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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winter Term in China: Zanna's Take

Hey everyone! This winter term I was in China with Amanda and Marcus. I flew out to Chengdu on Jan. 4th and was there until the 20th collecting sand for 10Be testing in order to determine upstream erosion rates along the Jinsha River. Starting out there was actually 7 of us since it was Marcus and me, Al, Wong Yu Mei, and Liam and Maisy. It was really fun to be in such a big group that was so excited to be doing fieldwork. It didn’t hurt either that three people in the group were fluent in Mandarin so getting around became relatively easy.

After a day in Chengdu, we started traveling south to our sample sites. We did a whole lot of mountain driving and off-roading through rural villages in addition to lots of climbing down slopes off the sides of the roads with our shovel, sieves, and sample bags. Twice we ended up in traffic jams on the side of the mountain because they were still building the road in front of us! Most of the time we found partial roads down to the river, including our second site, trash kingdom. The site was below the highway and there was so much trash collecting in part of the river we all initially assumed it was a sandbar. So despite the fact that the air was pretty clear, it wasn’t always a great thought to think about how much polluted water we were sieving. We had two other big adventure days: once, we hit the end of the road where the bridge across the river was still being built. Amanda hired a boat and we climbed down under the bridge to take the boat to our sample site. It was cool to see the landscape from a boat in the middle of the river, rather than from the side. Bonus: our boat driver was the 10th greatest hero in Yunnan; apparently you can look him up on Baidu (China’s Google equivalent). The other day Marcus missed due to sickness. After driving up into the mountains we took a hairpin road on the edge of a cliff that had the mirage effect of looking better than it was, but was all landslide rock. As a testament to how “in the middle of nowhere” we were, halfway down we came upon a guy and his donkeys who looked shocked to see us and answered with, “You’ve made it this far” when Amanda asked if the road led to the river.

We traveled as far south as Panzhihua, where it was sunny and in the 70s every day. It was really nice to be sieving in the river then. It also seemed each of our sites was prettier than the next! Throughout the entire trip I enjoyed the food too. We did a lot of veggies and rice, but also tried fish a couple times and of course had noodles and steamed buns. The yogurt was probably my favorite snack along with their milk tea. We finished collecting our samples early and managed to do a few cultural things upon returning to Chengdu. We went to an archaeological museum, the coffee district, and the walking streets; it was such a contrast to the poorer communities and minorities we’d seen in the mountains, but good to see both sides. Overall, it was a great trip and interesting to travel in a country based on geology rather than tourism or business. Not to mention, I learned a lot about China in addition to gaining experience with fieldwork! I’m excited to see/hear how the analysis side goes when our samples eventually arrive.

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