you might wind up doing a poster anyway; if they have too many talks offered for a session they will choose some of them to be posters instead. It is also possible that a session won't accept someone's abstract at all, but I have yet to see an example of this.

Another reason to attend conferences (at least in Geology, but possibly in other sciences, too) are the pre-, post- or mid- conference field trips. Most conferences offer 1 to 5 day trips to look at the highlights of local geology, with the trip led by people who have long worked in the area. These are excellent opportunities for networking, and, more importantly, they tend to showcase some of the best outcrops available in a region, so there are many opportunities to increase your photo collection of interesting geologic features, or to add to your sample collection (note: not all areas permit sampling—please listen to the rules at the start of the trip and respect them).

Short courses are another highlight of many conferences. There are often courses on speciality topics that are held at the conference because it saves the students the travel costs—much cheaper to attend both on one trip than to do to separate trips. Note that field trips and short courses are usually priced separately from the conference registration. Luckily, students who enjoy funding that includes conference attendance can usually attend courses and/or field trips without having to pay for them out of pocket (or, at least get reimbursed afterwards).

The final reason to attend conferences is the social aspect. This varies from one to the next, but I have seen offerings ranging from Ice Breaker Cocktail nights, to Conference Dinners, to Ceilidh Dances, to Choir rehearsals/performances to sporting events.

I may have missed the GSA meeting, but…

I just saw a post by Life in a Plane Light which really makes me wish that I had been able to attend the Fall GSA meeting this year. As a metamorphic petrologist I love garnet. Sure, it is a pretty mineral, but the usefulness of this mineral in learning about the history of metamorphic rocks is what makes it truly fascinating. Fortunately, while I may not have been able to attend the session on Garnet and Its Use in Unraveling Metamorphic and Tectonic Processes , the abstracts are available on line to read at will. I've just done well more than my 1000 words of reading from the geologic literature reading these abstracts, and wondering why I hadn't thought of looking at the program sooner. Just because one can't attend a meeting doesn't mean one can't benefit from the information that is shared there.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The difference between moving where one must and where one can

When I was a child my father was in the Air Force. As a result I lived in 4 countries on three continents before I was 7 years old. When I was little moving was something that happened every 1 to 3 years—we went when dad's orders to move came in, and we went where they told us to go; often with not much advance notice. Then my parents split, and the next couple of times I moved it was at my mother's whim when and to where. After I turned 18 I resumed moving every few years, and became accustomed to being the one in control of where I went, when, and for what reason.

It wasn't until my PhD was drawing to a close two years ago that where/when I moved once again became something over which I have little control. Two years ago, knowing that my funding had run out and that I really like the part where I can afford to eat, I begun to apply for every post-doc and teaching position I could find that sounded even sort of interesting, regardless of where it was located. One of those applications resulted in a job offer in Europe, and, as soon as I finished my thesis, off I went.

Now I am once again in the position of applying for every interesting sounding job I hear about. I have chosen not to apply to a couple because of location, but I have also chosen to apply for a couple for which my CV isn't a perfect match because the location is so appealing. In a way I feel almost like I'm a kid again, waiting for dad to get his orders that tell us where we are going, and when. I love moving, but 1.5 years in a large city, even one with lots of trees lining many of the streets (and, most importantly the street upon which I live and upon which my office is located) has convinced me that it would be nice if I could move someplace I would love. Somewhere with mountains, lots of nature/wilderness easily accessible.

Some of the job applications I send in are much like lottery tickets—they might not pick my numbers as the winner, but if I don't enter I haven't got a chance. Others I apply for because I know that my CV is a very good match for what they are seeking, and I feel obligated to apply, despite the location. Which will it be? When will I find out? Life is, as always, an adventure!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Does anyone remember this story?

Sometime back in the 1980's I subscribed for a year or so to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. During that period of time I read a short-story (probably in this magazine, but possibly elsewhere) which involved a person who was able to see a different landscape than the one which is currently present—able to see different plants and animals than are currently living. I think that the people in the story worked out which geologic period (s?)he was seeing by comparing the descriptions of what was seen with a geologic map. Alas, I read that story before taking my first geology class. Now that I am a geologist, I would love to go back and read it again. However, I have no idea what it was called, who wrote it, or even if the geology part was a minor interesting side part of the story, or the overriding plot device. Do any of you remember reading this story?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

this is delightful!

I just saw a link over at Earth Learning Idea to a delightful web page, made by Cary and Michael Huang, which shows the scale of the universe. They've got a blue box you can slide back and forth, to see things at all scales. A very delightful toy.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Time to work, time to play

The November Scientiae Carnival asks: "What is the best part of your job/life as a scientist, and what is the worst part?"

For me the answer to both has got to be the freedom to set my own schedule. I love the fact that I can work whenever I want/feel inspired/have energy, so if I feel like working all night long (like much of this week), I can do so. However, the down side to such a schedule is that it can be difficult to take time off without feeling guilty for not working. People who have jobs which require them to be there at specific hours are free to play during their non-work hours. Those of us who have jobs which aren't tied to a clock, on the other hand, may be free to select which hours are work and which are play, but it is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking during play that one should be working.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Folded tracks

One of the things that holds the most appeal for me in the science of geology is the physical expression of deformation. Folds are pretty! I love to see folding in rocks, at all scales. Today I saw a beautiful photo of folding in response to deformation that isn't in a rock. Go over to Dave's Landslide Blog for some amazing photos of the bending of some rail-way track in New Zealand in response to their large earthquake earlier this year.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Spooky deskcrops

This month's Accretionary Wedge asks us to share photos of our favourite deskcrop, with bonus points if it is spooky. As one who moves, often, I have managed not to accumulate a personal collection of rocks, but rather catalogue them appropriately and store them in the collections of which every university I was with when I collected them. However, I have many photos on my computers of my samples. My personal favourite "spooky" rock photo is this back-scatter electron image of a monazite grain. Every time I see it I think I'm looking at the skull of some sort of humanoid creature.

This was one of the many grains in Tasmanian metamorphic rocks analyzed for U-Th-Pb dating for my PhD thesis. Analysis of a point near the optic lobe of the skull of this grain gave an age of 508 +/- 5 Ma for this grain, which is in good agreement with the main Cambrian metamorphism within Tasmania.

Lots of choices; life is good

This morning Female Science Professor discussed an interview she did with a first year student on the topic of How We Choose A Career. This subject has been on my mind a lot lately, as I am sending out applications for my next job. There are ever so many interesting sounding directions I could go from here. I'm applying to positions that are teaching-based and others that are research-based. I've applied for post-doc positions, lab-tech positions, and even museum curator positions. Each of these vastly different jobs all have one thing in common: they sound like fun. I still have no idea while I will be doing when this contract ends in December. Perhaps I will be rushing straight off to start a new job right away in January. Perhaps I will have a few months off to relax and travel before I start the next job. The only things I know about my next job with reasonable certainty: It will probably be on Earth, and I will probably enjoy it.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The rocks under St. Andrew's

I enjoyed another visit to Scotland last week. While there I went up to St. Andrew's, home of the third-oldest English-speaking University in the world. In addition to a noteworthy University, the town's other tourist attractions include the ruins of a castle and a cathedral.

These first two photos show what is left of the castle up at the ground level.

Here is the view from the beach, looking up at the castle.

This is the cliff just to the left of the castle, showing the sedimentary rock upon which the castle is built.

This is a tunnel under the castle. During a siege the attackers dug a mine, hoping to get under the walls and blow them up. But the folks in the castle heard them digging, dug a counter mine, and managed to fend off the attackers in the tunnel.

Here is a view through the walls down onto the beach, showing more of the sedimentary rocks below.

While the rocks in this part of Scotland aren't as pretty as the metamorphic rocks in the interior of the country, still it was fun to see the interaction of the human history and the geology.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

transition to day-shift

The past three weeks and a bit have been even busier than usual. My mother arrived from the US on the 25th of September for a visit and stayed through to this weekend. While she was here I took the weekends off to go sightseeing with her one weekend, and to return to the ancestral home in Finland to meet some delightful family I didn’t know I had on the other. In between I’ve been working and preparing a talk for an upcoming job interview.
The Interview will take place starting at 08:20 in the morning, and as a result of that start-time I decided to adjust my schedule to being on day-shift starting from the day I got the letter letting me know the day/time. For those of you who have been working jobs which are tied to “business hours” for years being on day shift is unlikely to sound remarkable. However, I have been in academia for many years now, and am accustomed to setting my own schedule. While I have had occasional things that are tied to a specific day/time (such as conferences), most of what I have had to accomplish has been to deadlines that are not precisely defined (e.g. the degree will be awarded when you’ve completed your research and written the thesis). As a result my sleeping schedule has tended to wander around the clock based on the whim of the moment. Some days I accomplish my most productive work after midnight. Other days it is in the morning, and still others I’ve got the most energy in the afternoons or early evenings. This flexibility has served me well, and permitted me to achieve my goals thus far.
However, if I land the job for which I will be interviewing it will be one of those wherein I will need to report to work during business hours. Therefore for the past couple of weeks I have had two alarms set. One to go off every day at 21:55, to tell me to stop what I’m doing on my computer, go home, do my yoga, and go to bed soon, the other which goes off at 06:30 every morning telling me to get up and start my day. This seems to be working very well. Some days I am aware that it is closing in on 10 pm, and I’m wrapping up what I’ve been working on before the alarm tells me that I need to. Some days I’m so absorbed in my work it goes off and I’m surprised when it does. On those days it is harder to stop, but I have been making myself do so anyway. (Other days I’m not working at all, but only hanging out on line chatting with friends—it is hard to stop that because the clock says so, too, but my friends have been supportive of my wish to be on day shift, and encourage me to actually say good night promptly, even when they are in a another time zone and it is still hours before their bed time.)
One advantage of this schedule is that I am finding it easier to make time in the mornings to go for a run or put on my rollerblades before breakfast. Somehow, even though there are the same number of hours available in a day no matter which ones I choose to be awake (assuming that the total number of hours I sleep is constant), I feel like I can delay the start of my working day more when I get up at 06:30 than when I get up at 09:00 or 12:00 or 16:00). All in all, I pronounce this experiment a success, and feel confidant that should I be offered a job which requires that I be on day shift that I will thrive, even though it isn’t what I have been used to.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Deformation in the Desert field trip 2007

Today I read a post by Anne over at Highly Allochthonous on some major flooding she witnessed on her trip to Alice Springs in 2000. This reminded me of my one trip to Alice Springs (it wasn’t flooding when I was there). Since my trip pre-dates my starting this blog, I thought I’d share with you the write-up I did for friends and family.

The below was written on 14 July 2007.

I just returned from the "Deformation in the Desert" Conference, held in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, sponsored by the Geological Society of Australia Specialist Group in Tectonics and Structural Geology.

The highlight of the conference was the five-day pre-conference field trip (photos below) which looked at the Palaeozoic tectonothermal evolution of the Irindina Province of the eastern Arunta Region. The trip started out in Alice Springs, headed south through the Heavitree Quartzite Gap (the ridge is a wall just south of town, the rocks steeply dipping, with a couple of gaps where the "rivers" cut through--though how you can call a waterless stream course a river, I don't know). From there we took the sealed (read: "paved" if you happen to speak American) road east and thence north into the Strangways and Hearts Range metamorphic complex. As soon as we turned north we were on dirt roads, and stayed on them for most of the rest of the trip.

Each day saw us rise before the sun so as to have breakfast before hitting the road. We stopped at many interesting outcrops, and at each stop the trip leader would show us the map, remind us of the geology at the last stop, tell us about the current stop, and then let us know what the next stop held in store for us. By the end of the trip I had a good understanding of the geology of the region! There were just about 40 people on the trip, including the catering group. They took good care of us, feeding us well (even us fussy eaters with special dietary requirements), and provided "swags" for each of us--a sleeping bag, mattress, pillow and water-proof canvas cover for the lot. We slept each night on the sands of (dry) creek beds, under the stars. There was no rain, nor any clouds (nor would any have been expected), making the camp sites safe enough, though in rainy seasons (once every several years) flash floods would be a problem (see above mentioned post by Anne).

The conference itself was held in Alice Springs and, unlike the conference I attended in Melbourne the year before, had only one track of sessions, so there was never a problem deciding which talk to attend--we simply attended all of them! Most of the talks were interesting, quite a number were very, very well presented, and only one was bad.

Stop 1: Ross River Gorge

Stop 2: Bitter Springs Formation, view to the east

Stop 3 Arumba Sandstone

Stop 3B Ross River syncline

Stop 5 Strangways Metamorphic Complex, with lovely garnets (800C, 6Kbars)

Stop 6: fold in mylonite zone

Stop 7: Argument Gorge, mylonite zone

Stop 7: stretching lineations on mylonite surface (this was the first time I'd seen a good exposure of a mylonite, and suddenly everything I'd been reading about them made so much more sense!

Stop 9: garnet rich boudin (some exceed 1.5 cm)--I liked this stop!

Stop 9, garnet showing sense of shear

Stop 9: mafic layer + garnet sand

Stop 10: near Lizzy creek, view north to the Hearts Range

Stop 11: an old mica mine in a pegmatite dike. Note huge sheets of mica that still litter the ground

Stop 12 Bruna Granitic Gneiss--view to the east

Stop 13: Mt. Ruby garnet zone in amphibolite from the Hearts Range Metaigneous complex

Stop 14: Indiana Granite Hill. We climbed this one.
Us, at the top of Indiana Granite Hill (stop 14)

Stop 16: Huckitta Creek, Intense strain zone
Stop 16: folding
Stop 16: more of the intense strain

Stop 17: Large fold
Stop 17: large deformed pegmatite dike to the right of the above fold. Note boudins in the layers of the fold limb

Stop 19: fold in gneiss
Stop 19: view to the east

Stop 20: Bruna granitic gneiss:
Stop 20 garnet-rich metapelite:

Stop 20: a mylonite zone in gneiss. Note that the mylonite contains garnet, the gneiss does not.
Stop 21: a mica and garnet rich layer in gneiss:
Stop 21: folding in gneiss:

There was also a mid-conference filed trip--a one day trip to the west of Alice Springs, driving on sealed roads the entire time (in large tourist-style air conditioned busses). The person who sat next to me happened to have been from Tasmania, and graduated years ago from UTAS before moving to the mainland to do geology there. Needless to say we had some very pleasant discussions about the uni we both attended.
The rocks on the mid-confluence trip weren't as pretty (they hadn't been sufficiently deformed to show the pretty folding or nice minerals that we saw on the five day trip), but they were still nice, and we actually saw a few waterholes (one 30 feet deep) which stay wet year-round, despite the fact that the rest of the river course is dry.
Mid conference trip stop 1: looking west at the Arumba Sandstone
Mid-conference trip, stop 2 Elery water hole (and folding of the rocks)

Mid-conference trip Stop 3: anticline in Heavitree quartzite
Mid-conference trip Stop 3 Heavitree quartzite repeated above thrust fault
Mid Conference trip stop 3: Ormiston Gorge (with some nice folding showing)
Mid Conference trip stop 4: Mt. Saunders
Mid conference trip, stop 5: The waterhole at Glen Hellen Gorge

Note: all above photo captions were taken straight from the file names of the photo, I didn't have to look for my field notes from the trip today--I had the sense to give the photos meaningful names, including stop numbers and sometimes even P/T data promptly after taking them.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

word of the day

While reading a journal article* today I encountered a word I’d not noticed before: Aulacogen. The first mention in the article was "Continental extension that fails to lead to ocean opening and subsequently undergoes compression can occur at failed arms of ocean basins (aulacogens) and at intracontinental settings isolated from plate margins".

A quick check shows that there are 220 articles in scopus with that term used. (For comparison—“continental extension” yields 4,780 articles in scopus.) This is a somewhat specialized term, so I don’t feel bad that I missed noticing it (if, indeed, it has even been mentioned in the articles and textbooks I’ve read hitherto). Thus far my research has focused on the results of compression, be it deformation or metamorphism, rather than extension, so there would be no reason for me to think about what happens when extension starts and then stops before an ocean basin forms.

*Cawood, P. A., Kröner, A., Collins, W. J., Kusky, T. M., Mooney, W. D. and Windley, B. F. (2009). Accretionary orogens through Earth history. Geological Society Special Publication: 1-36.

Friday, 17 September 2010

two days of playing tourist amongst more than a month of travel

When I first scheduled my late summer conference travel schedule it sounded like a good idea to attend first the IMA conference in Budapest, go from there to Vienna for a short-course on the Kinetics of Geological Materials, from there to the European Textile forum, and from there to the Italian SIMP conference. Indeed, I very much enjoyed each of them, in very different ways. However, after 3.5 weeks of non-stop travel and major time commitments happening each day (and, for the last couple of weeks very, very limited internet access), I find that this week has been one of recovery. I’ve accomplished the urgent tasks on my to-do list, but mostly I’m catching up on personal correspondence and basic housekeeping tasks. Now it is time to start blogging once again.
I will start with sharing photos from my weekend as a tourist. Since I had two whole days off between the Budapest conference and the start of the short course in Vienna I decided that it would make more sense to play tourist than to fly home and then head right back out again. Having many fond memories of a salt-mine tour I took with my father when I was a child of five years of age, I decided that I would take the train up to Salzburg and check out the mine again, now that I’m a geologist and will have a better understanding of what I am seeing. However, when I asked my mother she didn’t remember which of mines we went to all those years ago. Since there is more than one to choose from, I made the decision between them the easy way and went with the one recommended by my host—I choose to do CouchSurfing that weekend, so that I’d meet local people rather than staying on my own in a hotel room.
Since the weather in Budapest had been extremely hot and sunny, I was delighted with the cool grey clouds and gentle rain in the Salzburg area. Here is the view from the mine entrance in Hallein:

It was so very wonderful to be surrounded by mountains again—I have missed them so!
The rock in the mine has clearly undergone some deformation looking at the layers on the wall:

Being a tourist mine they have some old-style ore-carts full of rocks ready to haul away:

And a lovely display case of pretty samples from the mine:

Occasionally we could look up into a shaft reaching up to other levels:

They have a large lake in the mine that was used for mining—they put in fresh water, it dissolved salt from the rock, and they extracted and evaporated the brine. This silly statue has a slow, steady, drip of salt brine from the pump, and we were encouraged to taste it if we liked. Yup. Salty.

Alas, my photos from the rat trip across the lake didn’t come out. They do that part accompanied with eerie mood music and a light show. Made for an interesting effect, but felt like a scene from a fantasy movie, and not a real salt mine. This wall is from the far side of the lake:

Without a doubt the highlight of the trip was the slide between levels. This first photo is from the top of the shorter, warm-up slide:

And this photo is from the bottom of the longer slide:

It was so much fun that I climbed the stairs and went down the slide a second time. I can remember a slide from when I was a child, but I sure don’t remember it being this long or this fast. On the other hand, I do remember it as being a long way to fall sidewards if you weren’t wedged in between two grown-ups. This slide doesn’t have a place to fall to the side.

After leaving the mine I decided to walk the 3 km back down the hill to the town, rather than taking a bus, and I’m glad I did—I found a trail so that I didn’t even have to walk along the road.

And finally, the view back up the hill from the town:

I think that my early childhood visit to this mine, and the box of salt rocks that my dad bought me then, was a factor in my growing up to become a geologist. I loved my tour as a child, and found it just as delightful now. There is something comforting about having an entire mountain over my head. In hopes of encouraging the tradition I bought a box of salt rocks to send back to my nieces. This purchase was done with my sister’s encouragement, of course—she was too little to do the mine tour when we were there all those years ago, but she used to enjoy playing with (and licking) my salt-rocks.