Monday, November 29, 2010

Home is...

...where you hang your hat. Or your towel. Or something

This month's Accretionary Wedge (hosted by Ann's Musings) is about your "home." What do you like - what's not so great. I put together a little GIS map showing the regional topography to give you an idea of the lay of the land. The area is dominated by bedrock-controlled ridges with Quaternary alluvium filling in the valley lowlands.

I like the challenges of piecing together the little bits of information that tell me about the evolution of this landscape. I also like that there are many scenic little rivers that are near my house.

I do wish we had some big mountains nearby...

...but I guess that's why we go on field trips.

I've blogged about western Wisconsin before:
Braided Streams of Yore
Driftless Area Origins Part One, Part Two
Fractal Landscapes

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lessons to be learned...

So, we had an election yesterday. It seems that my opinions differed greatly from the majority of everyone else who showed up to the polls. I guess there are lessons to be learned somewhere. Especially lessons related to marketing, message, and what people perceive as risk, versus actual risks.

I'm still finding my way through some stage of the grieving process. There is work to be done. There will be more work on my end than there could have been if the election had turned out otherwise. At least we didn't elect them for life...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I was going to try and post this Sunday, but I ran out of time. I'm having one of my classes measure some tombstones for their lab activity. They'll collect data on the width of marble tombstones a measurement at the top, and one at the bottom. Then they'll plot the change in thickness versus the date on the grave.

This is a pretty easy and fun activity - it's got some good pedagogy, too. It forces the students to actively participate in the learning activity, students have an opportunity to collect, graph, and analyze data. It also has connections with interesting and current research in the weathering rates of various materials.

I'm having the students use rulers, rather than calipers - I feel like the risk of damaging the grave markers is too high with students using a couple dozen steel calipers. I may try to get some inexpensive plastic-jawed calipers in the future. As a test, I gathered a few measurements from a nearby cemetery to see if students would be able to get usable data. Most of the thickness variation was more than 1mm, so they should get precise enough measurements to see a general trend. At the end of the week, we'll collate all the measurements and then the students will analyze and plot the class data - turning in a lab report next week.

My quick data collection produced a weathering rate estimate of about 0.03 mm/yr, which is fairly slow, compared to some other locations. But my data set is pretty small - and I suspect a few of these gravestones were "resurfaced" in some way.

A few links:

I based my lab activity off of the SERC's weathering rate activity write up:

GSA is sponsoring a research/outreach program about gravestone weathering, too - some cool and time-appropriate citizen science:

Monday, November 01, 2010

WIsh I was there...

Many geo types are fully involved with GSA again this year. Alas, I am unable to attend. But I plan on being in the Twin Cities for next year's convention. If I'm lucky, I'll have a student or two with a poster as well.

For now, enjoy the Accretionary Wedge and wave to the giant bear in the convention center. Last time GSA was in Denver, I caught pneumonia and spent my entire poster session sitting down, wheezing. Oh, and I lost my fleece. So I hope your Denver GSA is better now than mine was.