From the field: WY & UT (June 2017)

I just got back from a week out in southwestern Wyoming and southeastern Utah, doing fieldwork. It snowed on me on Wyoming (surprise!) and hit 106 degrees in Moab (not so surprising). Although the weather made sampling a little difficult, it wasn’t ruinous; I got a few paleosols (Eocene and Triassic), as well as some biological soil crusts, which I’m very excited about. We decided kind of at the last minute that I would foray into some basic DNA analysis for the bacterial communities, which I have absolutely zero experience in or knowledge of doing, but I’m pumped.

Here, have some field photos.


Snowy Wyoming in June! The locals were as surprised as I was.


Funky sandstones…

After Wyoming, I headed down to Green River to sample the Chinle Fm. in San Rafael Swell, which I hadn’t been to before. I arrived at sunset, and it was gorgeous.


Oh, hello paleosol! This guy was under a ledge that I hung out with for a while… it was hot out.


Biological soil crusties! Through a magnificent coincidence, I met up with my friend whose grandma happens to be one of the experts on soil crusts, so we went for a little hike and she pointed out all kinds of things.


Stopped in Canyonlands…IMG_7849

Got insanely lucky and found an empty site on the Colorado River at 9:30pm… this is sunrise the next morning. Beautiful!IMG_7864

Got up very early to sample crusts outside of Canyonlands.IMG_7866IMG_7867


Lewis & Clark Astrobiology grant!

I’m excited to say that I was awarded a grant from the Lewis & Clark Exploration Fund, partnered with NASA, to support fieldwork in Iceland! I’m not sure when I’ll be heading up there, but I will be sampling modern soils and biological soil crusts to look at Fe cycling in volcanic material-parented soils.


From the field: India (March 2017)

In March, I spent two days on planes and in airports, five days in India, and two more days in transit. Short time in the field, but it was worth it. We went to collect paleosols from the K-Pg boundary on the eastern edge of the Deccan Traps, with the end goal of doing carbon and iron analyses.


After a midnight-to-8-am layover in Mumbai, we flew into Nagpur to meet with our collaborators from Nagpur University. (For a first time mega-jetlag experience, it was a doozy. Trying to talk to people in meetings, let alone stay awake, was a problem.) After a crash two-hour nap and a nice dinner, my field partner and I slept hard. Then we spent four days looking at Cretaceous and Paleocene rocks, all intertrappean beds of the Deccan Traps. Some paleosols, some lake beds, most hydrothermally altered – but not all. We’d also hoped to collect a few plant fossils, but the key sections didn’t yield much. We saw roadside shrines and drank chai and photographed only one of many monkeys spotted. (Sadly, no tigers were seen.) One camel on the sidewalk. Many feral dogs. An oxcart race on the drive back from the last field stop of the trip. It was a short blip of fieldwork, but I think we both got a lot out of it.

Geology photos


Touristy photos 


Becca in India
Me with a particularly wavy contact, looking very much like a geologist. #dorkyfieldhat

MGU 2017

Small conferences can be helpful too. In just a three-department conference, I had the opportunity to talk to professors and students in my field and in other fields, and I got several really good ideas from those conversations.

Lesson: Always talk to as many people as you can! You never know who can help.


In which I receive my first grant!

It’s almost the end of the second semester of grad school, and after getting the “Thanks, but no thanks” letter from two other grants, I was pleased to discover that I have received a grant from the Geological Society of America to continue my work on iron in soils. This summer, I’ll be going to Wyoming to collect fossil soils from during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum to measure iron mineral concentrations. While I’m out there, I’ll also pick up a few more modern soils… having more samples is always better!

Now I’ll just be waiting to hear if I got funded to go to Iceland… fingers crossed.

Oh, I also went to India for fieldwork for a week – but that’s another post. A teaser: me in the requisite dorky field hat, chipping away at some chert.


Eight weeks in…

…and I haven’t run screaming for the hills (despite a certain instrument’s best efforts to kick me out). Research progress is painfully close to zero, thanks to the ICP-OES failing to cooperate for three months now. No new data since July, save for one probably-safe-to-use-the-data run from last week, before the ICP crapped out again. Sigh. Between that and classes (aka time black holes), two months have slipped by with pitifully little to show for it.

But wait, that’s not totally true! I did find out that part of the question I’m trying to tackle is apparently a big, ongoing thing that people have been trying to do for a while now. Luckily, I’m at a great research university with excellent faculty to work with, but realizing that was like finally getting my other foot stuck in quicksand. Ah well. Someone hand me a whiskey and I’ll gladly sink.