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June 14, 2017
Sitting in the shade of a poplar, I watch the Tanana River flow by. It’s flat and tan, dimpled by eddies and darted over by swallows that sound like they are chewing rubber bands. I slept last night with my wife, daughter and dog in the upstairs of a handsome, two-story log structure that has stood since before World War I. Tonight, Cora and I will sleep there again.
June 13, 2017
Shiprock in New Mexico is a classic example of a volcanic neck. It is a vertical column of volcanic rock that sticks up around the surrounding landscape, with dikes that radiate from the central core. Although ours isn’t as high, we have a literal version of Shiprock in our field area.
June 12, 2017
In my last post, I showed off some of the metamorphic rocks we can see that formed about 1.8 billion years ago during a mountain building event known as the Big Sky Orogeny. The textures in these rocks are fascinating. They contained a variety of protolith lithologies, making them immediately complicated. They are highly deformed; so one lithology bends into another very rapidly.
June 8, 2017
Here’s an intro to some of the rocks we’re actually mapping. On our first day in the field, we walked the section of rocks exposed in this area from oldest to the youngest rocks we had time to get to. Students were literally standing on 2.5 billion years or so of Earth’s history – more than half the time this planet has existed.
June 7, 2017
Although the area where we’ve been mapping is pretty dry, dealing with wildlife in various forms has been pretty constant. This is potentially on my mind as today I set my personal best by peeling 6 ticks off of me. Our camp is pretty large and has broken into separate groups, each group shifting between different areas.
One of the things you can’t help but notice once you come to Montana is the sky. According to my daily topo maps, most of my time is spent in-between contours 5600 and 5800, so literally 1 mile (1.8 kilometers) above sea level. I haven’t traveled enough myself to know if you get the same effect around the world, but once you come to a field camp here the phrase “big sky country,” one of the official nicknames for Montana, definitely fits.
June 6, 2017
My name is Brian Balta and I’m a visiting professor of petrology at Texas A&M University. I’m writing this post today and a few others I hope to share this week from the University of Montana Western, which has served as home to me and about 80 other students from Texas A&M for the past 2 weeks.
June 1, 2017
The Nichols College Pipeline program has completed the 18th consecutive year of field work on streamflow and water quality in the same streams at the same time of year with high school students. Our most useful measurements have proved to be the combination of the aesthetic underwater view of clarity and substrate covering.
April 20, 2017
Both the East and West Coast tundra swans spend the majority of their lives migrating. Based on information from the satellite trackers, the bird I saw might have left the Central Valley of California in late January. From there, it looped across Oregon and Washington, maybe northern Utah, on its way to the prairie in Canada. Then it flew over northern British Columbia and back to Alaska.
February 16, 2017
The submarine volcanism Chapman Conference is at an end, and by all means it was a success. We had 102 scientists from 13 countries, including 27 students, attend. Submarine volcanologists got to talk to subaerial volcanologists. We saw cool videos of scientists pouring lava over water and ice. We went on a field trip and saw seals and dolphins. We talked about lots and lots of volcanoes (I stopped counting at 27).