29 December 2016

Year in review

Posted by Callan Bentley

We approach the end of another calendar year, and with it comes my ninth anniversary of beginning to write about geology online. (A year from now will mark a decade of geoblogging for me!)

It’s been a rough year, health-wise for my friends and family. Loved ones have suffered strokes, brain cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other horrible ailments. I myself have been battling a persistent respiratory infection for most of the fall. These negative health effects have been unprecedented for my wife and I. Throw in the horrific election and its prospects for scientific inquiry and environmental protection, and 2016 looks fairly awful in hindsight.

On the other hand, it’s been a stunning year for me for travel. In May, I got to go to eastern Washington and central Idaho, and then spent seven weeks of the summer in Iceland, northern Ireland, and Scotland (including Shetland and Orkney and the North-West Highlands and Islay and Arran), followed by two weeks in Barberton Mountain Land and Cape Town in South Africa, and a winter trip for a family wedding in Belize. That’s all been outstanding, and I feel very lucky for it. I love seeing new parts of this wild world. For those of you who subscribe to EARTH magazine, look forward in 2017 to a series of travel articles about my summer abroad. (For those of you who don’t subscribe, you should!)

Teaching has been relatively mild this year – my Chancellor’s Commonwealth Professorship comes with course release time, and between that and the summer travel (precluding the field class I often run), I’ve had far fewer interactions with students than has been the pattern in the past. I miss that – it feels weird to be a professor who (for a time) doesn’t actually have that many students. I’ve been grateful for my student research assistants, Robin Rohrback and Marissa Dudek, who both continue to impress me with their diligent work ethic and attention to detail.

Here on the blog, it’s been a moderately busy year, with 133 posts: on average, a little bit more than two per week. Among those posts, there were 19 book reviews and 37 Friday folds, many of which were submissions of imagery from Mountain Beltway readers. According to Google Analytics, the blog was visited by 75,000 users in 107,000 sessions.


Some of my favorite posts from the past year include:

Archean meteorite impact evidence from South Africa

Flood deposits of Glacial Lake Missoula outburst floods

Firsthand reports from Canoa, Ecuador after the quake

We are in unprecedented territory with global sea ice

Timberville: a virtual field review in the Appalachians

A wondrous transformation: bonfires and the carbon cycle

and of course there are the various “virtual field trips” that resulted from my summer in the north Atlantic island nations:

A virtual field trip to Portrush, Northern Ireland

A virtual field trip to Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

A virtual field trip to the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

A virtual field trip to Kinkell Braes, Scotland

A virtual field trip to Siccar Point, Scotland

Friday folds: A study in contrasts at the Walls Boundary Fault, Shetland

All told, I’m proud of the record of education and outreach I’ve managed this year in this space. As something I do without monetary compensation, it’s very important to me, and I’m pleased with the usage statistics and the topics covered. Although I could have done more, life is a balancing act.

Happy new year! May 2017 be better than 2016 was.