Friday, May 29, 2009
425. Breached Dam Overlook at Mount St. HelensIt's even affordable for a poor grad student. Then I looked at the field trip leader:
Sat., 17 Oct. US$95 (L, R).
Leader: Steven A. Austin, Austin Research Consulting.Usually, I expect to see people from the USGS or local universities leading a field trip - although the name sounded strangely familiar. So I did a little research...and all the hits that came up were from creationism websites. Namely, the Institute for Creation Research.
It appears that Steven Austin has degrees in geology (they're listed as B.S. Geology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA,1970; M.S. Geology, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, 1971; Ph.D. Geology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 1979), but that he is also the person who introduced the Mount St. Helens/Grand Canyon/Flood and Mount St. Helens "old" lava dome dacite arguments for the Flood and a young Earth. (Links to the debunking of these arguments can be found here and here on the Talk Origins website.)
Stuff like this just makes me twitch. I can't say whether or not Austin knows the recent geologic history well enough to lead a good trip. But what I do strenuously object to is the fact that the field trip description very carefully gives no indication that Austin works for the ICR, and that he has been very vocal in promoting what many geologists would consider to be extremely bad science.
Here's the trip description:
This six-hour hike follows a 13-kilometer-round-trip route to an extraordinary geologic location called “Breached Dam Overlook” just seven kilometers north of the crater of Mount St. Helens. The trail leads us from the Johnston Ridge Observatory onto the largest landslide deposit to have accumulated during human history. This debris avalanche deposit of May 18, 1980, forms one of the earth’s newest landscapes of 45 square kilometers area within the headwaters of the North Fork of the Toutle River. The objectives of the field trip are (1) to identify, classify and name individual landforms within the upper North Fork Toutle River landscape, (2) to relate the landforms to the sequence of events and processes that have occurred next to the volcano, and (3) to ponder questions about how the landscape at a volcano changes through time. Landforms on the debris avalanche landscape are relicts that have been impacted significantly by geomorphic processes that exceed a certain minimum energy threshold. Following the debris avalanche of May 18, 1980, the most significant event was the mudflow of March 19, 1982. That mudflow event breached the natural debris dam, caused adjustment within the drainage basin, and derived the present landscape. Now that the power of geomorphic processes has diminished, finer sediment is what is being moved. Channels are incised and armored with coarser clasts, and valleys are now plugging with sediment. Hikers can observe the new landscape from two selected overlooks. Johnston Ridge Observatory on the west side of Mount St. Helens Volcano National Monument is the staging area this roundtrip hike of 13.6 kilometers (8.4 mi).Knowing Austin's background puts this into an entirely different light, and it's not one that I like. I'd say the odds are pretty good that his Grand Canyon and argon arguements are going to pop up on the trip, and unless the attendees know what they're getting into (and like to debate creationists for fun), people will probably be shocked and disappointed that they spent money and time only to be a captive audience for someone's bad pet young Earth theories. It's a pity; I would have liked to spend some time at St. Helens with a legitimate geologist (someone from the CVO, say; why aren't they leading any MSH field trips?)
Bottom line? I'm kind of surprised that GSA is allowing someone who so blatantly goes against their position statement on evolution and creationism to lead a field trip. I don't know what the vetting process is for field trip leaders, but if I were a GSA official, I wouldn't allow someone like Austin to potentially use GSA as an avenue for promoting theories that directly contradict the geological science that GSA works so hard to promote. (Then again, this may be a recurring thing - does anyone know if Austin has led other GSA field trips? Perhaps GSA just doesn't care.)
If you know of anyone who's thinking of attending the Portland GSA, please let them know about the background of this particular trip leader before they sign up and fork over their money - if they don't already recognize him.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
How melt inclusions in olivines and glass from eruptive products on Procida Island, Italy could be used to trace the volatile evolution, and thus melt movements into/out of the island's magmatic reservoir (Esposito et al.).
- An interesting pyroclast from the Sept. 1997 Soufriere Hills dome collapse. The pyroclast contains shattered feldspar and quartz phenocrysts (with really cool little 'pipes' where melt inclusions erupted out of the phenocryst fragments). Ben Williamson suggests that the pyroclast may have started as an injection into the base of the lava dome, sat there for a bit crystallizing cristobalite (also present), and was then ejected in the dome collapse while still somewhat viscous.
- Roger Mitchell and Steve Sparks (and a number of other folks) sparring over kimberlite origins and evolution (and even over whether some deposts are kimberlites). This was particularly amusing, because there was much implying that the volcanologists who were involving themselves in kimberlite geology didn't know as much about the subject as the petrologists who'd been working on it, and vice versa. I get the feeling this has been going on for a while.
- An example of a sub-glacier eruption in Iceland a few tens of thousands of years ago that created eruption ridges of pillow basalts, fissures similar to Hawaiian spatter ramparts on Kilauea, and possible sub-glacial ponding of water from the melted ice (which could have affected glacier dynamics).
Wednesday was fairly relaxed - in the morning, I listened to a talk by Don Dingwell entitled "When melts start behaving like rocks (very bad things can happen)", which focused on the brittle-ductile transition at magma/lava fragmentation. I'm not sure I totally agree with Dr. Dingwell that the "essence of eruption is decompression" - there are certainly other factors involved - but it's an interesting point. I also listened to a talk about Mount St. Helens dome rock by Rosanna Smith, whose study results show that high-frequency earthquakes caused by brittle fracture of rocks is possible in the interior of lava domes, and a discussion of the effects of volcanic edifice collapse on hydrothermal systems and ore-grade mineralization.
It's good to be back in Buffalo, even if it was a slow trip getting out of Toronto, and we had to stop at the border because my car was full of foreign people and still has VA plates. This is apparently a cause for alarm, despite the fact that it also has several decals that someone could use to figure out that I came from a different state than I now attend school in. (Mostly it was a cause for fingerprinting and for the Department of Homeland Security to charge my French passenger to take the electronic fingerprint scans. Talk about moneygrubbing!) I'm also convinced that DHS guards are chosen for their ability to look surly and hulking.
Photos to follow as soon as I can find the right camera cord...
Monday, May 25, 2009
All in all, it was a very successful morning, and I even got a chance to mention (in response to the general call for concerns from students) that AGU's policy on student travel grants is somewhat unfair. (You can only apply for a grant if you're a presenting author, and only if it's your first meeting, which means I wasn't eligible for this meeting and won't be for any others.) I will be very happy if this is changed, and from the conversation, I think there's a good chance it will be. This is especially important, given how expensive it is to attend an AGU meeting (even as a student), and how few perks there are (no free coffee or snacks for anyone, for example, which I think is a little cheap for how much the meeting costs).
Today's lecture lineup wasn't quite as engaging for me as yesterday's. I stopped in on a talk about multi-melt origins for anorthosite, one about the Fawakhir Ophiolite in Egypt, and the Daly Lecture, which was given by Mark Harrison about Hadean zircons. This was probably the most interesting of the bunch; Dr. Harrison suggested that zircons found in conglomerates in the Jack Hills, Western Australia challenge the prevailing belief that the Hadean was a hot, dry, water-less period in Earth's history. He gave as lines of evidence high delta O-18 values, which he said suggests clay protoliths, and inclusions of quartz, feldspar and muscovite in the zircons, which suggest crystallization from hydrous melts. The ultimate model was of a sediment cycling system that involved liquid water, and possibly some sort of subduction and tectonic activity (although crustal recycling has probably erased much of the early crustal record). One of the UB students working in paleoclimatology also gave a very good talk about the records of advance and retreat on Greenland glaciers in the morning; it was nice to hear about non-volcanology research in my department, since the research groups are often pretty insular.
The afternoon I spent sightseeing in the city. I'm becoming rather fond of it; Toronto is like a shorter, greener version of New York City, and everyone seems to have been careful to preserve a little open space here and there. I saw the headquarters of the original Hudson River Company (which boasts a pedigree even older than my alma mater), the old City Hall, a number of cathedrals, the biggest shopping mall I've ever been in (and most of it underground!), and some really inspired architecture along the way. I also wore my feet out with all the walking, and I'm very glad that the hotel has a hot tub.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Talks started early for me today; my advisor was running the 8AM volcanology session, in which the audience was mostly the speakers and a few of their students. But it was all about pyroclastic flows, a subject I consider worth an early start.
- Mike Manga from UC Berkeley compared the transport capacity of pyroclastic flows over water and solid substrates, and concluded that large particles in overland flows are transported farther when the flows are concentrated and there is momentum transfer from the fines to the larger particles.
- Sylvain Charbonnier of Keele University showed two different mass flow model results (TITAN2D and VOLCFLOW) as applied to block-and-ash flows on Merapi, and also talked about using ground-penetrating radar to map flow deposits internally.
- Joe Dufek from Georgia Tech talked about ash production in eruptive flows, and how friction and collisional fragmentation help create fines.
- Elke Hanenkamp from the University of Canterbury described decoupling processes in block-and-ash flows.
- Eliza Calder from the University at Buffalo described a mathematical shortcut for reducing the number of "runs" needed to produce good mass flow models of pyroclastic flows.
- Mike Sheridan (also from Buffalo) talked about modifications being made to TITAN2D to better represent multi-phase debris flows.
So far I've also discovered that, at least at the convention center, the universe is trying to keep me from spending money. Not only do the ATMs not accept VISA cards, the food stands don't accept any cards. Since I'd have to walk a block just to get out of the building to the street, and the street is full of unaffordable, high-end steakhouses, it looks like I'm living off of gum until dinnertime. Usually stress over an upcoming presentation makes me lose weight, but I may manage to do that without presenting anything at this meeting.
UPDATE: After about five ATMs, I finally managed to find one in the back of a convenience store that would take my card. I also went to dinner with my group at a really great Thai fusion place, and took care of the food concerns by ordering a fried rice dish that was served in half a pineapple. The food situation is definitely improving.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I'm thinking about live-blogging it, but I'll at least try to do some summaries at the end of each day if I don't get around to on-the-spot reporting.
Babbling aside, if anyone is planning on being at the Toronto AGU, give me a heads-up. I'm going to be there Sunday - Wednesday, and perhaps we can organize a meetup somewhere with the appropriate refreshing beverages, eh?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Labs/TA were horrible
Labs/TA were okay
TA is elitist (Because I wouldn't give this person a second make-up date for a quiz they missed, never mind that I didn't have to give them a first one)
TA is responsible and patient
Boring lab material
Exciting/interesting lab material
Lab books sucked (This I totally agree with.)
Had to do all the questions (under "What did you find annoying?")
Needs more group work
Needs less in-class work
Why do we have to come to labs anyway when we can just do the work on our own? (Despite the workbook lab manuals that we had to teach from, mostly because that's the point of being in a class, and not teaching yourself from a library book.)
And my favorite, in answer to "Would you recommend this class to a friend?":
"In the event that I acquire any friends, I would think it not advisable to start our relationship talking about school. Perhaps music, or Darfur?"
I have no idea where that came from, but it was awesome.
*Note the false cheerfulness in that title. What I really mean is, "I care, but that's moot at this point because there's nothing I could have done about the crappy lab books, and I'm not teaching next semester so I won't have any input in the future."
Friday, May 15, 2009
But it all worked out in the end - better than the poor girl who had half her graphs fade out and had to draw them back in with a digital pen. (That would have completely freaked me out, and although I wasn't terribly interested in her subject matter, I have to say she recovered pretty well.) The conference setting was pretty nice, too - in the library at Utah Valley University, which has incredible views of the Wasatch and Utah Lake. (The rooms were a bit small, and it must have been annoying to the students trying to use the library to have a bunch of noisy geologists around, but for the most part the setting was fine.)
Here are a few of the talks I listened to:
EVIDENCE OF EXTENSIONAL AND COMPRESSIONAL TECTONISM ON SATURN'S MOON TITAN: RADEBAUGH, Jani, Department of Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University, S-389 ESC, Provo, UT 84602, firstname.lastname@example.org
GRABENS GONE WILD: LATE CENOZOIC EXTENSION ON THE FISH LAKE PLATEAU, UTAH: BAILEY, Christopher1, BUCKLEY, Trevor R.1, BOWLES, Christopher J.1, and MARCHETTI, David W.2, (1) Department of Geology, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187, email@example.com, (2) Geology Program, Western State College of Colorado, 600 N. Adams St, Gunnison, CO 81231
LITHOSPHERIC BOUNDARIES, MAGMATIC PROCESSES AND CRUSTAL SCALE FLUID CONNECTIONS OF THE GREAT BASIN AND ITS TRANSITION TO THE COLORADO PLATEAU AS TRACED BY ELECTRICAL RESISTIVITY STRUCTURE: WANNAMAKER, Philip E., Energy & Geoscience Institute, University of Utah, 423 Wakara Way, Suite 300, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEISTOCENE GLACIATIONS ON THE FISH LAKE PLATEAU, UTAH: MARCHETTI, David W., Geology Program, Western State College of Colorado, 600 N. Adams St, Gunnison, CO 81231, email@example.com, HARRIS, M.Scott, Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC 29424, BAILEY, Christopher, Department of Geology, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187, and BERGMAN, Sarah, Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057
IMPLICATIONS OF WIDESPREAD, PALEOVALLEY-FILLING ASH-FLOW TUFFS OF THE WESTERN GREAT BASIN FOR PALEOTOPOGRAPHY, REGIONAL TECTONICS, AND TUFF VOLUMES: HENRY, Christopher D.1, FAULDS, James E.1, HINZ, Nicholas H.1, GARSIDE, Larry J.2, and BODEN, David R.3, (1) Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, firstname.lastname@example.org, (2) Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada Reno, MS 178, Reno, NV 89557, (3) Physical Sciences, Truckee Meadows Community College, Reno, NV 89512
THE GREAT BASIN ALTIPLANO DURING THE MIDDLE CENOZOIC IGNIMBRITE FLAREUP: INSIGHTS FROM VOLCANIC ROCKS: BEST, Myron G., Department of Geology, Brigham Young University, S389 ESC, Provo, UT 84602, email@example.com, CHRISTIANSEN, Eric H., Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, firstname.lastname@example.org, BARR, Deborah L., U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Las Vegas, NV 89134, GROMME, Sherman, 420 Chaucer St, Palo Alto, CA 94301-2201, DEINO, Alan, Berkeley Geochronology Ctr, 2455 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709, and TINGEY, David, Department of Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602
And, of course, there were a few W&M posters to visit:
SEDIMENTARY GEOLOGY OF THE NORTHERN FISH LAKE PLATEAU, CENTRAL UTAH: CARBAUGH, Joyce E. and BAILEY, Christopher, Department of Geology, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187, email@example.com
BEDROCK GEOLOGY OF THE MT. TERRILL AND HILGARD MOUNTAIN 7.5' QUADRANGLES, HIGH PLATEAUS, UTAH: BUCKLEY, Trevor R., BAILEY, Christopher, and CARBAUGH, Joyce E., Department of Geology, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187, firstname.lastname@example.org
JoBeth and Trevor did a very nice job on their posters, and they were busy talking with people for the whole authors-are-present hour (which was, unfortunately, scheduled for lunchtime). Here they are discussing the finer points of one of their maps:
(Obviously, JoBeth isn't convinced of whatever Trevor is telling her.)
We even found a little time for some geocaching, although I will recommend that it not be done in dress shoes and nice slacks. And, by the end of the trip, my undergrad advisor and I decided that we're definitely taking one more trip out to Fish Lake (the subject of all the research we presented at this meeting). While I'm excited to be going back, I'm hoping I won't be too burned out by that point, seeing as I'm going to the Toronto AGU at the end of this month, and then to Italy. (The Italy trip will be good practice for identifying those pyroclastic deposits, though!)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Unfortunately, I highly suspect I would have had to spend a lot of time afterward avoiding irate parents and cell-phone-addicted students if I'd tried to chuck their gadgets out into the hall.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
It's an annoying state that seems to have evolved a bit since I was young. I've played violin for years, and for most of those years I've played solo pieces in recitals. I used to get shaky before a big performance (not a good thing if you're trying to draw a bow smoothly), since if you mess up in a solo piece, everyone (or what seems like everyone) can hear it. When I started giving serious class presentations in college, it was the same thing; I had a bad habit of babbling, and made a lot of little nervous movements when I was talking. (I remember specifically being told not to clutch the podium, or bang the pointer stick on the floor.) I also have a tendency to run on autopilot when I get into the talk; to this day I can't remember much about my undergrad thesis defense, other than one or two of the questions.
When I got to grad school, and had to start teaching labs and giving more in-depth talks, I developed the really annoying habit of sending all my stress straight to my stomach. Now, whenever I give a presentation, I can't eat before, and I'll usually keep myself up at night because my stomach is so upset. (This is not going to go over so well with my talk's early morning time - if I don't eat, I'm likely to keel over from low blood sugar.) What really annoys me about this is that I know - and I've been told - that I'm perfectly competent and actually give pretty good talks. Unfortunately, it's one matter to know something in your head, and another to make the rest of your body believe it.
One thing I have found that seems to help is doing tai chi to calm down - it involves really slow, controlled movements and breathing, which is exactly what I seem to need. (It will look really silly if I do that before the GSA talk, since I'm pretty sure they won't have a meditation room set aside.) I also had some fun with the other volcanology students, who helped me come up with an alert level scale for nerves:
Green - Everything's Cool
Yellow - Mild Panic
Orange - Why Did I Agree To Do This Again?
Red - I Am Totally F*cked
What I really hope is that I'll eventually get over this - or, at least, be able to control it much better. Has anyone else found a point in their career at which nerves are no longer such a big issue? What do you all do to deal with the pre-talk jitters?
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
T13. 13. Magmatism from the Mesozoic to the Present in the Great Basin and Colorado Plateaus: A Tribute to the Career of Myron G. Best
|Eric H. Christiansen, Presiding|
Deep breath. At least it will be quick, and I can go out and drink some low-alcohol beer afterward (it being Utah and all). Let me know if you'd like to join me!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
...It wouldn't take me until the end of the episode to figure out that I could use the local geologic resources to make a cannon to fire at the angry dinosaur-type aliens.
(Sorry for the sparse posting - grading and finishing up the final version of my thesis proposal is eating up all my time! Something more substantial later this week, I promise.)