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Seagoing Science Revisited

Posted: Aug 3 2010 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Field-Based Learning, History of Geosciences, Gender and Geosciences

I'm writing from the Coast Guard research icebreaker Healy, offshore from the Aleutians, where I am at sea with my husband Dale and daughter Dana. Dale spends four to five months a year aboard this ship, making the complex suite of science instrumentation work for science cruises in the Arctic. But I've never been on this ship, and Dana has never been on any research vessel. The Coast Guard sometimes allows family members to ride the ship during transit legs, and so Dana and I are aboard for the three day run from Seward, Alaska, to Dutch Harbor.

I feel a bit like Rip van Winkle, having gone to sleep and awoken 17 years later to find that some things have changed in seagoing science and others have stayed the same. I last sailed in 1993, as Chief Scientist aboard the R/V Ewing at the Vema Fracture Zone. More

John Diebold: Implementor Extraordinaire

Posted: Jul 6 2010 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Community, History of Geosciences, Field-Based Learning
Photo of John DieboldJohn Diebold at the beginning of his career, 1967 <image info>
Geosciences lost a true original when John Diebold died on July 1, 2010. John's pathway into and through science was convoluted. He was a local boy, from Nyack, who "ran away to sea" on an early Lamont-Doherty research vessel. For decades, he was the practical brains behind the seismic system on Lamont's world-ranging research vessels, most recently the R/V Marcus Langesth. He sailed on three Lamont ships, plus 16 other research vessels, including a staggering 26 legs as Chief or Co-Chief Scientist. Interspersed among various hands-on roles at sea and around the Lamont Machine Shop, he patched together an academic record, first a bachelor's degree, then a PhD. He managed to span the breadth of seagoing science, from the greasiest on-deck repair job, through design of software to turn data into insights, to interpretation of earth processes from novel observations.

In the context of Earth & Mind, John's death has gotten me to thinking about how many different talents are needed to push back the frontiers of knowledge in geosciences...and to wondering whether we are recruiting and fostering the necessary range of talents in the next generation. More

Through a Lens Darkly and Then Face to Face*

Posted: Nov 1 2009 by David W. Mogk
Topics: Perception/Observation, Spatial Thinking, Systems Thinking, Interpretation/Inference, Temporal Thinking, Field-Based Learning, Solving Societal Problems, Community

I've been hiking every Sunday this past fall with a group of geology majors–the Sunday Hiking Club. We are doing a service-learning project to create trailside posters and websites that explain the natural history of popular trails in the mountains surrounding our town. While on our hikes, all of the students are taking digital photographs of their experiences on the trail, and the archives of these images will serve as the raw materials for the story lines we'll present to the public. At the simplest level, our trailside posters will help direct the attention of interested hikers to the wonders they'll encounter along the trail. The premise is that the hike may be a bit more enjoyable and meaningful for recreational hikers if they know what special features to look for along the way. For the hiking public, their original motivation for going on the hike may range from exercise to aesthetics, but we think we can slip in a little science education along the way. The accompanying websites will be a bit more detailed, with in-depth information for further personal investigation with resources such as geologic maps, articles that are accessible for reading by the public, archives of annotated images, and links to related instructional sites. In observing Nature through my own lens, and also observing my students as they themselves look at the world with focused attention through their cameras, I came to realize vaguely at first, and then with increased clarity, the transformative power of photography as an instructional activity. More

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Even Darwin Struggled with Dip and Strike

Posted: Sep 21 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Metacognition, Spatial Thinking, Field-Based Learning, History of Geosciences

3D water level test apparatusTest apparatus for dip & strike (credit)
When students were asked what aspects of introductory geology they found most troublesome, dip and strike featured on many students' hit lists (Helmer & Repine, 2006). One thread of my research with psychologist Lynn Liben seeks to understand why dip and strike are so hard for so many students.

Instructors and students who have struggled with this topic may find it reassuring to learn that even Charles Darwin struggled with dip and strike. Shortly before leaving on his epic voyage on the Beagle, he wrote to J. S. Henslow, professor of mineralogy and botany at Cambridge University:

I should have written to you sometime ago, only I was determined to wait for the Clinometer: & I am very glad to say I think it will answer admirably: I put all the tables in my bedroom, at every conceivable angle & direction I will venture to say I have measured them as accurately as any Geologist going could do. Darwin Correspondence Project: Letter 102

I love the image of one of the greatest observational scientists of all time, with the tables in his bedroom all askew, trying to master his brand new clinometer. More

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Posted: Aug 27 2009 by David W. Mogk
Topics: Metacognition, Field-Based Learning

This past week I had the opportunity to join Cathy Manduca and her family on a backpacking trip to the Spanish Peaks area in the northern Madison Range just southwest of Bozeman, Montana. This is an area where I have had an ongoing research project for ~25 years, and beyond the social aspects of the trip, and my desire to share this special place with my friends, I needed to go back and re-check the field relations in a very complicated high-grade ductile shear zone. An eight mile hike and ~2800 foot gain of elevation to 9000 feet brought me to the Spanish Lake campsite.

I simply had to go back to this area to take another look, to see the area with fresh eyes informed by some new data, to acquire some more structural data, to collect a few more samples for additional thermobarometry and thermochronology analysis, and to reconfirm our working model on the structural evolution of this area before I could hope to write up the results for a scholarly publication this winter. Walking on a steep trail under a heavy pack (camp gear, sledge hammer, mapping equipment, and of course fishing gear) has a way of freeing your mind to wander as you head towards camp, and on this hike I happened to fixate on the factor of mind known as conation.


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