There's something really satisfying about making a map.
I remember the first map that I made, for my introductory geology class... in Minnesota. We colored between topo lines. There was something really satisfying about it. At the time, I thought that I simply had never outgrown kindergarten, and that the physical act of coloring was the entire appeal.
Right now, I'm making simplified geologic maps for a talk that one of my students will be giving at Rocky Mtn GSA in a few weeks*. I'm using Illustrator**, not Rapidographs and colored pencils. I'm simplifying mapping done by other people. (And I'm going to remember to cite them in the captions. Makes note on importance of ethical professional behavior, especially while collaborating with a student.) And... I'm learning things.
The process of simplifying and coloring a map makes me think about the geology. Why is that metabasalt interlayered with the felsic gneiss like that? Why is the pluton shaped like that, anyway? Wow, is that really the only contact that isn't a shear zone?
My advisor taught me to color other people's maps - to photocopy journal articles, and color the figures, so that I would really see the spatial relationships. Tracing the contacts with my mouse has a similar effect.
And the purple blobs are quite soothing.
*I know, I could make her make her own maps. But I want copies to keep for future work, and she's working like a maniac on thin section photos and the powerpoint presentation. And we're co-authors on the abstract. I figure it's the least I can do.
**Yeah, I should get with the 21st century and learn GIS sometime. I know.
***Image modified from Gonzales and Van Schmus, 2007, Precambrian Research, v. 154, p. 31-70. And no, I'm not done editing it yet. Yes, I know it's missing a scale. And a location map. But it is very purple, which is the point at the moment.
Friday, February 29, 2008
There's something really satisfying about making a map.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
It's only a Mw 6.0. That means it's an order of magnitude smaller than the Borah Peak (Idaho) earthquake of 1983 (M 6.9) and the Hebgen Lake (Montana) earthquake of 1959 (M 7.3).
But, still, this morning there was a M 6 earthquake just east of Wells, Nevada. From the maps, it looks like it could be on a range-bounding fault on the next range east of the East Humboldt Range.
If there's a surface rupture, it should be a great place to visit - just south of I-80, on an alluvial fan, not much vegetation to obscure the geology.
The topography of the Basin and Range is controlled by normal faults: they have dropped the basins and lifted the ranges, and made the entire state of Nevada look, from space, like a washboard. But current deformation seems to be most intense near the California-Nevada border, where there is both strike-slip movement (part of the greater Pacific-North America plate boundary) and east-west extension. On the eastern side of the Basin and Range, there have been major earthquakes north of the Snake River Plain/Yellowstone area. The Wasatch Fault/Hurricane Fault, on the eastern edge of the Basin and Range, is considered potentially hazardous, but less so than the faults on the western side.
This earthquake is a couple hours drive from Salt Lake City, about 250 km from the Wasatch Fault. I'll be curious to see what the people who have been doing GPS monitoring of the Basin and Range have to say. Did they have continuous GPS stations in the area before the earthquake occurred? And did they see anything - anything - that could have told them that the fault was getting ready to go?
Edit: The USGS has added to its summary page. They think the earthquake occurred on a west-dipping fault, associated with the fault that bounds the Pequop Mountains (the range east of the earthquake). (The focal mechanism "beach ball" diagram has two possible solutions: one east-dipping fault, and one west-dipping fault.) That would make the rupture even more interesting to visit - it's very close to the east side of the hills between the Pequop and East Humboldt ranges. I want to go there and see for myself which side went up.
Edit 2: There's quite a bit of damage in Wells. Links from Salt Lake Tribune and KUTV News (with slideshow and video). There were lots of brick facades in downtown Wells - the damage looks pretty dramatic.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The USGS earthquake site is one of my favorite sites on the net. Maybe it's just that I'm a hopeless seismic rubber-necker. But maybe it's the wealth of information the USGS makes available.
Each major earthquake has its own set of pages, with tabs for general information and maps and scientific information. And lately, they've added a number of new types of scientific information. There are more beachball diagrams, both for current earthquakes and for historic earthquakes. (The southern California earthquakes have particularly detailed information from the Southern California Earthquake Center.)
And then, for some earthquakes, there are diagrams like this (from the Feb. 20, 2008 Mw 7.5 earthquake off of Sumatra):
Look! It's a subduction zone! Ok, yes, I knew that. But it's nice to see the earthquake foci in cross-sectional view. The subducting plate coming in from the left is nearly flat, until it reaches the islands of Nias and Simeulue, and then it heads down into the mantle. The big triangular area of orange and yellow dots probably represents the thrust faults in the accretionary wedge. (I wonder if the earthquakes near the surface on Sumatra are on the strike-slip fault that runs down the island, or if they are volcanic earthquakes? Does anyone know?)
There are black and white images like this, of Wadati-Benioff zones, in all sorts of textbooks. But it's nice to be able to see recent earthquakes plotted in this context.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
It snowed on our winter festival this year.
It never snows on the winter festival. Ever since I've moved here, it's been the big joke in town: at the end of January, right at the time of the winter festival, the snow will all melt. And when La Nina kicked into gear this fall, season passes at the ski area seemed like a really bad idea.
We were wrong. We've had a good three feet of snow at the foot of the mountains, and up high, on the Continental Divide, there's a lot more. Good news for skiers and for places that rely on water from the Colorado and Rio Grande. Not such good news for geology field trips (though my classes, for some reason, are not complaining).
So what's going on?
We're on the south side of a mountain range that has several 14,000 foot peaks, and that averages 10,000 feet in elevation. That means that we get rather strange orographic effects: in order to get big dumps, we need our air to come from the southwest, from San Diego or Baja, rather than directly from the west. And this year, when we've had the big storms, the jet stream has done this:
(Source: San Francisco State University/California Regional Weather Server.)
When it gets to the Pacific, the jet stream makes this big loop north, sometimes all the way to the Bering Sea, and then goes almost straight south again, down to the Mexican border, and then shoots back north again... right over us. Over the course of a few days, the entire pattern shifts eastward, so later in the same week, there's a big loop from Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico and back up the East Coast to the Canadian Maritimes.
Now, I've been hearing about the jet stream for years, and even though I briefly touch on it in my intro earth science course, I don't fully understand it. The jet stream is a region of strong winds high in the troposphere (the bottom layer of the atmosphere), and is caused by temperature differences between the tropics and the poles. The temperature differences create pressure differences (because warm air is less dense than cold air, and less dense air rises), and the addition of the Coriolis effect means that the winds blow mostly in big circles around the globe. "Mostly," that is, because there are also waves in the jet stream (called "Rossby waves"), and their movement around the globe creates troughs and ridges that, in turn, create low and high pressure systems.
But why are the Rossby waves so big this winter? And, if this is a typical La Nina pattern, why didn't it happen last time there was a La Nina event? (La Nina events have colder than normal water in the eastern Pacific, and warmer than normal water in the western Pacific, and strong east-to-west trade winds. And they're traditionally associated with dry winters in the Southwest. I've always explained that pattern by invoking the lower evaporation of colder water over the Pacific, but perhaps I've understood it wrong all along.) And why do the big Rossby waves seem to develop over the Pacific - the winds through Asia are fast and strong and mostly west-to-east, but when the big storms develop here, the winds start looping way north and south across the Pacific.
How do ocean temperatures affect the development of these big waves in the jet stream? Does it have anything to do with ocean surface temperatures in the Bering Sea? How far south is the sea ice this winter, for that matter? Is this some of the stuff that's so hard to model in global climate models?
And is it going to dump snow on me again on Monday? I've run out of indoor things for the intro class to do.
And they won't be covering weather until the end of the semester.
(For the Accretionary Wedge, February 2008: "Things that make you go hmmmmmmm.")
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The Association for Women Geoscientists has a (fairly new, I think) peer mentoring program.
From the Laramide Chapter newsletter:
Expectations and benefits for participants:A few other pieces of information:
As a Mentor…
As a Mentee…
- You will likely talk by phone or email 2 times per month during your agreed time period… normally 6 - 12 month but relationships can be shorter or longer.
- You will be networking with the next generation… trying out new ideas
- You will gain new perspectives and likely tap into new directions within the profession (regeneration)
- Most mentors report learning new skills in coaching/mentoring and satisfaction of helping someone succeed
Benefits of the Peer Mentoring Center
- You will likely talk by phone or email 2 times per month during your agreed time period… normally 6 - 12 months but relationships can be shorter or longer.
- You can seek direct feedback in a confidential relationship
- A mentor will help enhance your networking skills
- You will be able to tap the career wisdom of the senior members of AWG
- Gain increased skills to self-direct your career
- Together you and your mentor will gain insights into the professional culture
- Most participants report gaining new role models and wider friendships
- Fits with adult learning preferences by building on work experience and practical exercises, by providing collaborative support via mentoring relationships, and by offering opportunities for participants to observe their own competencies.
- Builds on best practices and research in adult professional development mentoring.
- Provides easy access to mentoring guides and articles, tools for mentoring, self-assessments, and other resource materials. Materials have been written or assembled by an expert in mentoring research and practices.
- Anyone* can be a mentor; only AWG members can be mentees (for now).
- They are seeking mentors for both early career and mid-career professionals. (You can't sign up to be both a mentor and a mentee, though. Maybe that will change someday.)
- The interests include lots and lots of things outside academia (writing, management, government, various industries). I suspect that this network may be particularly useful for women seeking jobs outside academia - it can be very difficult to figure out just what the possibilities are, especially when everyone you know is trying to get a job at a research university.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
I don't have access to Nature Geoscience, so I haven't read the article published there on gender equity in the geosciences (“Gender Imbalance in US Geoscience Academia” by Holmes, O’Connell, Frey, and Ongley, p. 79-82) that Eric and Julia have recently written about. I've read the older "Where Are the Women Geoscience Professors?" report by AWG (and some of the same authors), however, and I've shared a GSA hotel room with one of the paper's authors. (Does that alone say something significant about women in geology?)
Jim asked what the women geobloggers thought, so here it goes...
First, the short answer: I think the best explanation for what I've observed over my career comes from Virginia Valian's gender schemas work. The basic idea is that people's expectations influence their perceptions of others (and of themselves), and these little differences in perception add up. So the statements about "intrinsic female attributes" (such as the ones Eric quotes: 'females in general prefer to teach'; 'females lack self-confidence'; 'females in general have a low interest in the subject matter'; and 'females don’t like field work') are the problems in themselves. Even when they aren't true about a particular job applicant (or woman coming up for tenure, or grant applicant, or paper author), the expectation that they will be true influences the people making the judgments.
It feels to me like I'm constantly having to disprove the same flawed hypotheses, over and over again. (I'm the first woman professor in any of the small schools in western Colorado - there were others on the Front Range, but in the triangle bounded by Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and the greater Salt Lake City area, I was the first.) No, I am not the department secretary. Yes, I can identify rocks. Believe me, it gets old after a while.
Second, the personal experience.
I graduated from college in 1989. Half of the students in my undergrad department were women. One of the four tenured professors was a woman. When I started grad school at Stanford, three of the five new PhD students were women. My graduate advisor was a woman. When I got my first teaching job in 1993 (with PhD in hand, and yes, that was very fast), I was the third woman in a six-person department. Things looked pretty good.
That department now has one woman out of six professors. (And I am not the one.) I've got a lot of stories that I could tell, but perhaps I will just tell two, one about research, and one about teaching.
Research: I heard through the grapevine that I supposedly was only given my PhD because I had gotten a job. (Umm. No. Actually, I hadn't intended to finish in four years, but when I met with my committee after 3.5 years, told them about the two papers I had nearly ready to submit, and asked them what to do next, they told me to finish. I panicked; I didn't feel prepared to take on the job market, especially in January. But I started applying for jobs, and got three interviews and two offers. And, yes, that was unusual. And remember I was the third woman in the department that hired me; I was not an affirmative action hire.)
Teaching: I taught this large lecture non-majors course, and to get discussion going on the first day of class, I asked each student to write a question on a notecard. One of the responses from students was "What's your sign? Who's your daddy?" Another was "Is it true that this is the easiest class on campus?" (I was filling in for another person who normally taught the course, by the way. I wasn't the person responsible for the reputation.) When the teaching evaluations came in, the students said the class was too easy.
I was denied tenure at that job. (By the administration; my department unanimously recommended me for tenure. The problem was with course evaluations in the large intro class and with letters from outside evaluators about my scholarship. I "wasn't excellent enough.")
I got another job, and I've got tenure now. But I'm not the only tenured woman professor in the geosciences with stories to tell. There are women who are incredibly brilliant and talented who have lost jobs, or have been passed over for promotions. Some had children; some, like me, did not. (I had my son after moving to Colorado.)
The academic job market in the geosciences has been extremely competitive in these past twenty years. It's hard for everyone to get the jobs that they want, and the hiring committees have a lot of good people to choose from. The two men who entered grad school with me both are tenured at major research universities, and I think their institutions are lucky to have hired them. They're great people, and extremely talented scientists.
The women I knew in grad school are also extremely talented people. But they aren't, in general, in as prestigious of positions.
The problem isn't the pipeline. There were plenty of women in the pipeline twenty years ago. They were in grad school with me, or they were new PhDs at GSA, smart and exciting. They should be tenured professors now, and leading cutting-edge sessions at GSA. But the demographics at conferences don't seem any different than they were when I started. Lots of women students. Not many women who are established scientists.
I don't think that the problem is entirely structural, either. (*Insert bad joke about faults here.*) Yes, it is incredibly difficult to juggle a small child and new teaching and research responsibilities. But it is even harder when you've also got to disprove flawed hypotheses. ("She's only interested in teaching." "She was only a courtesy co-author on that paper." "She doesn't want to do field work." "She lacks self-confidence." "She was only hired because she's a woman.") Changing the tenure clock to accommodate childbirth only helps if the committee doesn't think less of a woman for taking that option. (Or doesn't assume that the woman should write twice as many papers in that time.)
So what can we do about it? Well, question our biases. (Yes, all of us. Women too.) When we write letters of recommendation, make sure that we talk about women's talents as scientists, not just about how nice they are. When we read letters of recommendation, take "she's a great teacher" as a positive thing, not as a sign that the woman applicant is mediocre at research. And call other people on their biases, especially when we're on hiring or tenure or promotion committees.
It seemed like the work was over in 1989, or in 1993. But it isn't.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I just want to say how shocked and saddened I am to hear about the shooting in the introductory ocean sciences class at Northern Illinois University.
It is a nightmare that nobody should have to experience.
My condolences to the students, the geology department, and the parents and friends of the students who were shot.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Note: I was trying to think of something appropriately geological to write for Valentine's Day, and this is what came out. You have been warned.
Look. You were hot. Once. Maybe more than once. And when everything was in equilibrium, well, you were a thing of beauty. Your micas had that sparkle, and your andalusite was a porphyroblast. And when your garnets rolled, baby, there was nothing to do but watch your inclusion trail.
But let's face it. You were never particularly gneiss, and everything's cooled since then. Don't tell me that your textures have gotten complicated - you've retrograded. Your reactions are incomplete. You're retaining too much argon.
I changed you. And I suppose that's what I get for letting you take me for granite.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I've got a question for visualization gurus. (Or, well, anyone better at Powerpoint than I am, which is probably everyone. I still like slide projectors.)
Is there a good way to use a panorama in Powerpoint? Anything that can allow you to pan from one side of the image to another, or to zoom in to particular spots? (Ron, have you used gigapan images in Powerpoint, or do you normally open them in a separate file during class presentations?)
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Geotripper and Dinochick write that the National Park Service is consolidating its geology, paleontology, and museum work, replacing three positions with one, and outsourcing the research work. I'm not a paleontologist, so I don't know how critical it is to have in-house expertise at the Monument. I'm very sad, however, to learn that the visitor's center is closed - there are a lot of wonderful dinosaur displays in museums, but there's something special about seeing the bones right there, in the rock. For a geologist, seeing the bones in context is amazing - I can see the channel deposits, and the way the bones lie, and try to imagine what happened. And it's great to be able to see the real paleontologists at work down below the observation deck. It's inspirational to students, too, to see the real scientists at work (on DINOSAURS!).
(And on a personal note, as the parent of a preschooler who loves dinosaurs: I want to take him to see Dinosaur National Monument. I hope that paleontology is still a major part of the park when I finally get him up there.)
ReBecca at Dinochick Blogs has addresses for writing letters supporting the park.
(Since this is borderline political, let me add one statement: these opinions are my own, and do not represent the state of Colorado. This post was written on my own personal computer on a Saturday morning, so it does not constitute the use of Colorado state funds for a political purpose.)
Friday, February 8, 2008
I've got this gift certificate from Amazon that I received for Christmas. I should use it before I lose it (literally). I'm looking for suggestions of good books to read - especially anything about geology/general science/environmental stuff/feminism & science. (I'm also looking for suggestions of movies with spectacular scenery - for example, one of my favorite movies is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which I love especially for its landscapes.)
I'm planning to get Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which was recommended to me by several friends at GSA. (And I've read McPhee. Love it, own Annals of the Former World in two versions per essay, and use The Control of Nature and Assembling California regularly in classes.)
Anything you've found lately that is engaging, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read? (Or, for that matter, do you have a favorite classic popular science book? There's a lot that I haven't read.)
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
My four-year-old and I were discussing... I don't remember, actually, but I think it had to do with whether the South Pole was at the bottom of the Earth or not. And then, out of nowhere, he told me:
"You can't eat the earth's crust."
Remember that, next time someone asks: "did you lick it?"
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
It's a good thing that I'm not teaching Earth Systems Science this semester, and don't have to deal with the inevitable questions about whether this winter disproves global warming.
Here's the view from my house yesterday.
Hobbit Four-year-old for scale. If you look closely. See that red hood kind of sticking up out of the snow fort? That's him.
Classes were cancelled today, so that the college could plow parking lots and remove dangerous snow from roofs. I suspect, though, that today will go down in college legend as the Official Powder Day.
Meanwhile, there was an avalanche on the south end of town this afternoon. And I have the urge to make my structure class calculate the shear and normal stresses acting on the roof over their heads...
Monday, February 4, 2008
My threshold concepts poll is closed now, and the winner is... going from 2D to 3D. (Geologic time was a close second, though.)
I know I had a hard time making sense of 2-dimensional diagrams. I may be a structural geologist now, but it still takes some effort to interpret a complicated geologic map. (And mineral structure models? I have to stop and think and draw my own pictures of those.)
I like using physical objects to help students make that leap. Silly putty, play dough, pencils, pieces of paper, students' hands... in my opinion, there's nothing like being able to pick up and move an object, and really see it from all sides. But it's easier to share 2D images, whether in a book or on a computer screen, so 2D images just aren't going to go away.
Computers can help make the bridge between paper and physical models, and they're getting better all the time. It's hard to sort through them all, though, so here are some sites that I like.
- Webmineral.com. I found this just last week, by googling a mineral name with a student. It's like having a combination of Deer Howie and Zussmann and a good optical mineralogy reference book on the web, for free. But that's not all - it also includes crystal structure models that you can rotate or zoom into. (Check out magnetite and labradorite and quartz. Extra credit for rotating the quartz structure model until you are looking down the 3-fold symmetry axis...) If I were still teaching mineralogy, I would try to come up with some way to adapt the old pearwood model lab to include this.
- Geoblocks 3D. Steve Reynolds and colleagues at Arizona State University have been working on ways to help students visualize maps and cross-sections. This page links to a series of exercises using Quicktime movies to help students imagine what's inside block diagrams of dipping layers, folds, faults, unconformities and intrusions. I use the full set of exercises as pre-lab assignments in structure; there is also a short version designed for intro classes.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
I have a confession to make. I think planetary geology is the coolest stuff ever - it brings me back to my childhood, in the same way that dinosaurs do. But although I've at least got a better background to play in planetary tectonics than I do to talk about anything that used to be alive, I'm a long way from an expert.
One of the fun things about NASA on the web is that the new images are right there, available to the public. We can look and speculate all we like, though if we want to publish something serious, we would still have to go through the peer review process.
Take "The Spider," for instance.
Andrew has already blogged about it, and so has Greg Laden. (And I've been buried in a combination of grading and snow, and wouldn't have looked at it if Callan Bentley hadn't told me about it - thanks, Callan!)
NASA has an explanation of what they see (on this, and some other images). In the case of The Spider, they say it looks like the product of extension - like the spider's legs are grabens. Callan pointed out to me that the "legs" appeared to be curved away from a diagonal line (from lower left to upper right, Callan?), and wondered if there was a fault that altered the stress pattern when a meteorite hit.
Now, I don't have any answers about Mercury. I've never been there, and... well, I'm no fan of extreme temperatures, so I don't have any desire to go. So, without being able to slap a compass on the outcrop, how could I possibly know anything? Isn't it all just wild speculation?
Well, yeah, but you could argue that geology is mostly wild speculation, too, because we can't go back to the past and actually see what the world was like. But just as with geology, we can make models and think about what they predict and look at what little information we have. And we can reject models that don't explain what little data we have available.
In this case, we've got a crater, and we have these features stretching out from it. We've got some information about topography, because the image is illuminated from an angle. (If you're like me, you have to really work to see the image in 3D, though. I know the craters are supposed to be holes in the ground, so I guess that the light is coming from the right side of the image... but it sure looks like that crater is actually a welt.) So all those lines that extend away from the crater consist of two parallel scarps, with a lower-elevation area between them.
Our other biggest tool is probably cross-cutting relationships. The little craters cut across the "legs," so they're younger. A few of the "legs" seem to cut across others, so maybe we're seeing a sequence of events there, too.
And then we've got... well, experience in many cases, and intuition, to start with. If I were a modeler with a good grasp of continuum mechanics, my tool chest would be a lot bigger. I can still play with analog materials, though, if I want to figure out how I could get that pattern of fractures.
So, what do I see? Well, I agree that the area looks like it has stretched. And looks as if it has mostly stretched in a circle. (Blowing up a balloon expands the balloon's surface like this. Kind of.) But Callan's right, the fractures aren't entirely radial. That's where I wish I had a good command of stress and continuum mechanics - it almost looks to me as if the stretching is interacting with a regional stress field, maybe something that's pulling everything right and left. But stress interactions, especially around the tips of fractures, work in ways that are often counter-intuitive (at least to me), so it would be nice to be able to test my intuition with something a bit more quantitative.
Anyway... what do you see? (And does it really look like a spider? I think it looks more like a dandelion, just waiting to have its seeds blown off. Or maybe a lollipop with fuzz stuck to it. Or maybe a stick figure of Shiva. But the NASA guys called it a spider, so I guess it's The Spider.)
Friday, February 1, 2008
When I started teaching, I had to figure out how to handle the possibility that students might cheat. I wanted to create an atmosphere in which students could learn from each other - in my experience, science is a highly social experience, and the stereotype of the Lone Mad Scientist off in a lab creating a monster is a myth. (Well, except in the argon lab in the middle of the night, but we won't talk about those ignoble gases...) But on the other hand, I wanted the students to learn, not to copy answers from one another.
One of my solutions was to model my requirements after the scientific publishing process. If students were supposed to contribute equally to an assignment (and receive the same credit for it), they became the equivalent of co-authors. If they talked to one another, they had to add an acknowledgments section, where they would thank Lisa for explaining how to do a three-point problem, and Joey for bringing the iPod speakers so everyone could rock out during lab. And if something was published, they had to cite it in a list of references.
You can probably guess where I'm going with this, if you read the paleontology blogs. (Or science ethics blogs. Or Nature.) Researchers at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science have been accused of some very serious ethical violations. Publishing a new species name when they knew another group had a paper in review about the same issue? Publishing information that originated in a graduate thesis at another institution? Publishing insights discussed while visiting another museum's collection? These are the sorts of things that I hope that my students learn not to do. I want my students to learn that science is done best when people share ideas openly, but I also want them to be honest and fair about the sources of their ideas.
I'm teaching my department's writing class this semester. One of the things we discuss is professional ethics. We've talked about citations already, but we haven't talked about the ethical guidelines of GSA or AGU or AIPG yet. It looks like I'm going to have a new case study to discuss.