Last Fieldtrip for Climate Change

November 13th, 2014

GROUP

As the weather cools – the Wooster Geology Climate Change class ventured out in the field one more time. For the remainder of the semester we will try to get some work done. Two sites were visited – the Cedar Creek Mastodon Site and the OARDC.

excavationTwo weeks ago a pit was dug from our coring sites to the Mastodon excavation site. The mission was to link the cores to the archaeological site.

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The general stratigraphy of the mastodon site. The muds have a high calcium carbonate content that helped preserve the bones and tusk. Note the plow horizon about 25 cm down – the trip also focused on the agricultural history of Ohio and the role it plays in climate change.

anomalyJeff Dilyard, who hosted us at the site, explains to the class that a GPR (ground penetrating radar) survey identified an anomaly at this location. Isabel probed the area (see below) and “clunked” on a tile.

probingIsabel above used a tile probe to investigate the subsurface (note the chin method she is employing).

tileWhat is a “tile”? above is an old drainage tile from the site. This one is plugged with mud and the plugging was the reason the mastodon was discovered. New tiles were installed last year and the digging brought up the original tooth of the mastodon. Tile and draining of the Midwest allowed for our great agricultural history. In addition, the tile and draining allowed widespread plowing that released the carbon in naturally sequestered organic rich wetland soils to the atmosphere.

in_pitThe crucial end of the backhoe pit where probing and sampling links the bog cores to the mastodon site.

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A quick stop ate the Triplett-Van Doren Experimental Plot. For over 50 years a variety of experiments have been underway here. We discussed the side-by-side no-till and mold board plowed sites and their ability to sequester carbon. Not plowing (no-till) sequesters carbon and mitigates erosion. Less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and less sediment flux on the landscape.

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A darker colored soil in the core barrel above shows more carbon in the soil relative to the one below.

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A quick stop at Secrest Arboretum to view the famous Dawn Redwoods. Under the proper conditions these trees can grow a meter each year. Our tree-ring data from this stand helps define the optimum conditions for their growth. Planting trees sequesters carbon and helps out in lots of other ways as well.

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In addition to the no-till fields and trees at Secrest – there is a meteorological record that spans more than 120 years (note how Tom – far left, seems to be the only student listening to the instructor). These instruments have been keeping track of climate and we will use it to compare with our tree ring study. Our tree ring project asks the question: during the time of European Settlement in Ohio what were the climate conditions like? (precipitation and temperature) and could the widespread deforestation and tile and draining of the region have perturbed the climate (see this video for more on this subject). This question is relevant to the ever-present striving of climate scientists to investigate the relative roles of natural climate variability and anthropogenic change.

 

 

 

 

Wooster Geologists return to the Cedar Creek Bog and Excavation Site

October 25th, 2014

DigOverview102514WOOSTER, OHIO–Greg Wiles and I got to experience a bit of field archaeology today at the Cedar Creek Mastodon excavation site. Greg’s Climate change class has visited the site and its associated bog twice this semester: once to do some soil probing and exploration, and then again to extract a core from the bog. This time Greg and I went to consult with the chief archaeologist of the site, Nigel Brush of Ashland University. Nigel wanted our opinions on the stratigraphy of the dig, especially those parts associated with mastodon remains and flint artifacts. The hypothesis the archaeologists are testing is that the mastodon bones and flint blades are part of an ancient butchery site.  It was a joy to join our friends on this fantastic Fall day.

BonesFlagged102514Who doesn’t love an archaeology site? All that enthusiastic hard work with brushes, spades and trowels revealing hidden treasures. Those little orange flags above are tagging bits of mastodon bone that the volunteer excavators have uncovered for mapping and collection. Several schools are represented at this site, and at least a couple dozen citizen scientists.

HannahJim102514Wooster is represented at the dig by archaeology professor Nick Kardulias, along with two of his students shown above. Hannah Matulek is on the left; Jim Torpy on the right.

BoneFragment102514Here is some mastodon bone embedded in one of the excavation walls. The bones are scattered, with some large pieces and many small fragments.

Sieving102514This is the line of sieves for sorting through the excavated sediment. Pleasant enough work today, but I can imagine it’s not so fun in the rain and sleet.

GregSoilProbing102514And now for our bit of work. Greg went off into the bog with a soil probe to plan out a new trench to be dug by the landowner. This trench will help correlate the strata in the excavation with what Greg and his students have cored from the bog.

StratView102514I spent most of my time in the excavations examining the simple layering of the sediments. At the bottom we have a coarse conglomerate with cobble-sized rounded grains. The bones and artifacts lie on top of and among these clasts. Above that unit is a matrix-supported conglomeratic mud with broken rock fragments. At the top is a loam representing the disturbed (plowed) part of the section.

MudWithClasts102514This is a closer view of that middle unit with the “floating” angular rock fragments. My quick assessment (just a suggestion!) is that the coarse gravels beneath are part of a deltaic complex feeding into the bog, which was at the time a marl lake. The mud-with-clasts above it is a debris flow from the surrounding elevations that cascaded down the creek channel and its banks, entombing the bones and artifacts under a slurry of muddy debris. There is scattered charcoal throughout this unit and the top of the cobbles below. Maybe a forest fire denuded the upstream slopes and led to a rain-soaked mudslide? Then again, the charcoal could have come from an ancient barbecue of the mastodon meat.

In any case, Greg and I had a great time visiting our archaeological colleagues on such a fine day.

 

Dating Houses and Reconstructing Climate

September 22nd, 2014

porchThe Wooster Geology Climate Change class spent a beautiful fall day in Stony Creek, Ohio coring beams in three structures of historical significance. They will determine the cut dates (calendar dates when the timber for the houses were felled) for the homeowners and then examine the tree-ring data that results to help reconstruct drought for the region. The class will write a report for the homeowner as part of the project. The Wooster tree-ring lab has dated over 50 buildings. Many of the reports are archived here.

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Willy coring a hand hewn beam with an increment borer in the basement of one of the structures.

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Dan cores into the white oak beam as Meredith keeps the utilities at bay.

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Julia identifies the outer (bark year) rings of a large oak beam and sets the spoon to extract the core.

haloMeredith and Haley team up to extract another core from a structure.

mounting2Zach shows how the 5 mm core is mounted in a slotted core mount.

coreSarah glues the carefully oriented core into the mount.

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Orienting the core properly is crucial for the next step of sanding the surface. This interdisciplinary group of historians, archaeologists, communication studies and geologists will learn bit about history of Ohio while learning some of the statistics of climate change and earning a Q (quantitative) course credit.

houseThe group should be able to determine when the timber was cut to build this restored structure. Sometime in early November the analyses should be completed.

extra_coringSome extracurricular coring of young white pines in the area.

Different Views of the Bog

September 9th, 2014

dr_andersonDr. Anderson describing the moisture gradient measured from the bog to the crest of the kame where the old growth remnant oak forest resides.

 

Our Climate Change class visited Browns Lake Bog with the Plant Communities and Ecosystems class from Ohio Weslyan University’s Biology class taught by Dr. Laurie Anderson. Dr. Chuck Goss, a stream ecologist from the OARDC also joined us. Both Laurie and Chuck offered new insights (and measurements) for us to consider.

One of the themes we discussed is how an influx of dust with land use change during European Settlement about 200 years ago may have “fertilized” the low nutrient bog and may have forced (is still forcing) plant communities in the bog to change. An additional challenge of to think about how the natural succession of the bog and disturbance contribute to observed changes.

header_2Sediment cores (on the tailgate) are being looked at with the thought of lithologic and plant community changes potentially being caused by clearing of the land and increased dust flux.
moisture_meterInstrument that measure soil moisture – from the wet groundwater fed bog areas to the drought-sensitive forests.

 

chuck_profileDr. Goss explains the various measurements taken in the water column beneath the floating bog and the class puzzles over how this may be reflected in the lake cores we are analyzing in the lab.

 

sundewSphagnum moss and a few Sundew plants. The moss is a primary component of the peat in our cores and the Sundew is another of the carnivorous plants that grow in the low nutrient environment of the bog.
pitchersPitcher plants – digesting insects, nice adaptation to a low nutrient environment.
teaching coringAssistant Directors of the Tree Ring Lab, Willy and Zach provide instruction on how to core a white oak to the eager group.
elmTwo folks in the group seemed to catch on (but this is an elm…).
lookBack on track with a mighty oak – Tom takes a turn.

Plot 1

We also wondered why the tree-ring width chronology from Browns Lake (above) maintains a 2-3 fold increase in growth after clearing of the land in the early 1800s. Is it because of changes in competition, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, dust, precipitation or some combination of all these. Seems to be a story in the lake and tree cores – will take some work to sort it out.

Extracting High Quality Mud from Cedar Creek Bog

September 7th, 2014

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Tom Lowell and graduate student Stephanie Allard from Cincinnati and Jacklyn Rodriguez from the University of Illinois made the trip to Morrow County to core mud from a bog adjacent to the Cedar Creek Mastodon site. We will be working with the cores in Climate Change over the next several weeks and collaborating with this team.

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Extracting a meter of marl with many species of snails and even clams? We will need Dr. Wilson’s help on this.

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Another meter of marl.

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Stephanie describes the lower “glacial lake clays”, while Jacklyn takes notes.

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Adjacent to our work is the excavation of the Cedar Creek Mastodon. The tripods are the sieves and the actual excavation is under the tent.

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A closer look at the stratigraphy in the excavation – we hope to be able to link the bog cores to this site. It may take a backhoe pit from the excavation to the bog to really understand how the stratigraphy here links with the former lake.

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Another meter to complete this 7-meter core. This layer represents the late glacial (~13,000 years ago) about the time when the Mastodon roamed the shores.

core_boss

The master takes another core. We look forward to the analyses of the cores that include an upper anthropogenic layer, a peat, a marl, an interval of gyttja and blue clays.

A special thanks to Clint Walker who owns the site for his interest and permission to core. Clint helped out moving our gear with his tractor and saved us hours of shuttling. Jesse Wiles provided photographs and carried gear.

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Toward an Isopach Map of the Cedar Creek Mastodon Bog

August 27th, 2014

tooth Wooster’s Climate Change class is starting the semester by  coring a bog adjacent to a recent Mastodon find in Morrow County, Ohio. The Mastodon work and related excavation is being led by Nigel Brush, University of Ashland.  Above is a photo (courtesy of Nigel Brush) of the original mastodon tooth find.

probe3After a fairly extensive theoretical conceptualization – theory was successfully brought to practice and in some cases the probe was sunk over 20 feet into the soft mud of the bog. The 20+ feet of mud is a record of environmental change over the last ~15,000 years.

probe2The lead probe team – one taking notes, one operating the GPS, one on the blunt end of the probe, and two others reflecting on the experience.

total_station                     The survey team shares a humorous moment while setting up the total station.

probe1

Sharing another humorous moment as an interdisciplinary (Archaeology/Spanish/ Geology) tile probe team – note the Mastodon Excavation Site in the background.

bog_map

The Google earth map above shows the tile probe points taken for the construction of the isopach map. The area of the tight spacing of data points in the northwest is the excavation site. Now for the contouring of the map and the determination of where the team will extract sediment cores.

tall

The auger team sampled down to almost 18 feet and discovered that the stratigraphy is blue glacial lake clays overlain by a marl (with snail shells), which is overlain by organic-rich mud. This sequence and its details will become clearer when the site is cored on 6 September.

washing_upWashing up and wondering about how the Mastodon may have met its fate along the shore of a muddy lake during the Pleistocene.

From the Russian wilderness to the big city!

August 15th, 2014

Guest Blogger: Sarah Frederick (’15)

Arriving in Moscow was a sharp return to reality. Suddenly all of the things that had come to feel normal while we were in Kamchatka – the winding gravel roads and little towns with random meandering livestock that would peek in your windows – were replaced by traffic jams and the overwhelming immensity of the city!

Russia Blog Pics - 09One unique experience in Kamchatka was shopping. Shopping, like everything else in Russia is a very long, arduous process that takes hours longer than it should. Above is shown a typical store in Kamchatka. All of the goods are located behind the counter, so each item had to be individually requested from the shopkeeper. However, in all likelihood the first shop you visited would not have half of the items you required, so you would have to visit two or three additional establishments to find everything you needed. Even so, simple necessities like bread or beer were not always available. Also, take note of the high tech abacus being used!

The items we purchased were also completely foreign to me. While I was initially pretty skeptical, everything was quite tasty if you had an expert cook like Tatiana to prepare it!

Russia Blog Pics - 13Cow-in-a-can anyone? More commonly referred to as Tushonka.

Russia Blog Pics - 15There are a variety of culinary influences present. Lots of Uzbek cuisine, but we also encountered Georgian, Russian, and Ukrainian dishes. A common afternoon meal with borscht, beat soup of Ukranian origin, is pictured above.

While in Moscow we toured the Institute, a towering majestic building, one of seven built around the city, which houses several departments of Moscow State University, a museum, faculty and students.

Russia Blog Pics - 16An apartment in the wing to the right was actually our home for the duration of our visit.

 While in Moscow we of course visited the touristy section of the city.

DSCN2787The Kremlin

Russia Blog Pics - 17Dr. Wiles with our two hosts, Olga and Vladimir in front of St. Basils.

DSCN2794One of the prominent monuments on the Red Square is Lenin’s tomb. He has been on public display since shortly after his death in 1924.

Russia Blog Pics - 03One last picture from Kamchatka. Thanks for following us through our journey! We look forward to reporting on our findings from the lab soon!

Coring Across Kamchatka

August 12th, 2014

Guest Blogger: Sarah Frederick (’15)

After traversing every stretch of road within Kamchatka at least twice, 5 bear sitings, and becoming intimately familiar with Kamchatka mosquitoes (they come in three sizes!), we are on our way to Moscow. All in all we cored over 500 trees! So I am sure that everyone back in the lab can hardly wait for our return…

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Russia Blog Pics - 10Coring larch trees in the mountains of the Eastern Range.

Coring took us to every reach of the Kamchatka Peninsula. We made our way as far north as Ust-Kamchatsky, a port city that was strategically important during the Cold War when the entire peninsula was closed to nonresident Russians and foreigners alike. Then we drove all the way west to the Sea of Okhotsk before returning east to Petropavlovsk, a large port city on the Pacific.

During our travels we have explored a variety of environments. While the most pervasive by far was the taiga, swampy coniferous forests, we also appreciated the beauty of spring in the tundra.

Russia Blog Pics - 18Spring blossoms.

The devastation caused by the frequent volcanic eruptions was also evident. We frequently came across open ash fields and even pyroclastic flow deposits!

Russia Blog Pics - 08The desolate remains of a pyroclastic flow (fast moving current of hot gas and rock) produced by the adjacent volcano.

Besides collecting cores, we also learned a bit about the local culture and history. In Esso, we visited the museum where we learned about the traditional practices of the indigenous peoples and how they survived Kamchatka’s harsh climate.

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The main building of the museum exhibits the beautiful woodwork typical of the region.

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A reproduction of a traditional home of the Koryak people. In order to optimize heat retention, the structure is built partially underground and in the shape of an oven. It even has an escape hatch out of the top for when snow buries the structure.

Esso is also significant as the starting point of the Beringia, Kamchatka’s traditional dog sled race, which in the 1990s held the record for the longest dogsled race, rivaling Alaska’s Iditarod.

Back in Petropavlovsk we visited Kamchatka’s Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, scientists from which have most generously hosted and guided us on our journey. Along with several visiting Japanese geologists, we were given a tour of the museum of Volcanology. Here we learned about Kamchatka’s most active volcanoes and the work of the volcanologists in the region. They were most excited about a recent discovery of diamonds in the ash of the Tolbachik Volcano, which made me re-evaluate the goals of our expedition to that site. Had I known, I would have been far more interested in sifting through the sediment for diamonds than in the trees…

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Finally, for those have been asking about the bears. Here is a cutie that we came across on one of our last days in the field. These Kamchatka brown bears are very large, though not a big threat to humans, particularly in the summer when food is plentiful.

Volcanoes, Mosquitoes, and Bears, Oh My!

August 9th, 2014

Guest Blogger: Sarah Frederick (’15)

After three weeks in Russia it sure feels great to be back on US soil! Since we didn’t have internet access during this expedition, our blog posts come a bit delayed. Here is a bit about our first week in Kamchatka: If, like me, you have never played the board game Risk, you likely have never heard of Kamchatka. So to give you some context of where we are, below is a map of the North Pacific. As you can see, this peninsula, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, is further east than Siberia and it is not far from Alaska. However, since flights between Alaska and Kamchatka are extremely limited, we were forced to fly the long way around. map

After our nearly 40hr journey, crossing 16 time zones, it was a relief to arrive in Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka.

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Above is a picture taken on top of an extinct volcano that overlooks the city. From L to R, Tatiana Kuderina (Senior Researcher at Moscow University), Sarah Frederick (’15), Vladimir Matskovsky (Researcher at Moscow University) and our lovely host Tatiana. This picture is an achievement, because as you will notice, it is the only picture in which all of the Russians are smiling!

eruption We were greeted in Kamchatka, the land of many mosquitoes, bears, and volcanoes, by scientists from the Volcanology Institute. And after a day of recovery we headed north into the great wild. While there have been no bear attacks, just three sitings so far, we were lucky enough to witness a small volcanic eruption during one of our expeditions!   Though described in the literature as ‘pristine’ and ‘untouched,’ over the past week we have found much of Kamchatka far from that with the forests along the single main road (unpaved dirt and gravel) having been clear cut. Even so, with a lot of help from our driver, Vasily, and his mighty passenger truck, we managed to locate old growth larch in the north. truck While our quest for trees has required us to spend extensive time in the swamps being devoured by millions of mosquitoes, we also made it to some of the more picturesque parts of Kamchatka as well. The highlight thus far was our trekup the Tolbachik volcanic complex where we were greeted by unseasonably clear weather. Not only could we see the majestic glacier topped volcanoes of the Eastern Range, but to the west, the towering volcanoes of the Median Range were also visible! tobal We are now heading south for our last few days of tree hunting. It is our hope that the tree ring data that we are collecting will help to connect the extensive network of tree ring chronologies developed for the Gulf of Alaska with those from the West Pacific. Helping to develop a better understanding of North Pacific climate.

A Wooster geologist’s summer research experience in The Bahamas: Sarah Bender (’15) and climate and sea level change over the past 6,000 years

August 20th, 2013

SB coverSarah Bender (’15) and Sarah Frederick (’15) had the opportunity this summer to complete National Science Foundation funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs). Each spent a good part of their summer completing a research project under the mentorship of accomplished and enthusiastic geologists. Sarah Bender (on the left above) worked under the mentorship of Dr. Lisa Park Boush (’88, center in the photo), a geology professor at the University of Akron, and Kristina Brady (’03, on the right), a curator at the University of Minnesota. A Wooster geology team! This is Sarah’s summer research story in her words and images. (Sarah Frederick’s story is in the previous post.)

This summer I had the pleasure of working with a group of seven interns and four mentors on Eleuthera Island, Bahamas and at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Duluth. For two weeks at the beginning of June, we cored three Bahamian lakes, two being blue holes and the other a coastal pond. The goal of this Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) was to determine the anthropogenic changes that took place in the past thousands of years in the Bahamas by using proxy data from these lakes. The project was led by a Wooster graduate, Dr. Lisa Park Boush (’88), who like myself, was one of Dr. Mark Wilson’s advisees. One of the other mentors, Kristina Brady, also graduated from Wooster (2003) as Dr. Wiles’ advisee, and is now working at LacCore at the University of Minnesota as a curator.

My team worked on the first blue hole, which we named Duck Pond Blue Hole. Duck Pond Blue Hole is an inland circular body of brackish water located in the southern tip of Eleuthera Island. We hypothesize that there are underground conduits connecting the blue hole to the ocean due to the salinity and the fact that the water level was affected by tides. Cores were taken with hand-operated corers from three different spots along a transect of the lake. Overall, my team recovered over four meters of sediment from the three sites! We also took bathymetry data, depth profiles, and did a vegetation survey around the perimeter of Duck Pond Blue Hole.

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Myself, a teammate, and Kristina Brady (’03) capping a core from Duck Pond Blue Hole. Check out our mighty coring vessel!

The other team of interns worked on a coastal pond, located directly behind one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. They cored the pond at three sites and took similar lake profiling data as my team. They also worked on dune profiles with Dr. Ilya Buynevich from Temple University using his GPR machine.

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The other team of interns worked on a coastal pond, located directly behind one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. They cored the pond at three sites and took similar lake profiling data as my team. They also worked on dune profiles with Dr. Ilya Buynevich from Temple University using his GPR machine.

The rest of the time on Eleuthera was spent exploring the island and learning about its history. We took two day-long field trips in which we saw many geological features as well as archaeological sites. With the help of Dr. Perry Gnivecki and Dr. Mary Jane Berman, both from Miami University, we learned all about the native inhabitants of the Bahamas, the Lucayans. We hope our project will help them understand how they were affected by climate change and the landing of Columbus in 1492. Finally, we got to present our preliminary results to the people of the Bahamas at the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

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My teammates and I presenting Duck Pond Blue Hole at CEI.

After finishing fieldwork, we headed to LacCore, the National Lacustrine Core Repository, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to analyze our data. We logged, split, photographed, and described our cores first. We also did a variety of lab work with core samples such as, carbon-14 dating, SEM, loss on ignition, making smear slides, and shell counts. We also got to work at the Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota using the XRF machine and doing grain size analysis.

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Myself and a teammate prepping samples for grain size analysis at the Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth.

This lab work took about six weeks to complete and we got some amazing results from it. We used the last few days in Minnesota to write our abstracts and make posters for upcoming conferences. Each person took one aspect of our project to focus on. My abstract and poster focuses on the mollusk communities of Duck Pond Blue Hole and how they may be an indicator for climate and sea level change in the Bahamas over the past 6,000 years.

In order to discover what we found, you will have to visit my teammates at GSA in Denver in October or AGU in San Francisco in December. I hope to be able to make it to the AGU conference to help present my team’s work, however, I won’t be presenting my individual abstract until the spring at a regional GSA meeting. If you want to read more on the project, check out the REU Bahamas page on Facebook or the daily blog we kept throughout the project. Now, it’s off to Byron Bay, Australia, for me! I hope everyone had a great summer and I wish you all a successful fall semester!

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