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...

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Martin from the USDA emailed a few more pictures from our last sampling trip. The next trip is in just less than 2 weeks. Carla, an Earth Sciences undergrad, is going to come out with me to sample and set up the Licor (measures CO2 respiration from the soil). She will be completing her undergraduate thesis working with me (Thanks Berry!). She'll examine alkalinity (or the inorganic carbon flux) associated with different landuse types we are examining: forested, corn till, corn no till, mixed, and unimproved pasture. She is also planning to compare this with samples gathered from Peru this summer. It should be an interesting study because both glacial and agricultural watersheds have high erosion rates.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thank you

Here's a picture of my dissertation defense committee: Anne Carey, Berry Lyons, me, Bryan Mark, and Lonnie Thompson. It was a good road to my PhD with their input and support. (And the support of Andrew Fountain who served on my dissertation committee). Recently, I had the chance to thank my adviser, Berry, for making my Antarctic dream possible. As I move forward leading my own research endeavors, I hope that I am able to give back as much as I have received. I could not have had better role models.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Adventures in Tilth

While at a recent conference (GSA-SSSA), I learned a new word: tilth. Tilth is all aspects of soil that relate to its fertility and productivity. Understanding tilth, includes examining the storage and loss of essential elements.

This weekend we dedicated ourselves to tilthly knowledge.

Pictured tilth crew activities: 1) Jen, volunteering from Metro High School (she's also been working on some data from Peru); 2) the mixed landuse field plot and the white groundwater monitoring building); 3) Klaus, Ilan, and Jen; and 4) Jen showing off her foot after retrieving her shoe from mud and Martin smiling at our muddy feet.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Carbon in Cornfields: all altitudes and latitudes considered

Well, the bottles are all lined up in a row for next weekend. A high school student and an undergraduate (now anonymous, but not for long) will be joining me heading out to Coshocton in the quest to understand the link between agricultural practices and the storage and loss of carbon from soil. But, I can't help but think of the cornfields high in the Andes, hanging from the sides of mountains. I'm looking at this landscape wondering how many hours of manually tilling and toiling would be needed to grow an acre of corn? And what is the rapid increase of temperatures at high altitudes and human industrial spewing of nitrate doing to those fields now.....???

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Welch Crag

Yesterday my good friend, Kathy Welch, learned she had a crag named after her! (After she won a service award at Byrd Polar Research Center).

Welch Crag: 77°17'08"S Latitude, 160°36'37"E Longitude. A steep rugged peak, which is marked by secondary spires rising to 1500 m in the north-east part of McSaveney Spur, Willett Range, Victoria Land. Topographic Map: Webb Lake (1:50,000).

Here's to Kathy! She'll be blogging from the Antarctic soon in her 16th field season!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Till, no till, here we come!

Monday, I went out to the field with Andrea Grottoli so that we could get on the same page with our sampling effort. We're both transferring skills from different research arenas (glacier melt- me, and coral chemistry- Andrea) to understanding carbon storage in the pastures and cornfields of central Ohio. Andrea is very pregnant and wanted to make sure that her research tech/postdoc, Yohei new where to sample come mid-October.

The Peruvian side project is going well, I'm drafting a paper on the craziest metal concentrations ever observed in glacial melt .... and will get the draft and remaining data to Jeff and crew by the end of the year. The success of the Peruvian project is mostly due to the efforts of 2 undergraduates and now, 1 high school student (They are so good!!!!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update from the office

Hey all! OSU is on its own power grid, but large chunks of Columbus are still without power after Hannah and Ike made their way inland. Our trees are rather spindlely and we may have to push back a few fun cookouts to deal with the remnant limbs strewn across the yard. We are lucky to not have had further damage and wish those of you who are dealing with worse the best (especially those closer to the coast).

On the science front, I'll be heading to the December American Geophysical Union meeting to present some of the results from Peru (phew good data!). The water was as wacky as predicted... but plenty of data sorting and interpretation remains! The preliminary results are very exciting, this was not temperate glacial melt....

Also, next week is one more recon mission to the Coshocton Cornfields before the real deal begins. The fields should be glorious this time of year!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Making/Setting Standards

One month post Peru and I'm heading to the lab today. A history undergraduate with growing lab skills and an interest in the environment, Michael, has prepped the samples for analyses. Today, he, Catherine, and I are headed to the OSU Trace Element Research Lab to make some not-so -trace standards to measure the amount of metal in Peruvian water samples. I've taught Catherine the art of making ppt standards, but in today's refresher course we will move up to multi-element standards at high concentrations. We will make a 40 element 100, 10, and 1 ppM stock standard. (1 ppM is a grain of salt in an Olympic sized swimming pool...even so, many heavy metals are toxic at the 10 ppM level). To achieve this feat requires a lot of concentration (no pun intended), and good recording skills. I also think, hand-thumb coordination is a plus for pipetting small volumes of liquid.... if all goes well we will have some data soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

High Altitude Footage

Dr. Jeff Bury (UC Santa Cruz) shot some footage on our high altitude trip...

Back at Byrd Polar

Made it home last night! (After catching the rojo ojo to Newark and a 6 hour layover I am safely home with my sample cooler untouched by customs!)

I'm back to work already, starting in on those dissertation edits stacked up on my desk and noticing the postdoctoral soil samples drying on the clean bench. (Thanks Jaika, Kathy and Berry for going out with the backhoe while I was away!)

Anyway, here are some of my favorite pics including me and Kyung-in at Yungay, dos Sara(h)s with Jeff M. Bryan and me in Quilcayhuanca, and Jeff B., Adam F., and me after our hike above 5000m!
(most of these are from Bryan's camera).

Monday, July 14, 2008


We (Jeff M., Jeff B., Sara K., and Michel B.) left Huaraz yesterday on the same 8 hour coach we arrived on... Lima feels more familiar with the constant street noise and neon lights and lack of poultry running around the street. (Pictured are some scenes from Huaraz). Bryan met us at the bus station and we all went to have pollo and papas one last time together. Bryan was on TV yesterday while we numbed ourselves on the bus. He discussed glacial retreat and was questioned about his 'friend' Al Gore. This experience included makeup, but all and all it sounds like it was a big success!

Sara and I are heading out to explore Lima before we catch the red eye. We were given the name of a cafe in Mireflores (the rather ritzy part of Lima) to start with. We will meet Jeffs, Bryan and some of the Peruvian Glaciology Group for lunch later... and best of all, I will be home with my wonderful husband, Trey, toasting us with the clean water straight from our tap in less than 24 hours.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Clean water for Todos

Today I took my final samples at the Rio Santa in central Huaraz. There are at least a million users of the Rio Santa... with 200,000 of them in the upper basin, which includes Huaraz. This river flows from the Andes down to the Lima coast and is used for bathing, laundry, and agriculture. Our group is sampling the upper reaches of this river and characterizing glacial and groundwater contributions as well as surveying people about their water use and needs. (Specifically, I am researching the metal chemistry of the river including both natural and mine runoff.)
Pictured is something red discharging into the main channel, women doing laundry at a river water station, clothes drying on the bank opposite of my final samples, a kid looking for metal to recycle on the bank, two children and a dog near the river, and my pH and conductivity meters, resting near a bag of toilet paper and a dead pig. I did not see the bloated flush until I started sampling and nearly fell into the water in surprise. Sarah Wright watched me from the bank as I wobbled precariously and clutched my stomach in horror.

The kids made me especially sad. Not knowing what to do, I smiled as earnestly as I could and handed the oldest boy the only candy bar in my bag. He took one small bite and gave the rest to his wide-eyed younger brother. While I sampled, women on the opposite bank stripped down to their underlayers. They vigorously lathered themselves in the same water that flowed through heaps of human and animal waste. I am testing the quality of this water. But this is not enough.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I still haven't eaten a guinea pig

Yesterday we got special permission to head to Pasto Ruri, a National Park that has been shut down for a variety of political reasons. There, you used to be able to ski down the glaciers, but now, there is little to shoosh down.

Anyway, I am very tired and my nose is nearly touching the keypad. In the last 5 days I have hiked over 8 hours a day on average and I am eating everything in site. (Altitude has not diminished my appetite. We have yet to venture into restaurants serving guinea pigs yet, so I am still limited in my culinary adventures). Pictured is Sarah Wright, who will stay after most of us leave to conduct a tourism study for her Master's Thesis. She helped me sample yesterday and is very upbeat even under strenuous conditions. Also pictured are Adam, Paul, Allyson, and Kyung who are the Lidar/GIS/GPS/Survey team on this mission. (Behind them is the shrinking Pasto Ruri). The last pictures are from today, Jeff, Sara Knox and I woke up at 5 and headed back to Llanganuco to sample tributaries from two headwater lakes.

I'll write more tomorrow about what we're doing... after I hydrate and eat a few plates of food.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Indecent Exposure

I'm working on rehydrating after a few full days of hiking, climbing, and sampling in Quilcayhuanca. We're inside the California Cafe having second breakfast. The main entrance mostly blocked by a metal garage door to prevent stray rocks from pummeling us. (Most strikers are not violent, but some are, and they throw things). Sarah Wright (see Peace and Skittles Link) had to duck (or rather, was pushed to the floor by the guy she was interviewing at the Statistics
Office yesterday). Many businesses are still open, but in a covert steel covered sense. The fresh "communista" graffiti and eerily quiet streets. (It is usually bustling at all hours).

Here's a picture of me on our hike down from Yanamarey Glacier- my zipper broke and the duck tape solution finally blew out. It is pretty indecent for Peru, so I put on my pair of Granny pile pants by the time we caught our cab out.

Uhhh- the steel door was just pulled all of the way down because a flock of strikers are walking by. My latte sure is good....


yikes! In a tired worry, I attempted to save some of my pics to an external hard drive and deleted about 100 of my faves..lost somewhere between the hard drive and the altitude. (unfortunately many of these were of people. Staggering mountain views are great, but the crew here is amazing!). Here a few that I didn't delete from the Quilcayhuanca Valley. The first is me (with a polvo beard) at more than 5000 m. Jeff Bury, Adam French and I woke up at 4 am to get that high and made it back to camp at dusk... I also managed to get a headwater sample!) The last picture of Bryan Mark is one of a handful of people pics that survived my tired erasing.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Overwhelming Beauty

We sampled the Llanganuco chain of lakes. Jeff, Sara, Jesus and Adam also mastered the art of weather station maintenance and upgrading. The views in Huascaran National park were overwhelming. As the polvo (dust) fell from our faces, the mountains towered from all sides. Surrounding us included Pisco and Huascaran (the same mountain cull Lonnie Thompson and crew drilled for 64 days).

Pictured are one of our sampling sites, Jesus and Adam successfully replacing the memory on one of the weather stations (after a two hour gazelle run up landslide debris), Huascaran, and two views of and from the met station.

Also a new crew from Nova Scotia arrived that are helping Bryan with Lidar flights above the Cordillera Blanca. It looks like the flights on hold may soon take off, which we all hope for.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Yanamarey Glacier & Pampas

We reached 4800 meters! Jeff McKenzie, Sara Knox, Jeff Bury, and Adam French and I hiked in two groups up to the hut near the terminus of the Yanamarey Glacier. Jeff M., Sara, and I sampled water in the pampa lowlands on the way up. These mushy grasslands are great sponges. The pampas filter and store much of the highly mineralized water that courses directly in front of the glacier. They likely serve the same role as wetlands do at higher latitudes.

As Jeff M., Sara, and I sampled, Jeff B. and Adam loaded our extra gear onto two hired horses. The local man who lead these horses was one of the worst they had ever hired in their multiple trips up this valley. (Starting with not having rope to tie our gear to the horses).

Just before dusk we reached the tin and stone hut at the base of the Yanamarey. In spite of my past 3 days of less than perfect health, I felt well enough to be on dinner and tea crew and Adam and I made a big pot of potato stew. Soon after eating we all slept in a tight row and I made sure to avoid flailing my arms and legs around to stretch them out.

I am glad that I felt well at night, because the morning was more difficult and required some mental readiness and a few Advil. The altitude was slower paced and breathier than lower elevations. I'm sure that my sample bottles from these heights have wiggly writing born from my new strange body. But the views were worth every bit of this surreal experience.