Welcome to the blog for the Oberlin College Geomorphology Research Group. We are a diverse team of students working with Amanda Henck Schmidt on geomorphology questions. This blog is an archive of our thoughts about our research, field work travel notes, and student research projects. Amanda's home page is here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Update on lab projects and notes from geomorph lab

Hi all,

This is Gaby writing again, it has been a while since my last post. Since the beginning of the semester, the lab group has run quite a few of the samples that Dom and I are working on. In fact, I think we have less than 10 samples to go, which is pretty exciting. Another good news is that the samples that the team collected in China this January arrived today! We are going to be pretty busy this spring with all the projects.

So, what are the next steps after running the samples for our watershed? Well, after inputting the first wave of data into our excel sheets (excel is incredibly useful!), we need to record the energy peak information to make sure all is going well, and that the channel that the detector has assigned to particular energies is not moving around and giving us misleading results. We want to make sure that we are always measuring the right “spot” or the right energy peak, so that results are more consistent, but also it makes it easier when subtracting background noise from the raw data. The step after this one would be to learn how to use a software called Angle, which helps us calculate further corrections that regard the volume and shape of the sample (more on this when we start using it).

Since I’m taking the geomorphology class this semester, there have been a lot of interesting connections that have occurred these past weeks between our work at lab and the class. One of the most basic but important concepts that I had an interesting time working through is that soils are not just simply deposited in sedimentary layers. This might seem pretty basic, but in geology there is strong emphasis on the idea that newer stuff deposits on top and that things are in chronological layers, with the deeper stuff at the bottom.

Soils do not fit this model very well. In fact, soils can be easily deposited or eroded, and they also can form “from the bottom” of the soil horizon, adding new soil that won’t necessarily receive radionuclides if it is deep enough. Besides all this ways soils can be moved around, there are also processes of bioturbation and other types of mixing that also conflict with the idea of chronological deposition. Just the fact that the “soils” are on top of each other is not an assurance about how the landscape formed. Like I said before, this might seem pretty basic, but realizing this did shatter a lot of my assumptions about landscapes. From now on I’ll be having a more critical mind on both the work that I do and the papers we read for lab.

Looking forward more connections and findings this spring semester, write to you soon,


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