It’s been a busy several months for the VT Sed Systems Research group. I have three graduate students that started back in August, working on three separate projects.
Neal Auchter (Ph.D. candidate) and I traveled down to Chilean Patagonia together last month for his first field season in the Magallanes Basin. I spent a week and a half with Neal getting him oriented — geologically and logistically — in the region. I have returned to teach, but Neal is still down there working with our collaborators collecting outcrop data from Cretaceous deep-marine slope deposits as part of the Chile Slope Systems consortium. Neal will be presenting a poster about his work on submarine channel architecture at this year’s AAPG conference in Pittsburgh (May 2013).
Patrick Boyle (M.S. candidate) spent several weeks last semester trouble-shooting loading seismic-reflection data into interpretation/visualization software. Pat’s persistence and some help from experts in the marine geology/geophysics community paid off and he is now analyzing the data. Pat is mapping the distribution and character of deep-sea ‘drift’ deposits on the Newfoundland Ridge to test hypotheses about the onset and history of the Deep Western Boundary Current in the Cenozoic, an important component of global oceanic circulation. Pat is also presenting a poster at AAPG this year about his work.
Cody Mason (Ph.D. candidate) is working on a project with VT faculty member, Jim Spotila, investigating the exhumation and tectonic history in the Coachella Valley region of southern California. He’s been to the field area twice and has a bunch of samples keeping him busy. Cody and I will be heading out to the Panamint Valley area (near Death Valley, CA) next month for some reconnaissance field work related to a new project examining the role of sediment flux variability in stratigraphic architecture. Stay tuned for more about that in coming months.
Our computing and laboratory facilities are up and running in newly renovated space here in Derring Hall. We’ve got two workstations that can run Petrel, Kingdom, ArcGIS, Python, Adobe Creative Suite, and many other software packages. I am working on the finishing touches of a grain size lab, which features a SediGraph 5120 particle size analyzer (accurately measures distributions from <1 micron to 100s of microns). I will have an undergraduate from the Geosciences department working on a research project this summer utilizing this new lab. Additionally, my sedimentary geology colleague here, Ben Gill, has set up a stable isotope lab in the same lab suite that he and his students are using to investigate environmental change in Earth’s past (from Paleozoic to Mesozoic carbonate successions).
I am teaching a seismic stratigraphy course this semester, which hasn’t been offered in our department for several years. We were able to acquire seismic-reflection data, industry-standard software, and even some new hardware from generous donors to the department, all of which is helping to modernize the course and give the students valuable experience.
Next week, I head to Bremen, Germany to help sample the nearly 5 km of sediment cores acquired on IODP Expedition 342 in summer 2012. Over the next few years I will be collaborating with other Exp 342 scientists investigating the history and influence of the Deep Western Boundary Current in the North Atlantic Ocean, especially through significant global climatic change (e.g., Eocene-Oligocene boundary).
Exciting times ahead for the group, stay tuned!