Geology Research

Yesterday I got to work on a research project with a graduate student from the University of Southern Oregon named Reid. He was creating a detailed topographic map of some beheaded stream beds that lay along the San Andreas Fault in the area and needed some people to assist him. This was part of some research he was doing for his Phd. We helped him setup a tripod on which a high tech survey system called a Total Station was placed. This recorded distance, azimuth and inclination at a variety of points. The points were written to a memory card and would be plugged into a computer to create a topographic map that is accurate to within a few centimeters. Basically he needed one student to take notes and another to run around to various points with a survey rod that had a reflector on it. The Total Station would shoot a laser to this reflector and record the data. Two other fellow students were there on the project: Amber, who had to leave part way through the day and Maureen.

I started off holding the survey rod and within two minutes of starting to record data I got nailed by a wasp. I go to put my hand in my pocket, and somehow the bastard had crawled into it! The next thing I know, I feel an electric shock and screamed. Sure enough, there was the stinger, right on my ring finger. It stopped hurting after a bit and we continued onward. However, today it is still visibly swollen and itches like crazy! I really notice the swelling when I curl my fingers to try and play guitar. Ouch!

Regardless of that, the rest of the day was pretty fun. I think we made nearly 350 measurements yesterday over this small area. Each measurement involved moving the rod about a meter in one direction, focusing the laser on the target and shooting. It took anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes to shoot a target. We ended up being out there the whole day! Met up at about 8am and I think we finally left to have dinner at around 6:30pm. I learned a lot of stuff from Reid and it was really awesome to be able to actually participate in some real research. Apparently, they may be coming back in November to actually dig a trench across the fault to try and determine dates of various earthquakes. If they need help, they will let us know. That would be fantastic to help out on that.

Afterwards, Maureen and I decided to show Reid the joys of In N’ Out hamburgers since this was his first time visiting Southern California. Of course in my infinite wisdom, I gave him the wrong directions and nearly got him lost in the ghetto of San Bernardino. Luckily, he had Maureen’s cell phone number and we were able to find him. Best of all, he paid for our dinner since we worked so hard all day! Rad!

It was definitely a neat experience and being outdoors, even if it was grunt work, reinforced why I like geology so much. Learning about that stuff was fascinating. Also, it was great to talk to Maureen again. Despite things not working out between us, she’s still one of the most amazing and brilliant people I’ve ever met, so it is makes me pretty ecstatic to be on friendly terms with her again.