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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Winter Term 2016: Marcus' Post

Hello everybody! The bulk of my first Winter Term at Oberlin was spent doing research in China with a crew of others who all seemed to be geologists at heart. This trip was eventful from the get-go, from dealing with crazy TSA lines and unfortunate weather delays, to overcoming the local cuisine, there was so much more of everything than I had anticipated.

We spent the first two days in Chengdu while waiting for my delayed luggage to arrive in China. This free time allowed us to have a little bit of the touristy experience, so Maisy and Liam took Al, Zanna and I to see pandas at the Chengdu Panda Research Base. After spending a few hours there, we all crammed into one taxi and made our way back to the university to explore for a bit. This was followed by listening to a talk about the relationship between health and air quality within China at Sichuan University. Not surprisingly, there was a correlation between increased pollution and health hazards, but what was interesting was that transportation output didn’t seem to be the biggest factor. The first day was really enjoyable as we were able to see firsthand things that were distinctive and relevant to China, like pandas and unfortunately pollution.

As for the actual field work, we sampled from a variety of sites, each unique and holding their own entry hazards. With the first couple it was mainly figuring out a way to navigate through the garbage. The first in particular wasn’t too bad as it was at the base of a construction site, while the next few really involved a lot of maneuvering around decent sized cobbles. Getting down was only half the battle as finding a good spot along the river that had sandy material to sieve, rather than mud, wasn’t easy. Although having so many people willingly to get their hands and feet wet really made the process easier.

Speaking of tasks that weren’t easy, Amanda really had the worst of it with some of the driving she had to do. Both she and the rental car deserve at least a few medals for going through what seemed like worse and worse road conditions every day. As we were heading up a mountain one night a blanket of fog completely engulfed the car, reducing visibility to maybe 5 feet at most. There were also the countless wēi qiáos (dangerous bridges) that were both crossed and thankfully just passed. Tunnels that stretched on for kilometers, without and without lights, and of course other drivers. As tense as some of that driving was, it really did provide for some of the best views you could get while traveling. There were several times where it felt incredibly surreal to be looking out and see such impressive terrain right outside the window. Coming back home to the mid-west where the land is all flat, I definitely miss having such amazing landscapes before me on long car rides.

Getting to try all sorts of different food was also a fun time. As someone who isn’t particularly skilled in using chop-sticks it was a task just getting it from the serving plate to my bowl, but by the end I had improved considerably. Although I am an adventurous eater it seems I’ve got a fairly weak stomach, and even trying to stick with the less spicy stuff, authentic Chinese food got the best of me. Nonetheless this trip was an amazing adventure to go on, missing luggage and stomach bugs and all. As Zanna mentioned, exploring China for its geologic information provides an experience that is completely unlike one you’d get as a tourist or someone on business. Getting to spend just over two weeks in great weather doing field work for the first time really made this a fantastic way to start the New Year, and im excited to see the data that will come out of it. I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of this trip, and really hope to go on more in the coming years.


Left to right: Amanda, Maisy, Liam, Marcus, Zanna, Al, Wong Yu Mei

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