The fall semester is in full swing and the Sedimentary Systems Research group is busy with research and teaching. Refer to the Research page for general descriptions of the ongoing projects that are discussed below.
M.S. candidate Patrick Boyle is starting the second year of his master’s after a valuable industry internship experience in Houston this summer. Pat’s thesis research is focused on reconstructing the Cenozoic history of deep-sea sedimentation on the Newfoundland Ridge with an emphasis on the response of the abyssal Deep Western Boundary Current to past climate change. Pat is mapping the distribution of contourite ‘drift’ deposits using seismic-reflection data tied to chronological and lithological information from IODP Exp 342 cores. Pat will be presenting a poster about this work at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco in December.
Ph.D. candidate Neal Auchter had a productive summer working on various components of his research. Neal’s work encompasses multiple scales. At the finer scale, Neal is interested in the stratigraphic record of submarine channel systems, especially the architecture that is produced as a result of channel migration. He is also investigating larger-scale, longer-term basin-filling patterns and history. Neal spent a lot of time this summer characterizing and interpreting outcrop data that was collected in February-March in Patagonia. He also completed a small pilot study to test the utility of strontium isotope stratigraphy with the limited carbonate material in the Magallanes Basin, which informs the design of a sampling campaign for the upcoming field season.
Ph.D. candidate Cody Mason is very busy processing and analyzing samples for a thermochronologic study he is doing with Virginia Tech faculty Jim Spotila (active tectonics, geomorphology). Cody will present some preliminary results of this work at AGU in December. Cody is also planning for a second field work excursion to Panamint Valley in California in October. This project aims to examine the role sediment flux (calculated from cosmogenic radionuclide-derived paleodenudation rates) has on stratigraphic architecture. This next field season will focus on creating a detailed stratigraphic framework with a combination of measured sections, facies analysis, and high-resolution mapping of the stratigraphic architecture. This framework will then be used to design the cosmogenic nuclide sampling plan. Neal will be heading out there with Cody to assist.
Undergraduate researcher Sarah Ault spent a good deal of the summer helping me test and establish sample preparation procedures for grain-size analysis of terrigenous deep-sea sediment. There was a lot of trial and error and a series of minor issues with laboratory equipment, but we now have a robust set of procedures and are now at full throughput. Data is being generated! Sarah is examining the controls on distinct cycles in these sediments that alternate from clay-rich to carbonate-rich beds at the 10s of cm scale. She will be using terrigenous grain-size analysis to test the hypothesis that the carbonate production was ‘diluted’ by varying influx of terrigenous material.
A new undergraduate researcher, Chris Matthews, started working in the lab last month. In addition to helping me analyze samples for longer-term research goals, he will be testing a widely used contourite facies model with quantitative grain-size data.
I’m very busy teaching this fall. I’m teaching the undergraduate Sed-Strat course for our geoscience majors (Pat and Neal are TAing this course), running the Seismic Stratigraphy course for the second time, and leading a grad seminar on sedimentary basins. Busy! And, as always, I’m working on a few manuscripts and proposals in between all of the teaching and mentoring.
Finally, we didn’t have any new graduate students join the group this fall, but I will be bringing in at least one, possibly two, grad students to start in August 2014. The deadline for applying is in January and I’ve already been corresponding with several prospective students. Please contact me if you’re interested in learning more.