31 December 2011

I’m a travelin’ (wo)man

Posted by Jessica Ball

It’s time for my yearly recap of travels geological and otherwise, and it looks like Chris and Anne at Highly Allocthonous have started up the meme again. This year had a few highlights (and a little more excitement over the summer than I would have liked), but I also got to spend more time at my home base in Buffalo. So let’s start there in January…

…which I spent a little of in Virginia (visiting family and William & Mary, just to keep up with the undergrad department). I took an afternoon to walk along the James River:

Mud flats along the James River

And when I got back to Buffalo, joined in my department’s annual Winter Party at a local brewery.

Appropriately enough, it had a fault line down the middle (courtesy of our half-chocolate-half-carrot-cake construction request)

February in Buffalo is pretty cold and snowy, but that doesn’t stop us from going out for hikes, especially if we can show off our local waterfall to visiting geoscientists:

I think it's prettier in the winter. (And the parking is free!)

But even Buffalo natives get tired of winter. I spent spring break visiting family in Florida, and also had a chance to meet some new friends:

Manatees love power plants, especially if they output hot water into the canals.

One break from the cold wasn’t enough this year (and I had some research to present), so I traveled with my advisor and a few fellow grads to the Soufriere Hills Volcano: 15 Years On conference in Montserrat. Nothing like a volcano in the morning to get your scientific juices flowing!

We totally did science at this conference, I promise. Despite being on a Caribbean island with a volcano...

I stopped off in Virginia in May in preparation for a cross-country trip over the summer. After taking a little break off from work (and driving), I was back on the road, and after four days of father-daughter road tripping, we made it to my final destination:

The calm before the utter lack of storms which resulted in lots of wildfires...

New Mexico in June is lovely, especially if you’re in the high desert. When I wasn’t glued to a computer at Los Alamos National Lab, I was driving and hiking around the Valles Caldera, which is pretty much a playland for a volcanologist.

One of the coolest outcrops ever - obsidian flow + ash fall deposit + pyroclastic flow breccia. Wow!

Unfortunately, New Mexico in June is also fire-prone, especially if it doesn’t rain for the whole month. This became a bit of a problem…

Not something you want to see from your apartment window.

So I spent the first bit of July in a different part of New Mexico, not getting much work done but being pretty fascinated by the view. The Las Conchas fire burned for a long time, and even when they let us back into town there was still a lot of forest going up in flames:

Imagine having this view every night for a month.

Eventually the fires died down and I finished up my stint at LANL, so it was time to turn the car back around and head for the east again. Having taken the ‘low (southern) road’ on our way out west, my dad and I decided to take the ‘high road’ and return by way of Colorado and the plains states. On our way north, we took a little time to climb a volcano:

Capulin volcano, a really cute drive-up cinder cone.

Having had more than my fill of hot, dry weather in July, I spent August sampling more hydrologically-inclined activities back in Buffalo:

If you go to Niagara Falls, go on the jet boats. They're touristy as hell but SO FUN. And you get to see Class 5 and 6 rapids really, really up close.

September was a pretty uneventful month – mostly research for me – but in October the geology grads introduced some visiting foreign geologists to the wonders of pumpkin-carving:

We made major steps in the field of French-American gourd relations.

I also got to help out with an Earth Science day at Penn Dixie, our local open-to-the-public fossil quarry and educational site:

I think 3D technology is much better used in mapping.

In November, I went back to Virginia to take part in William & Mary Geology’s 50th Anniversary celebrations:

Party time!

It was really fitting that the site of my first field trip at W&M - the Falls of the James - was also the place we went for the anniversary trip!

And I spent the first week of December sampling the tourist and geoscientific wonders of San Francisco during AGU’s annual Fall Meeting:

I call this one "Bridge with graywacke"

Scientists on the move

I also missed my blogiversary! As of December 22nd, Magma Cum Laude has been going for 4 years. It’s almost hard to believe that I’ve kept up with it this long, but it’s been a great experience and I hope to still be blogging for a long time yet.

Happy Holidays, and best wishes for the New Year!