I’m alive! Actually, there was never any doubt as to whether or not I was alive, but as far as this blog is concerned, I have been dead for the past month. It was a combination of things: finals in school, then the week long research trip, then time to laze around, then lack of ambition to actually even write anything in the first place.
So, for those of you who still check this web site, I believe an update is in order.
The first week of June saw a few of my fellow classmates, a professor and myself take an excursion through the Southwestern United States. There were two main stops on our trip, the first was at a place called Fossil Creek in Arizona, and the second was at Lake Powell in Utah.
At Fossil Creek, our task was to characterize the water level of the creek before they returned the full flow of the river back into its stream channel (which happened this past weekend). Fossil Creek originates from a spring that has high concentrations of calcium carbonate within it. This eventually precipitates out and forms large travertine dams across the creek. With the full flow of the creek restored (something like 90% of the water that was supposed to flow through the creek was diverted for hydroelectric power), it is anticipated that these dams will build at enormous rates.
A fellow student who attended the trip with us is going to go back and take measurements of the water levels and dam heights in the future and compare them. We’ll be able to come up with some interesting calculations of how much CaCO3 is precipitating out of the water.
An interesting side note: On our first day at Fossil Creek, we had an unhappy encounter with some locals (who aren’t too happy about the stream restoration project that is going on here. This is mainly because a large group of researchers came in and poisoned the river, to kill an invasive species of small mouth bass in order to give an endangered species that lives there a chance). We parked in a small lot and one of the students with us from Northern Arizona University went across a bridge to talk with some people in a power plant located along the stream. They work for the power company that owns the treacherous dirt road up to the dam and we were getting permission to drive up it the next day.
While he is gone, a local driving a pickup pulls into the parking lot and gets out. “That there’s private property!” he says. We kind of just nod our heads. We weren’t doing anything wrong, and there was really no reason to fear this man in a ripped up tank top, large beer belly and a dubious haircut (okay, it was a mullet). A pristine picture of a redneck! Who am I to judge though?
“Hey! That’s private property!” He said again, obviously oblivious to the fact that we were ignoring him.
Our professor, Leonard, tried to explain away the situation, “We’re University Researchers here doing a study.”
The man takes a moment to ponder this.
“Study? Are you going to study why they turned the river black and killed all the fish?” Ouch. Then he continued.
“I’m from Strawberry,” he replied. Strawberry is the town near Fossil Creek. “And you know what I think? I think you should take you, and your University Research and get the fuck out of my town!”
Oh man. We hit a wrong button with this dude. He proceeded to walk back to his truck, throwing every imaginable swear word and insult at us. Then he sped away. Excellent! “Welcome to Arizona!” I thought. Thankfully there were no other incidents on the trip.
We spent about 2 full days at Fossil Creek (and checked out some amazingly awesome swimming holes along the creek and below the dam itself) and then spent the rest of the week in Utah, trudging around Lake Powell (as well as boating in it).
In Utah, we helped out a student working on his PhD thesis to determine erosion rates of the sandstone around Lake Powell. It was quite interesting, and we took quite a bit of measurements within natural and artificial (due to the building of roads and such) stream channels that provide an excellent outdoor laboratory to determine these rates and what is effecting them.
I also found a potential senior thesis project for myself out there, mapping and dating relic Colorado River sediments located on terraces around Lake Powell. This can be used to come up with fairly precise incision rates of the Colorado River. It’s quite exciting stuff in my opinion. I may even get a chance to fly out to New Hampshire in order to prepare the samples I collected (which are currently at MIT) and learn about dating methods. Sadly, these dating methods won’t help me when it comes to dealing with females.
Anyway, the time is quite late and I should go to bed. I’ll have to post more later!