Archive for September, 2010

Garry has decided to post a bit about columnar basalts this week & has noticed a trend of a few other bloggers joining in, so I decided to join the party.

Back in Fall 2009, Callan and I went on a joint field trip to Shenandoah National Park (somewhere he’s posted about quite a bit).   One of the stops was to see a grouping of columnar basalts:

columnar basalts along the Limberlost Trail in Shenandoah (Callan standing on column w/ head chopped off)

Instead of the equant shape typically seem looking down the columns, there was some definite deformation that occurred post-emplacement:

Interestingly enough, while standing on the outcrop Callan commented that he and Kim had had a discussion about the deformation of these rocks.   Considering that Kim was my undergrad advisor (something Callan didn’t know), the blogosphere is a small world 🙂


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Quick flood update

Well, though it stopped raining on Thursday, the water in the Minnesota River has continued to rise.   I just got a text message from Gustavus warning me that parts of 169, 99, and 22 are currently closed.   The section on 99 is the bridge which my last few pictures were from on Friday.   The MN department of transportation is reporting the closings.   I’ll include a screenshot of the ones near St. Peter.

Sunday night, 26. Sept 2010, closings around St. Peter due to flooding

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Lockwood has called for a new Accretionary Wedge about “important geological experiences.”   This one was actually a hard one for me to wrap my head around, since I don’t think there was one definitive (or even a few similar) experiences that shaped my path to become a metamorphic petrologist.   I think it was the repeated occurrence of going into the field at all stages of my education & career.

As I said in a previous post, I had originally come into geology thinking that I wanted to going into planetary science.   The one major strike against that from the first was the lack of field time.   I went on my first geology field trips in the 8th grade, since I was lucky enough to live in a school district that required all students to take Earth Science in junior high.   I went on my next one a year later to get my Digging Through the Past Girl Scout Interest Patch.   When I was in high school, I was taken to several pegmatite mines on the Maine / New Hampshire border during the summer.   For me, when the list of possible first-year seminars from Middlebury appeared, it was an easy pick to choose the one that guaranteed weekly field trips — “Geologic Landscape of Vermont” with Kim Hannula.   Since leaving Midd, I’ve realized how lucky I was to go to college in a state where I spent the overwhelming majority of my fall geology labs out on the rocks / on the research boat instead of in a building.   Besides the encouragement from Kim to reconsider planetary, it was the lure of field time that brought me over into met pet.   Field camp convinced me that sed/strat & paleo was not the way my interests lay.   But it was fighting off the marauding mosquitos, sweltering in high 90s temperatures & high humidity, and getting beaten up by 10-yr old bramble that convinced me collecting rocks for study in the lab was the way to go.   Except for not having to live in a tent & a distinct lack of bramble, my masters research occurred under similar circumstances.   I lucked out and my PhD work involved no bugs and no bramble or other vegetation, but it never got warm enough to take off my fleece despite the fact it was August.   We lost two days due to white-out snow conditions.   And I loved it.

I enjoy teaching in the classroom and lab, but my favorite part of my job is taking students into the field.   Whether its just down the road or halfway across the country, watching students learn how to look at the ground beneath their feet and the landscape around them to backtrack the geological history of an area is worth the headaches of renting vehicles, planning food that can be cooked over a campstove, and wondering if its going to downpour or snow.   To me, going into the field is the reason why I love being a geologist.

February 2008 SERC field trip in the Berkshires (Ron's setting up a Gigapan)

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Yesterday, Anne talked about some her experiences with floods and why that encouraged her to become not only a geologist, but more specifically a hydrogeologist.   I’m not a hydrogeologist.   Its not my thing.   I like rocks.   But currently, I’m living in SE MN and there’s quite a bit of flooding along the Minnesota River, so I’ll take a moment and don my hydro-interest hat.

I drove yesterday (Friday) from Mankato to St. Peter along Highway 169.

GoogleEarth image of Rt 169

The Minnesota River is over its banks and flooding the surround fields, parks, and boat launch sites, but its not as high as when I was here visiting last spring (that closed bridges like 99 at the north end of St. Peter).   However, the water in the floodplain has driven a number of the local deer up into 169, which meant that I drove (and tried to avoid) five dead deer yesterday on the 10-mile drive between Mankato and St. Peter.

I’ll post all of my shots on Flickr (note to self: stopping on 169 is not a great idea since the average driver is doing >65 mph), but two of my favorites:

boat launch on Rt 169

Just south of St. Peter on 169

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Callan posted a blog this morning about the Champlain Thrust (sidenote: having gone to Midd as an undergrad, I have fond memories of the outcrop he describes in the post).   One of the pictures was a close-up of a vein with a distinctive fabric that was puzzling.   The image reminded me of a figure from Passchier and Trouw (2005), so I suggested that maybe the vein was due to antitaxial growth (straight fibres that indicate a mean displacement direction of the vein wall rocks) during simple shear.   Here’s the image:

Fig. 6.7, Passchier & Trouw, 2005

Yes?  No?  Other ideas?

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On Friday of last week I posted about using research papers in an upper level undergraduate class.   There are two comments on the end from Anne & Callan, but I also received several other via other avenues and thought I would share.

From one of the other hard rock grad students who was at Indiana during my masters:

I’m actually considering researching that kind of integration at some point in the distant future. The biggest hurdle student have is getting over all the science vocab strung together and getting at coremeaning. Discussing strategies to understand a paragraph/figure and modeling how they might do it would be less stressful for them. I’d consider starting students off with a question for the first few times you do this, still allowing/encouraging them to come up with a question of their own inspired by the paper, and eventually you might ask the students to develop a question going into the paper instead of you providing it for them. It’s about slowly increasing the critical thinking level. In the beginning, much of their brain energy/focusing is taken up with the “simple” things associated with reading prof articles because it isn’t simple to them yet.

From yet another of my master’s colleagues:

Very cool. I am trying to do the same at the high school level. Of course these are exceptional high school students. I too have them do a summary. I also make them write up 10 “thoughtful” questions about the paper, research, validity of results etc. Then they present their summary and questions. Sometimes other students can anwer the questions. This leads to pretty cool discussions. I will say some of the vocab gives them fits, but if they have to look it up to understand a paper instead of just regurgitating the dictionary I think they get more out of it.

From one of the postdocs at Indiana while I was running around the halls (yes, there was an Indiana-heavy response to this…)

Always challenge your students!
I had to read “real” papers as an undergrad, and it give me a major leg up in grad school. We started off in one class by having each one of us to do a simple summary of a paper (like a shortbook report, just to be sure we grasped the point of the paper). Then, we had to analyze the paper itself piece by piece. Analyze this figure, what does it tell you? What are the data? How did the author(s) analyze them? We then presented our summary and analysis of the paper to the class. This really helps to develop good analytical and critical thinking skills, and I agree with Bridget-ramp it up so before they know it, they are thinking critically about what they read. Questions to focus that for a few assignments are good.
In most of my senior-level classes, we had 10 “great papers” assigned for reading and analyzing throughout the semester. Why are these classic papers? Why are they still cited? Then we had to go find three papers from the last few years that cited a “classic” paper, and analyze those. It made us learn about citations, using the library (old-fashioned, I know), and how people build on previous work.

via twitter, I also received a few shorter responses 🙂

I’ve found it’s good to have undergrads submit 2 questions before class, and/or to write a 1-pg reflection on the journal article (from @JacquelynGill)

I really appreciated the advice and my students will find themselves submitting something prior to our discussion this week.   But, despite my lack of requiring questions in written format, they came up with some good questions and got the conversation rolling along for 30 minutes.

I’ll post this week’s paper later this week along with what I ask them to submit just as an fyi.

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I keep working on integrating recent research papers into my upper level classes to increase the student’s awareness of current avenues of geology research & have them feel more comfortable reading scientific literature.   (Sidenote: I’ve been teaching at undergraduate-only institutions, so for the moment I’m ignoring papers + grad students.)   For petrology this fall, I’ve gone with a model of one paper a week from Geology.   I attempted to find articles from within the past year, but somehow metamorphic petrology research recently does not match well with the weekly subjects listed on my syllabus.   Interestingly enough, igneous petrology was easy to match (in fact, some topics had 2+ papers within the past year).

This week we’re covering intrusive & extrusive field structures along with the IUGS classification scheme.   The latter does not really lend itself to a paper discussion, so I went with:

Schofield, N., Stevenson, C., and Reston, T., 2010, Magma fingers and host rock fluidization in the emplacement of sills: Geology, v. 38, p. 63-66

(it is behind a firewall.   There seems to be one paper a month that is open access, but the rest still require a subscription.)

I asked the students to focus on determining what was data vs. interpretations and how “petrology” was used within the paper.   I have to admit, I’m not sure how this is going to go, but we’ll see if 1) they found the paper interesting and 2) if we can actually have a discussion about it instead of me just lecturing.

My question to my fellow instructors out there is this, how do you integrate research papers into your classroom?  Do you ask leading questions or require the students to turn in questions to spark the discussion?   Things that really work vs. crash & burn?

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