Friday, May 15, 2009

Denman Undergraduate Research Forum

Just a quick update- both Carla and Michael presented their research at the OSU Denman Undergraduate Research Forum!  Carla presented alkalinity and cation data from Coshocton, showing that storm events are the major downstream contributor of both--- we'll be working more on the climate implications.  Michael presented silicate flux and relative cation abundance data to understand how the Cordillera Blanca compares to other glacier covered regions.  Similar silica yield normalized to flow-area, but much different weathering mechanisms (much of the silica is dissolved in the highly acidic-sulfide rich waters, rather than silicate weathering.)  
Pictured below: Me and Carla (Berry is not pictured)
Me, Michael, and Bryan

Friday, May 01, 2009

Pictures from our 87 degree-day April sampling

Annette & I took some pictures from our recent cornfield endeavors.  (Thanks for bringing your camera Annette!)
Me waiting for the Licor to take a soil respiration measurement from a no-till corn field prior to planting.
Me taking a groundwater percolation sample from the large, in-ground, lysimeter in Coshocton, Ohio.  

Surface water runoff from the mixed landuse site.  The water is cloudy because the weir was recently dredged to remove sediment from the water-chemistry auto-sampler.

Annette and Carla sample the stream above the dredging activity. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The microbial underworld, undergraduates, and exciting implications

It has been a while since I've blogged.  I've been sciencing away

Also, Carla and Michael, the two undergrads working with me, have been working up their data on agricultural land alkalinity and tropical glacier silicate weathering, respectively for posters coming up this week and in May!  Nice Work!  

And I have some new very, very, very, very exciting data from the cornfields that has some implications for the affects of landuse on the carbon cycle.  I am dying to bust it out here, but I haven't seen anything similar published to date, so for the moment, I'm like a kid waiting for the tooth fairy... jumping up and down in my seat. I hope I'm not leaking.

And it is back to the cornfields on Monday.  It will be as pictured below, the weather is supposed to be summeresque. 

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cornfields & Polar Days

Last week was a big week!  I went to the fields and sampled storm runoff from till and no-till plots as well as the forested and mixed landuse sites. It was a rare solo trip because we're approaching the busy season near the end of the quarter at OSU and the undergraduates all have exams to study for and reports to turn in.  The cornfields were far muddier than the forested sites and I suspect filtering those samples might take a while. I had a fun time getting the truck up one of the valleys and stayed in 4wd most of the day. From Friday's storm it is evident that much carbon is lost from plowed landscapes..., but I really have no idea what to expect in terms of soil respiration.  It doesn't seem that much could be living and breathing in the cornfield or even the other plots right now.  Temperatures have dropped from 50 F to 10 F today and won't be much warmer tomorrow.  Carla and I will head back to the fields tomorrow to hook the Licor up at our plots and see what baseline respiration is...pretty soon those plots will move from near flatline to robust exhaling. 

At any rate, on Saturday I went to COSI the Columbus Center of Science and Industry with Rachel Hinz and we led a group of 30 8th grade girls in flubber explorations.  They modeled glacier flow. Flubber is a mesmerizing glue substance that flows viscously and  shares some properties with glaciers... although as the girls noticed, flubber doe not melt.  After this, I flew down the stairs to give a brief slide show of Antarctic travels to a group of 3 to 50 year olds... my slide show followed an explosion set off to draw listeners in... I have to say COSI knows how to draw a crowd.  I may have to begin all my talks with a loud clang and some smoke.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New President

On this historic day, Barack Hussein O'Bama became the first African American President of the United States of America. My parents were young children when public spaces still had 'white' and 'black' water fountains. Today it seems that race no longer divides us, that we are people first, a new united states. Yet, still we face many threats, some with distant enemies, and others we create in-country- like our love for fossil fuel and wreckless emission of greenhouses gases into the atmosphere. Our new president acknowledged all of these threats.

(I have special hope for a new energy policy featuring reduced carbon dioxide emissions. See aforemost NASA scientist's, Dr. Jim Hansen's recent letter Barack and Michele O'Bama).

Obama spoke "That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real... But know this, America - they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hobbies other than science?

The snow blazes down and fizzles out on our Ohio pavement and fieldwork feels distant. During this season, my poor schnauzer is skittish on the ice and our walks grow shorter. As gray blankets us, I miss the aesthetic aspects of being in the field. And when not working, I find myself reading dark literature until I get into a funk and become one with my couch.

And now, I'm attempting new hobbies; pretty and far away from writing manuscripts or proposalling. Today, I officially enrolled in an evening watercolor class at the Columbus Arts Council. This blog is primarily focused on science capades, but the awescapes I've been fortunate to visit trigger a gut need to do something artistic. For the rest of the winter, I shall stay away from sad literature. That being said, if you want a good couch cry read "The Blinding Absence of Light". It's even sadder than "Blindness" and "The Road".

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Flood Year!!!

Rumor has it that this is a big water year in the Taylor Valley Antarctica! Similar to the 2001-2002 season during my first trip south. Hearing about it makes me think of the teal ponded water on the glacier surface and the gush of water pouring from Canada Glacier near my tent. It will be exciting to see what experiments will be conducted this year now that there has been more thought as to how "floods" change the landscape, geochemistry, and biotic activity in this most unusual polar desert!

Friday, January 02, 2009


Carla and I have been sampling several times now. Each time, my fingers are becoming more solid as the air temperatures drop. To prevent the loss of sensation in my fingers, I put on layer after layer of clothing, which makes me fumble with the bottles more. Fortunately, Carla is much more dexterous than me.

We have also analyzed many of the samples we collected as well as some from storm events that the USDA collected for us. Most of all, I'm happy that we were able to get the pvc soil collars into the ground last week before the ground became to solid to pound them into the ground. Now, we are ready to use the Licor to measure the breath of the earth, or the carbon dioxide emitted from the different land use types. I marked our locations with flags... it seems that we are overdue for a big Ohio snowfall. However, I suspect we may have a good snow free day in January to make our first measurements.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meeting and Mingling

I'm at an International meeting in San Francisco with other earth scientists... the turnout is amazing. We overfill the escalators and spill out of the lecture halls. There is no shortage of meaningful & inspiring discussions. Also, because the meeting is broad in scope, I've run into friends and mentors from times past. Admittedly, I am exhausted now, but can't wait to do it again tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Proposaling: dreaming or reality?

A few people have asked, where does the money to do earth science come from? If you have good hypotheses- that are important beyond your immediate peers, and propose tests that will support those hypotheses... sometimes, the government will give you money... there are also other ways, private sponsorship, lottery winnings (similar to being a student on a really cool funded project) but in the Byrd Polar Research Center and other research centers across the USA proposals are written to the National Science Foundation.

I submitted one with Bryan and Jeff and attempt to answer some questions from our previous work in Peru. Why? Most tropical glacier melt is routed through wetlands where potentially toxic metals are rapidly added to streams... people are reliant on this water, water quantity is rapidly changing as glaciers recede. Will issues with water quality precede water quantity issues? Will these issues be worse in the dry season with more variable stream flow? (stream flow is buffered by glacial inputs). At any rate, the water is blood red now (above).... Will it turn neon upon the death of tropical glaciers? Also, think of all the cool things to do with students.

Michael and Carla are already calculating dry season weathering rates- but the wet season is unknown...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow in the fields

Carla and I went out to Coshocton fora round of sampling and a holiday meal with the USDA folks. Martin shared his travel adventures examining soil erosion/management issues in sourthern India after our feast. Above are some pictures of this first snowy mission. Carla has a knack for sampling! In addition to this cow, we came across a mink and two bucks! It was a beautiful sunny day to sample.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I am not measuring metals in cornfield groundwater...