Monday, 31 October 2011

Taking up the gauntlet

Anne, over at Highly Allochthonous, has set a challenge for herself, and the rest of us—get those papers we have been meaning to write finished up and ready to submit during November. The timing is perfect. While I have had, in theory, 10 months with nothing to do but write up the results of my research, in reality I enjoyed my time of unemployment by doing non science adventures with my new love. But my life of leisure is at an end, starting with tomorrow, 1 November, I am employed once again.

I know from experience that starting a new job can make it difficult to finish up papers from the last project, but they tell me that it could be 10 days before I get a computer in my office and I won't have the meeting to get the data from the mining companies until some as-yet-to-be-determined date, which is a grand excuse to seriously sit down and catch up on those last few tasks to finish up the two papers that have been in progress for longer than they should have been. Stay tuned for updates on progress towards this goal…

Monday, 10 October 2011

texture short course, day one

Back at the beginning of the summer I saw an ad for a workshop on texture analysis to be held in Tromsø in October open to students and researchers. It sounded interesting, so I sent them a note asking if it was open to researchers who are between contracts, and they said that it was, and (more importantly given the "between contracts" part, the only course fee would be to cover the copying expenses. When I got the job offer for the position I will start on 1 Nov. I asked if he thought I should attend the workshop, or if my time would be better spent staying home and reading literature directly relevant to the project. After looking over the flyer for the course he said that he thought I should go.

It turns out that the most efficient way to get to Tromsø from Luleå is to drive—they have no train this far north, so one would have to switch to a bus part way there, and flights go south to Stockholm and then west to Oslo or Trondheim before heading back north again. Therefore I checked with a friend of mine who is a graduate student with a flexible schedule, and he thought a road trip sounded like a good idea (besides, going away for a week might actually get him to do some writing). We had a nice drive up on Sunday—left Luleå just after 08:00, and arrived at our B&B (located 15 minute walk from the Uni) just after 18:00. (I, of course, forgot to take out the camera once during the drive, since I was so busy gazing out the window at the lovely mountains once we got close to the Norwegian border).

The course is divided into two sections—the first two days we are learning how to use the programs they use here to convert a series of rotated photos of thin sections into data showing the orientation of the crystallographic axes. The technique works only on uniaxial minerals, such as quartz or calcite (or ice), but since these often occur in units which have been deformed it is a useful tool.

It was very enjoyable to be back in a classroom again after a longish break, though a bit of a challenge to keep up with the exercise—the program we are using runs only on MacOS, and I haven't really needed to use Apple computers since my class in programing Basic on an AppleIIe back in highschool. Apple products have changed a bit since then, and while there are similarities in the handling between Apple and PC there are just enough differences that I found myself pushing the wrong button more than once and then frantically trying to undo that and get back to where I was meant to be before the teacher had gotten so far ahead that I couldn't catch up. Sometimes I managed it, sometimes I was the voice saying "wait, what folder was that?".

Fortunately, she was very patient when we got lost, and would back up and explain the steps we hadn't caught so that we could go on to the next step. I think we all managed to convert the raw data into the correct formats and align the stacks of images properly. Tomorrow we get to actually process that data into the sorts of final images that wind up in publications…

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The next adventure has been revealed

As of 1 November I shall be employed again. True to my pattern thus far it will be for something I have never done before. My Master's research was a structural geology project focusing on the deformation style and timing of a specific fault in the Brooks Range, Alaska. My PhD research focused on the metamorphic history of all of Tasmania, my first post-doc position introduced me to experimental petrology as a tool for understanding subduction zone processes. Now I am about to start a research position focusing on 3D (and 4D) geochemical modelling of VHMS ore deposit systems in northern Sweden.

This will be a project with a steep learning curve for me since the last two projects focused on metapelitic rocks and now I will need to learn the intimate details of volcanic rocks and what happens when they not only contain ore deposits but also have been subjected to greenschist facies metamorphism.

Needless to say, I left the meeting where I accepted the job offer with a bit of light reading in hand—one textbook: Introduction to Ore-Forming Processes and one PhD thesis: Volcanic Stratigraphy and Hydrothermal Alteration of the Petiknäs South Zn-Pb-Cu-Au-Ag Volcanic-hosted Massive Sulfide Deposit, Sweden. This thesis contains cross sections of one of the important deposits in this area—my project will be to take this sort of research to the next step—modelling the actual volumes involved in 3D.

I will look forward to reading these during the next couple of weeks before the job actually starts—in theory I will be in a much better place to hit the ground running by doing so. If any of you have suggestions for things in the literature that I really should read if I hope to do well with this research feel free to share them here. It is time to start reading 1000 words a day from the geologic literature again. I stopped at the end of last year when my job ended and haven't picked it back up during my extended vacation between jobs. I have enjoyed the holiday, but it is time to refocus on science and learning.