Analog Modeling of Tectonic Processes Workshop at UMass

Last week (May 13-15), the UMass Geoscience Dept. was home to a great workshop, convened by Dr. Michele Cooke of UMass Amherst, Dr. Saad Haq of Purdue University, and Dr. Jacqueline Reber of UT Austin, which brought together scientists from across the country and the world who use analog models to study Earth processes and/or for teaching purposes. Dr. Karen Daniels from the North Carolina State University Physics Dept. spoke about her use of photoelastic beads (beads that refract light at different angles depending on the stresses inside the bead) to study fault growth. She brought a variety of photoelastic materials for workshop attendees to look at during and after her talk. Below is a slide show of her talk and workshop attendees playing around with the photoelastic materials.

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Desert Memories

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It’s a cold and rainy spring day here in New England, and the dampness has me chilled to the bone. It seems like the perfect time to fondly remember hot, dry days spent in the sunny deserts of southern California. This is a picture I snapped as we headed out for a day in the field looking at the San Andreas fault and associated secondary faults in the Mecca Hills. Pictured from left to right: my Master’s thesis advisor, Dr. Michele Cooke of UMass Amherst, our collaborators Dr. Rebecca Dorsey of University of Oregon, Eugene, and her former student, James McNabb. This was taken in January 2013.

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Ready to get nerdy

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My boyfriend got me this old fashioned microscope for Christmas. It’s a Wetzlar with a mirror light source. It’s not an ideal microscope for someone doing real science since it’s a little dusty and not perfectly operational, but it’s a cute little hobby microscope for someone like me who just wants to see things closer up sometimes. It’s also fun to think about earlier generations of scientists and how far we can get with simple technologies. I haven’t had a reason to use it yet, but then I was visiting a friend in Albany who happened to ask me if I had a microscope. Funny you should ask! She offered me these prepared slides of animal parts, plant parts, textile fibers, pollen and spores, and micro-organisms. Wow! What are the odds? I’ve been wanting to get back into drawing for a while, so I’m hoping to combine my microscope plans and art plans and make drawings of the slides as seen through my little scope.

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The story behind the bones

Hello folks! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, but I’ve got lots of ideas stirring that I hope to bring to you soon. In the mean time, I thought I’d share this story someone recently sent me about a T. rex custody dispute (Chicago Tribune: Broadcast of CNN’s ‘Dinosaur 13’ unearths custody battle over T. rex Sue). I’ve always loved museum trips to see the big bones of creatures come and gone before humans even came into existence. I’ve enjoyed a few spectacular trips to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and I’m lucky enough to live close to the very impressive Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst, MA. I used to live just a few blocks away from the New York State Museum in Albany, NY, which houses an impressive mastodon skeleton discovered just to the north of Albany in Cohoes, NY.  The famous T. rex Sue described in this article was bought by the Field Museum in Chicago for $8.3 million! I haven’t been to the Field Museum yet but I hope to make it there soon. They are doing some great things to promote museums, including this fun and educational video series: The Brain Scoop with Emily Graslie. Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with this: How is the new fossil display at the museum coming together? That remains to be seen!

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Watching ‘Cosmos’

I just watched my first episode of the new Cosmos series, and I thought I would take this opportunity to share this brilliant Symphony of Science remix from clips of the original series.

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Anyone can study the San Andreas fault

Anyone can study the San Andreas fault

Hole G Run 2 Section 8-- SAFOD Phase III Core Samples

Hole G Run 2 Section 8– SAFOD Phase III Core Samples


It’s the first day of the semester and I’m back in my office going through all the incredible informative materials I picked up at AGU (that’s the American Geophysical Union conference, every December in San Francisco, one of the biggest Earth Science conferences with over 20,000 people). Happening upon an Earthscope bumper sticker, I decided to pay a quick visit to the Earthscope website (www.earthscope.org) and what should I find at the bottom of the page but a link to this magnificent SAFOD (San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth) core viewer. How incredible to live in an age where anyone with an interest has access to images and data from the drill core. If we can find a way to promote broader comprehensive science education, who knows what kind of powerful discoveries we could make by crowdsourcing the scientific process online, right? Really though, I’m not sure I’m right, but I think there’s a lot of potential here. Other scientific disciplines have already started experimenting with ways to crowdsource scientific innovation. Here is a link to an article about some efforts on that front coming out of Harvard. Truly exciting times.

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Southern California Earthquake Center Conference – Palm Springs, CA

I’m here at the SCEC conference for my second year. This is a unique conference for a few reasons. Unlike most conferences, there is only one session (talks or posters) at a time, so there’s no need to fret about which sessions to check out- you get to see it all. Also, while there are definitely a wide range of research topics, everyone here is pretty much on the same page scientifically because we’re all, one way or another, studying earthquakes. The community shrinks quickly as you get to know people, and faces become familiar. It’s really a cozy community of scientists, and with that comes some joking around and informality that make it a pretty fun event with a lot of lively discussion. A few glasses of Napa wine, and the next thing you know you’ve found yourself a team of collaborators ready to tackle the possibility of throughgoing rupture in the San Gorgonio Pass.

One interesting dynamic at SCEC is the personality/cultural/scientific differences between the various disciplines that come together to study earthquakes and hazard, and the occasional clashes that can ensue. A quote from a talk yesterday gives a glimpse of what I’m talking about: “When a geologist and a geophysicist are in disagreement, throw the geophysicist out the window.” Engineers, geologists, geophysicists, modelers, geodesists; some of us wear more than one hat, but there are definitively different cultures among each discipline. Is that a tie I see? You must be an engineer. Hawaiian shirt and messy hair, yep you found yourself a geologist. Wardrobe choices aside, there may be a tendency among geologists to scoff at the blunders of our colleagues who don’t hit the dirt, and perhaps end up saying silly things like “the fault isn’t where you mapped it.” But in the end, I think we all appreciate the complementary nature of the work we do. If you throw the geophysicist out the window, you best jump out after her, cause you’re gonna want her data later. scecposter

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Recovery in action

This is a video I took from one of the seismometer recoveries. We used these poles to attach ropes with hooks to the seismometer casing to pull it onto the ship– with the crane doing most of the heavy lifting. This one had a good amount of algal growth on it. You can hear at the end, I think it’s Martin saying “That’s a dirty one, huh?”

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Meet the Crew of the Oceanus

The crew of the research vessel Oceanus consists of the ship’s crew and a team of scientists and engineers. Scroll through to meet everyone from our leg of the Summer of 2013 research cruises and learn about some of the folks who make ocean bottom seismology possible!

Captaining the sister ship Wecoma before coming aboard the Oceanus, our Captain, Jeff Crews was by far the most elusive personality on board. Although he was always friendly when I did see him, he did not wish to have his picture taken. If I learned one thing and one thing only, you follow the Captain's orders when you're on his ship. Perhaps you can imagine you can see him through the windows of the Bridge?

Captaining the sister ship Wecoma before coming aboard the Oceanus, our Captain, Jeff Crews was by far the most elusive personality on board. Although he was always friendly when I did see him, he did not wish to have his picture taken. If I learned one thing and one thing only, you follow the Captain’s orders when you’re on his ship. Perhaps you can imagine you can see him through the windows of the Bridge?

Filling in as Chief Mate, Bob Ovemon got his start on fishing vessels, and has worked on research vessels traveling all around the world. His favorite place to sail is Ghana.

Filling in as Chief Mate, Bob Ovemon got his start on fishing vessels, and has worked on research vessels traveling all around the world. His favorite place to sail is Ghana.

Filling in as second mate, Brian traveled from his beloved home in western Montana to join our cruise. He got his start at sea life on fishing boats before working on a NOAA research vessel out of Honolulu dedicated to researching El Nino.

Filling in as second mate, Brian traveled from his beloved home in western Montana to join our cruise. He got his start at sea life on fishing boats before working on a NOAA research vessel out of Honolulu dedicated to researching El Nino.

Our Chief Engineer Mike Ribera was born in Newport, OR (home base for our ship) but now lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his wife Patty. That is, when he's not busy keeping the Oceanus at sea.

Our Chief Engineer Mike Ribera was born in Newport, OR (home base for our ship) but now lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his wife Patty. That is, when he’s not busy keeping the Oceanus at sea.

Chip, born and raised in Hawaii, worked his way up the chain on boats until he found himself in the engine room, where he is so clearly right where he belongs. Ask him a question about the Oceanus' workings, and prepare to be educated.

Chip, born and raised in Hawaii, worked his way up the chain on boats until he found himself in the engine room, where he is so clearly right where he belongs. Ask him a question about the Oceanus’ workings, and prepare to be educated.

Jay, who was born in Montreal and has the accent to prove it, spent 15 years in the Navy stationed in Japan. There he got married and raised two daughters who he brought across the Pacific to Salem, OR where he now lives.

Jay, who was born in Montreal and has the accent to prove it, spent 15 years in the Navy stationed in Japan. There he got married and raised two daughters who he brought across the Pacific to Salem, OR where he now lives.

Kickin it as Head Chef for the first time on our cruise, Joy is usually an assistant chef on the Oceanus. Joy did some pretty amazing things in the kitchen, which is no surprise since before she took up life on the sea she owned her own catering business in California. Our steward, John, got his sea legs as a 'Tin Can Sailor' in the Navy.

Kickin it as Head Chef for the first time on our cruise, Joy is usually an assistant chef on the Oceanus. Joy did some pretty amazing things in the kitchen, which is no surprise since before she took up life on the sea she owned her own catering business in California. Our steward, John, got his sea legs as a ‘Tin Can Sailor’ in the Navy.

Patrick, one the ship's regular ABs (that's for able bodied seaman), lives in Oregon with his wife, and makes a mean strawberry jam.

Patrick, one the ship’s regular ABs (that’s for able bodied seaman), lives in Oregon with his wife, and makes a mean strawberry jam.

Born in Oregon, Marc went to maritime academy in Maryland before returning to the Pacific to work on research vessels.

Born in Oregon, Marc went to maritime academy in Maryland before returning to the Pacific to work on research vessels.

Filling in as an AB, Gene hails from Illinois where he lives between jobs on commercial and research vessels in the Pacific, Gulf, and Caribbean.

Filling in as an AB, Gene hails from Illinois where he lives between jobs on commercial and research vessels in the Pacific, Gulf, and Caribbean.

Erik was the Marine Technician on the Oceanus for our expedition. He has an Bachelor's degree in Geology, and served in the US Navy, before taking on an internship as a Marine Technician that led to his current position on the Oceanus.

Erik was the Marine Technician on the Oceanus for our expedition. He has an Bachelor’s degree in Geology, and served in the US Navy, before taking on an internship as a Marine Technician that led to his current position on the Oceanus.

Bob Dziak, the Chief Scientist on our cruise, heads up the Acoustics department at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab. He has used acoustic signals to study seismicity and ocean floor volcanism, and more recently to study icequakes and calfing of ice sheets in the Antarctic.

Bob Dziak, the Chief Scientist on our cruise, heads up the Acoustics department at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab. He has used acoustic signals to study seismicity and ocean floor volcanism, and more recently to study icequakes and calfing of ice sheets in the Antarctic.

Anna is a Research Assistant and Data Analyst in the Acoustics department at VENTS lab at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Newport, OR. She was a great bunkmate.

Anna is a Research Assistant and Data Analyst in the Acoustics department at VENTS lab at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Newport, OR. She was a great bunkmate.

Matt is a Research Assistant and Marine Technician in the VENTS program at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Newport, OR. He specializes in marine instrumentation, and telling hair raising stories of near death experiences.

Matt is a Research Assistant and Marine Technician in the VENTS program at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Newport, OR. He specializes in marine instrumentation, and telling hair raising stories of near death experiences.

Definitely a good personality to have on any ship, Bill Hanshumaker heads up Marine Education at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. He collected and documented all of the wildlife that came up with the seismometers. He is shown here documenting one of his finds.

Definitely a good personality to have on any ship, Bill Hanshumaker heads up Marine Education at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. He collected and documented all of the wildlife that came up with the seismometers. He is shown here documenting one of his finds.

Martin is a Mechanical Development Engineer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego where he has worked for the last 8 years. He and Paul Georgief were our expedition's team from Scripps, where they designed and built the deep water seismometers that we recovered on our cruise.

Martin is a Mechanical Development Engineer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego where he has worked for the last 8 years. He and Paul Georgief were our expedition’s team from Scripps, where they designed and built the deep water seismometers that we recovered on our cruise.

Paul is an Engineer hailing from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, working as a team with Martin Rapa. He's shown here connecting his computer to the data logger (red cylinder) from a seismometer that just spent a year on the ocean floor.

Paul is an Engineer hailing from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, working as a team with Martin Rapa. He’s shown here connecting his computer to the data logger (red cylinder) from a seismometer that just spent a year on the ocean floor.

Jake works for Science Applications International Corporation out of Long Beach, Mississippi. He has great taste in literature and we connected over our shared love of Kurt Vonnegut.

Jake works for Science Applications International Corporation out of Long Beach, Mississippi. He has great taste in literature and we connected over our shared love of Kurt Vonnegut.

Stas is a grad students in Geophysics at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM where he met his wife Daisy. He, like me, was tagging along for this cruise. It was also his first time at sea.

Stas is a grad students in Geophysics at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM where he met his wife Daisy. He, like me, was tagging along for this cruise. It was also his first time at sea.

I am tagging along for the ride, scoping out this starfish that came up with one of our shallower seismometers.

I am tagging along for the ride, scoping out this starfish that came up with one of our shallower seismometers. (photo by Stas Edel)

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11 knots due West

Sitting at my computer here, wondering what the best thing to write about and use precious bandwidth to upload, I am at a loss. There is just so much to say. Tales of misplaced seismometers, stories about the lives of the scientists and crew sharing this vessel, specs about the Oceanus herself, and all the little things about being on a ship that I never thought about until I was here. I rock from side to side in the ceaseless wave action that tosses our 177 foot vessel like a rubber duck in a child’s bath. What words can describe how it feels to be caught in the ebb and flow of our mighty ocean, no rest from her swaying, the sounds of massive volumes of water swooshing around you night and day? I think of how still the water below is by contrast. We live at the boundary between air and water on the rhythmic turbulence that ensues.

Between bouts of sickness, and long afternoon naps set upon me by the wooing womb-like feeling of constantly sloshing about (or maybe it’s a side effect of my seasickness meds), I have had all manner of engaging conversation with the incredibly hospitable crew and scientists who have taken me on as their guest. One conversation of note was with Bill Hanshumaker, a scientist from Oregon State University who works in particular with outreach, and studies the way adults and children learn from and interact with museum exhibits in order to improve what everyone can get from them. I am interested in teaching and science programming that appeals to a broader range of people, and Bill had some great thoughts and resources to share. He has a great enthusiasm for science of all kinds and a good sense of humor to boot. He has been collecting, examining, and documenting any living specimens attached to the seismometers brought up from their year in the great mysterious depths below. So far he has found a sea anemone, a bundle of isopods at some early stage in their development, and a sack of eggs. What will hitch a ride up to the surface next?

To conclude this post, I’ll share some things I have learned in my brief tenure at sea:

  1. One hand for you, one hand for the ship.
  2. Eat a light breakfast, there will be even better food at lunch.
  3. Know the locations of the life vests, but more urgently, the nearest bathroom.
  4. Everything can –and should—be tied down.
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