Wednesday wanderings

I’m back in MA for the first week of the spring semester, so this week’s picture is from the warmer clime I just left. Points for both volcanoes names plus where I must have been to take the picture — warning, the latter is slightly tricky!



Where do labs come from?

I have lab on Tuesday & Thursday this semester (same lab, just half the physical students have lab on Tues & the other 1/2 on Thurs). As I was putting out lab & taking pictures of the samples for my own documentation, I contemplated the fact that of the 13 labs I have scheduled for this semester, I only designed one from the ground up. Let me give you the chart & where they were originally from:

Lab 1 Rock Stories Gustavus lab manual
Lab 2 Scientific method Kim Hannula
Lab 3 Minerals I Gustavus lab manual
Lab 4 Minerals II Gustavus lab manual
Lab 5 Rocks I Gustavus lab manual
Lab 6 Rocks II Gustavus lab manual
Lab 7 Forest River Park Rory McFadden
Lab 8 Topographic maps Gustavus lab manual
Lab 9 locating epicenters Virtual Earthquake
Lab 10 Structural geology Me!
Lab 11 Fossils still looking for a good one to use…
Lab 12 Groundwater currently use one found on internet, but we just got “ant farms” that I want to try and use
Lab 13 Stream table also something I want to add this semester cause we have the resources…

As you can see, I lean strong on the Gustavus material for the rocks & minerals labs, but that department-created lab manual then goes off and focuses on a three-week sequence that involves field trips & drawing a cross-section of the St. Peter, MN area. I can do one week of field trip at Salem State, but only because we can walk to Forest River Park. That field trip is not going to result in being able to determine the geology of the entire Salem quadrangle, so I needed to go another direction.

(The rocks & mineral labs have tweaks due to the fact that I have a different set of samples available, but on the whole, the lab looks amazingly like what I taught while in MN.)

Kim Hannula replied to a tweet that I posted about a year ago & was kind enough to send me her Scientific Process lab. I modified it a bit (had to choose new buildings to measure the distance between) and changed the order of the questions after a few mutterings from the students, but it would be easily recognizable to Kim.

For the topographic map lab, the basis is the Gustavus lab, but I modified it heavily to have the students looking at local maps of Salem and eastern Massachusetts. Still, the bare bones are there if you hold them next to each other.

Unsurprisingly, I got the Forest River Park lab from another professor at Salem State. He had previously received (& modified it) from a different professor. I added a few of my own “twists” to the lab, but it is fairly close to what Rory runs in his physical class.

Though I use the data & maps from the online Virtual Earthquake site, I do print the seismographs out and have the students do the entire process by hand. Its just fun to see the students trying to remember how to use a compass to draw a circle.

Two semesters ago, I used a lab manual for the structure lab. It was the students’ least favorite lab, so I vowed to revise. This past semester, I came up with an entirely online lab where the students use Visual Geology to answer a sequence of questions and then create their own 3D blocks for the final step. The students enjoyed the lab, though I think I need to modify the questions a bit to get more educational benefit from the assignment…

My office-mate is a paleontologist and has an intro fossil lab that I may try and use this year, but I’m open to suggestions. I started lab a week earlier this semester, so this is a new one on the schedule, but students have asked for fossils in the class.

We have equipment to for a more hands-on Groundwater and Stream lab, so my goal is to develop at least one of the two this spring. Or find someone else who has already done the work and tweak. Suggestions anyone? (the groundwater models are new, but the stream table is ancient and definitely not an Emriver model)

As I look at this list, I realize how blessed I have been to be able to take a bit from here and a bit from there for my physical labs. In contrast, when I think of my mineralogy, petrology & structure labs, they are to a large part either slightly modified from what I had or taught as a grad student. There are a few additions from the SERC workshops I’ve attended, but its not nearly the hodgepodge that physical has become.

So, let me ask anyone else out there who teaches intro geology: what do you use for labs? A hodgepodge? A published lab manual? All labs you created yourself?

(Note: this is a bit self-serving, since I’m still trying to find a few more labs to use!)

Wednesday wanderings

I just got back from Naples & Rome, so today’s picture is another taken on the trip:


Taken at Pompeii just outside the town’s walls. Not the difference in elevation between the current farm & the one abandoned after the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius.

Wednesday Wanderings

As you might have noticed, I didn’t blog much in 2012. Some of it was being busy, but I also simply got out of the habit. I’m going to try for 2013 to improve on that record…

One thing I did manage in 2012, though, was to visit a number of new locales including my first forays out of my normal North American – European haunts. I’ve got pictures on pictures on pictures, so I’m going to try to dole them out over the course of the next few months. And I would start with one of those old trips, but as luck would have it, I’m currently celebrating New Years away from Boston. So, here’s my first picture for 2013:


Just to make things interesting, where am I? If you can get down to street name, I’ll be impressed ūüôā

Jennifer over at Fuzzy Science is hosting Accretionary Wedge #47: Field Notes. I love somehow just the feeling of pulling out a Rite in the Rain to start sketching or commenting to myself about a textural relationship I should examine further back at home, so I decided better late than never.

One of the things I’ve noticed while teaching is that my field notes have evolved. Back when I was a student, my notes frequently only included whatever information was required by the professor:


At field camp, I was very, very good and following the directions & nothing more:


But in moving out of under someone else’s watch (and the advent of digital cameras), I find my field notes a bit messier with a higher likelihood of random commentary. Examples would include on a professional field trip where the sketches are really to orient the digital pictures that were taken:


When I teach in the field, I also find some random commentary absent elsewhere like:
-fun facts learned about students
-when we arrived & left an outcrop for planning purposes for the next year
-drawings made to explain random things the students ask about in the field


My research field notes include the most “color” since I usually assume no one else cares what I’ve included. The following has 1 page of a cm by cm survey I was doing of the variation across an outcrop (really thrilling) and the other is just the random stuff that happened that day in the field:


My fieldbook collection is broken down by what institute or what the research project was. Some are bursting at the seems while others have relatively little in them. But I wanted to keep things easy to find, so that when use pictures from a field trip in 07 while teaching at Vassar, I can pull the right book quickly off the shelf.


(my masters field notes appear to be somewhere else currently… hmm, have to look through some boxes)

Weirdly enough, today I cracked open a brand new field notebook to take with me off to the SERC workshop on Saturday, since we’re supposedly going on a field trip Sunday. (I say supposedly, since thunderstorms & lightening is predicted and there is a limit to the statement “we’ll go out no matter what the weather,”)


Callan started a geo-meme several days ago based on 101 American Geo-Sites You’ve Gotta See by Albert Dickas.

I’ve bolded the ones on the list that I’ve visited.

1. Wetumpka Crater, Alabama
2. Exit Glacier, Alaska
3. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
4. Meteor Crater, Arizona
5. Monument Valley, Arizona
6. Prairie Creek Pipe, Arkansas
7. Wallace Creek, California
8. Racetrack Playa, California
9. Devils Postpile, California
10. Rancho La Brea, California
11. El Capitan, California
12. Boulder Flatirons, Colorado
13. Interstate 70 Roadcut, Colorado
14. Florissant Fossil Beds, Colorado
15. Dinosaur Trackway, Connecticut
16. Wilmington Blue Rocks, Delaware
17. Devil’s Millhopper, Florida
18. Stone Mountain, Georgia
19. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
20. Borah Peak, Idaho
21. Menan Buttes, Idaho
22. Great Rift, Idaho
23. Valmeyer Anticline, Illinois
24. Hanging Rock Klint, Indiana
25. Fort Dodge Gypsum, Iowa
26. Monument Rocks, Kansas
27. Ohio Black Shale, Kentucky
28. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
29. Four Corners Roadcut, Kentucky
30. Avery Island, Louisiana
31. Schoodic Point, Maine
32. Calvert Cliffs, Maryland
33. Purgatory Chasm, Massachusetts
34. Nonesuch Potholes, Michigan
35. Quincy Mine, Michigan
36. Grand River Ledges, Michigan
37. Sioux Quartzite, Minnesota
38. Thomson Dikes, Minnesota
39. Soudan Mine, Minnesota
40. Petrified Forest, Mississippi
41. Elephant Rocks, Missouri
42. Grassy Mountain Nonconformity, Missouri
43. Chief Mountain, Montana
44. Madison Slide, Montana
45. Butte Pluton, Montana
46. Quad Creek Quartzite, Montana
47. Ashfall Fossil Beds, Nebraska
48. Scotts Bluff, Nebraska
49. Crow Creek Marlstone, Nebraska
50. Sand Mountain, Nevada
51. Great Unconformity, Nevada — at the very questionable outcrop just outside Vegas…
52. Flume Gorge, New Hampshire
53. Palisades Sill, New Jersey
54. White Sands, New Mexico
55. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
56. Shiprock Peak, New Mexico
57. State Line Outcrop, New Mexico
58. American Falls, New York
59. Taconic Unconformity, New York 
60. Gilboa Forest, New York¬†— 8th grade fieldtrip
61. Pilot Mountain, North Carolina
62. South Killdeer Mountain, North Dakota
63. Hueston Woods, Ohio
64. Big Rock, Ohio
65. Kelleys Island, Ohio
66. Interstate 35 Roadcut, Oklahoma
67. Mount Mazama, Oregon
68. Lava River Cave, Oregon
69. Drake‚Äôs Folly, Pennsylvania — I even have a bottle of oil from the well tapped on the 150th anniv
70. Hickory Run, Pennsylvania
71. Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania
72. Beavertail Point, Rhode Island
73. Crowburg Basin, South Carolina
74. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
75. Mammoth Site, South Dakota
76. Pinnacles Overlook, South Dakota
77. Reelfoot Scarp, Tennessee
78. Enchanted Rock, Texas
79. Capitan Reef, Texas
80. Paluxy River Tracks, Texas
81. Upheaval Dome, Utah
82. Checkerboard Mesa, Utah
83. San Juan Goosenecks, Utah
84. Salina Canyon Unconformity, Utah
85. Bingham Stock, Utah
86. Whipstock Hill, Vermont
87. Great Falls, Virginia
88. Natural Bridge, Virginia
89. Millbrig Ashfall, Virginia
90. Catoctin Greenstone, Virginia
91. Mount St. Helens, Washington
92. Dry Falls, Washington
93. Seneca Rocks, West Virginia
94. Roche-A-Cri Mound, Wisconsin
95. Van Hise Rock, Wisconsin
96. Amnicon Falls, Wisconsin
97. Green River, Wyoming
98. Devils Tower, Wyoming
99. Fossil Butte, Wyoming
100. Steamboat Geyser, Wyoming
101. Specimen Ridge, Wyoming

I’ve only got 25 from the original, plus 4 on the “extra” list. ¬†Obviously, time for a road trip!

Callan‘s additions:

102. Purgatory Chasm, Rhode Island
103. Volcanic Tableland (Bishop Tuff), California
104. Ringing Rocks, Montana
105. The Whaleback, Pennsylvania
106. Compton Peak, Virginia
107. Jockey’s Ridge, North Carolina
108. Mauna Kea summit, Hawaii
109. Tumbling Run, Virginia
110. Adirondacks, New York

Simon at Metageologist is hosting AW #44 this month & the chosen theme is “Most important teacher.” ¬† I have to say, this was an easy choice for me, though as I thought about it a bit more I realized that I really should also give a few “runner-up” acknowledgements.

For me, the title “important teacher” comes into play because that person has influenced not just my knowledge of a particular subject, but has also changed how I address research or teaching or just life in general (or all three). ¬† So, I need to give a few shout-outs per category first:

  • most influential on how I live my life: this one goes to someone who was never actually a “teacher” but was instead my Girl Scout leader in high school. ¬† I’m a nerd. ¬† I’m a nerd who was in Girl Scouting all the way through high school eventually earning my Gold Award (equivalent of the Eagle Scout). ¬† I had a variety of leaders over the years, most of whom were mothers of someone in the troop. ¬† But Barb Burri was a single woman who was crazy enough to be the leader of the high school troop in the town I grew up in. ¬† At the time, Barb worked in computers (she’s changed careers since then…), she liked camping, skiing, hiking, cooking, reading, had a wicked sense of humor, and would voluntarily spend Wednesday nights with a group of high schoolers. ¬† I grew up in a family that spent plenty of time outdoors, but here was a woman that would encourage us to try and cook a 35-lb turkey at a town-wide encampment and who was willing to discuss a wide-range of topics I never really wanted to bring up with my parents. ¬† Because of Barb, I’m now the crazy woman with a troop of middle school girls (none of which is mine…), who volunteers my time freely to a wide-range of organizations, and could make the hard decisions about balancing life vs. work without agonizing about it.
  • most influencial on my teaching style: this has to go to Jim Brophy at Indiana University, who opened my eyes to ways to teach other than just lecturing (sorry to all of my school & undergrad profs, who probably also tried this — I just didn’t get the message); my 1st semester as a grad student, I worked under Jim on an Earth Materials class for envi studies and education undergrads with a few archeology grad students thrown in for fun and sitting in the back of the class was eye-opening. ¬† Jim used reading reflections that were due before class started, he had interactive questions for the students to discuss in small groups during lecture, and the analogies he used (M&M’s in a bucket for xtal fractionation) stick with me even 10+ years later. ¬† I still teach plate tectonics & the model of the atom the way he did in that class, because he started with the evidence & moved to what current paradigms are while demonstrating the scientific process along the way. ¬† I took several grad classes with Jim during my two years at IU, which were all great, but the most memorable was learning MELTS by starting with the original simple mixing model papers and reading the literature that forms the backbone for this powerhouse of ig pet. ¬† Other people have influenced my teaching style, but none as much as Jim. ¬† Oh, and Jim would also want you to know: a basalt is NOT a basalt is NOT a basalt.
  • most influential on my research: Jane Gilotti at UIowa. ¬† (a few people may now start wondering if aliens have taken over my blog, but I’m serious on this one) ¬† Jane has very, very high expectations and pushed me more than anyone else I’ve worked with. ¬† When I took microstructural analysis with Jane my first semester at Iowa, she flat out told me that my work was going to be graded to a higher standard than the masters or undergrads in the class. ¬† My thin section sketches back from that class are covered in red. ¬† But I worked my butt off to get my presentation & paper for that class up to her standards. ¬† I continued to work like crazy to get my talks up to par over the next few years and one of my most treasured compliments was a “well-done” from Jane after I ran the tectonics research group discussion a few years into my PhD. ¬† My writing improved greatly under Jane (though it probably could still be better), which has made writing papers, proposals, and even just short statements for students that much easier. ¬† Its Jane’s high standards that really pushed me and I’m grateful for it.

Ok, so now that I’ve rambled on a bit about the runner’s up, my real choice for “most important teacher” is: Kim Hannula. ¬† (Kim, you could stop reading now…) ¬† I lucked out and was assigned to Kim’s freshman seminar class my first year at Middlebury. ¬† I was the stubborn student who thought she knew exactly what she was going to do & when, but Kim managed to steer me over the next few years, so that somehow I ended up at a metamorphic geologist and not as a planetary scientist (based on jobs available, best decision ever).

Teaching-wise, Kim would always write an outline of the topics that were going to be covered that day on the board, so we had an idea of where we were in the day’s lecture — my outline is a reoccurring slide in powerpoint, but same idea. ¬† Some of my intro labs (and the majority of my structure labs) are either directly taken from Kim or modified to some extent from what I did as an undergrad.

From the research side, I worked with Kim in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on my undergraduate thesis. ¬† The numbering scheme I use to collect rocks, what my field notebook looks like, how I tend to set up the organization of a paper vs. appendices are all things that I learned during that project from Kim. ¬† And since that project had some pitfalls, it was also from Kim that I learned that what you want to do isn’t always what you’ll end up being able to do, but the alternative might actually be more interesting in the long run. ¬† Good thing I had that knowledge before I tackled my masters rocks or I might still be trying to figure out what was going on in those darn amphibolites. ¬† Once I started advising senior theses, I also tried to bring back into mind Kim’s interaction with me so that I could be that “good” advisor who actually was a help to my advisee.

On the personal side, I learned from Kim not to give up. ¬† (I’ll let Kim explain in her own words.)

In addition to being a great teacher, Kim has also been a wonderful mentor, someone who kicks my butt about not getting things done in a timely fashion, and a person who I rely on for good advice about both teaching and research. ¬† If I can be that kind of teacher for my students, I’ll be happy.