It has been a very adventurous, very busy, and very exciting month for me. My name is Melinda and I’m an undergraduate from the University of Vermont where I work in the Cosmogenic Nuclide Laboratory. How did I end up in Dominica? Here’s a little story:
In the fall semester, I was working on improving the methodology of extracting Beryllium-10 from olivine. Acid dissolution had some complications, so my research advisor, Paul Bierman, suggested flux fusion. However, we flux in a batch of 16 (where one is a blank), so 14 Dominica samples (pre-Maria) were added to this batch.
Soon after the world entered 2018, I received this fabulous opportunity to collect samples at the rivers in Dominica for post-Hurricane Maria data (thank you Amanda and Paul!). Fun fact: I love looking at extreme weather events and have a small dream to chase storms like the tornado chasers in the movie, Twister. In this two-week notice I had to prep for my first trip ever out of the country. I started my journey solo to Barbados at 5:30am. Waiting for the Oberlin fellows, I was able to see sea turtles, crystal blue waters, and be on an insane taxi ride (I’m originally from NYC so these taxis were a new rush). Only at almost midnight is when I met the other 3/4ths of the field team – Amanda, Marcus, and Ely (who I have never met until then). The next day, we headed to Dominica.
“Wow” is the one word I decided on to describe the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the hot, humid 80-degree weather with random rainstorms (which we were fortunately in the car or sheltered for the most part) we sieved at about 7-10 sample locations per day. How much I wished I saw pre-hurricane Dominica instead of having to just hear about the vast differences in landscape! There were many landslides and many rivers we sampled at carved a new channel and/or increased in discharge. The views were great, roads were cleared of debris (even though we got lost a few times), the rivers kept us cool, and chicken never failed us as a food.
|This is the place we stayed at where we had to walk through a river .|
|In the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, this trail was covered by fallen trees. However, they have made great progress in cleaning up.|
|Emerald Pool in the national park.|
During the last night of late night packing and organizing, I took a small portion of the samples that I needed – the ones that matched the sample locations and grain sizes of the pre-hurricane samples I used. Once I returned to Vermont, I went straight to work on extracting meteoric Be-10 in 2 weeks (in order for my samples to be analyzed on time). Fortunately, I don’t need very much of each sample, but I had to dry, sieve a few samples, and powder everything before I could flux. Between classes and work, I was (and still am) in the lab working on extracting Be-10 and drying them to pellets. Very soon, my samples pre- and post- Maria will be sent to the accelerator mass spectrometer in Livermore, California to be analyzed.
It has been a whirlwind from initially working with olivine to now working with Dominica samples, which I will be incorporating into my honors thesis. The beryllium isotope data I will receive will help understand sediment movement and erosion rates on Dominica. It will also be super exciting to compare the isotopes pre- and post-Maria!
One more fun fact: sieves caused a lot of trouble through security in my carry-on than the sand samples.
|A sneak peak of the meteoric lab and the flux fusion method used. The crucibles hold the sample and the addition of KHF2 and NaSO4 lower the melting point such that the sample can be fluxed.|
Here’s to great opportunities and meeting new people~