Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Prologue: Scotland Fieldwork

In keeping with my first post, my PhD adventure not only requires an introduction but has a prologue as well.  In mid-June I participated in a week of Scottish fieldwork, which technically means that before my move to Boston I have already completed my first week as a PhD student!  I traveled to Scotland along with my new adviser (Dr. Ethan Baxter) and a field assistant to collect the rock samples I will use to start my PhD project.  I have more stories than I could possibly share here, so I'll try to focus on the highlights of my very first PhD adventure but consider yourself warned- this won't be a short post!

Tues.\Wed. June 14\15

  • Starting on Tuesday, I flew from Indianapolis to Detroit and boarded my next flight from Detroit to Amsterdam.  I arrived in Amsterdam at 9:30AM local time on Wednesday morning, where I met up with Ethan and our field assistant before continuing on to Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Once on the ground in Scotland we picked up our rental car (complete with the driver's side on the right, the gear box to the driver's left, and stick shift) and drove to St. Andrews, where we spent the remainder of the day at the University of St. Andrews.  We met wonderful colleagues in the geology department, nailed down plans for where we planned to sample each day, and Ethan gave an impromptu talk for a portion of their dept. on what we hope to accomplish with the detrital garnet project I am undertaking.


Thurs. June 16


  • This was our first day of actual fieldwork.  We spent the majority of the day working near Stonehaven and Cowie along the coast of the North Sea. 
North Sea coastal scenery near Cowie, Scotland
  • The tide was out when we arrived, so we started on the exposed rocks and moved closer to the cliffs and further north throughout the early afternoon, scouting for the coarsest grained samples we could collect to give us a shot at decent-sized detrital garnet grains.  We collected the first two samples (coarse sandstone) of my PhD project along the coast that morning and afternoon!  I also got to see chlorite-grade metamorphic units that are part of the Dalradian classic Barrovian sequence (which only means something to the geologists reading this who know the Barrovian sequence was first worked out in Scotland) and ruins in the distance that were used for filming a portion of Mel Gibson's Macbeth.
  • In the evening we did a bit of "geotourism" by visiting Glen Clova.  Glen Clova is a big U-shaped glacial valley carved through Barrovian sequence metamorphic rocks.  While we were there we collected a bucket of sediment out of the river running through the bottom of the valley that will be one of the first samples I work on starting in September.  We also saw the most spectacular rainbow I have EVER seen.  It stretched from one side of the valley to the other and was fully doubled for a while!  

Glen Clova rainbow

Fri. June 17

    "Magic" Blue Door
  • We were joined in the field by Dr. Ruth Robinson (University of St. Andrews) and one of her students for fieldwork at Glen Esk, along the River North Esk.  To get to our field site we had to pass through the "magic blue door" (an access door in a stone wall that provided access to a trail along the river).
  • We worked our way along the river, collecting two samples from coarse sandstone lenses amidst conglomerate with fist-sized clasts.  As we worked, we occasionally saw a salmon or two as they jumped and ran up the river!
River North Esk

Arbroath "Smokies"
  • After we finished at Glen Esk, we visited more cliffs along the coast near Arbroath to see the Old Red Sandstone unit.  We also stopped in Arbroath to sample their famous "smokies"- otherwise known as whole smoked haddock.  You buy the fish gutted, smoked, and whole then crack them open and remove the spine before eating the meat out of the skin.  It was REALLY good!
  • That night we stayed in a castle.  Named Barony Castle, the castle has been converted to a very nice hotel.  To make the deal even sweeter, the castle has a 3D concrete topographic map of Scotland on the grounds to commemorate a map built by Polish soldiers who used the castle as a barracks during World War II.       
Barony Castle near Peebles, Scotland

Sat. June 18
  • The rainy weather of Scotland finally caught up with us.  Saturday consisted of several stops at outcrops and quite a bit of driving.
  • Our first planned stop was to sample a garnetiferous layer mentioned in a published paper describing the rocks of the area by Walton.  The second planned stop was to scout for a location to replicate samples taken by Graham Oliver that were described as containing plenty of detrital garnet.  Both of them were classic outcrop stops.
  • The best stop of the day was unplanned.  We stopped just past the town of Lendalfoot in a parking lot to look at the maps and climbed down to large boulders along the coast.  We ended up getting to check out some awesome ultramafic boulders that are a part of the Ballantrae ophiolite sequence.  They contain lots of epidote and serpentine and extensive veination.  
Ultramafic boulder on the beach with veination
  • That night for dinner we ate authentic fish and chips that we got from a carryout "fish bar" and ate sitting on benches in the square!


Sun. June 19
view from Ballantrae sample site
  • In the morning we did the actual sampling at the second site we had scouted the day before.  It is a classic roadcut exposed along the road above Loch Ryan.
  • In the afternoon we went inland to collect some bonus samples not directly related to my detrital project.  The Ballantrae Ophiolite sequence has a metamorphic sole, which contains garnet-bearing amphibolite and pyroxenite formed as the hot oceanic slab was emplaced.  We hoped to collect samples of both that contain garnets large enough to be dated by the traditional garnet method in use at BU.  We succeeded in collecting the samples and this will probably be the first side project that I will begin work on in September!  There is only one date for the metamorphic sole that is often cited, and adding a garnet date will help better constrain the age of the unit.
  • The samples of the Ballantrae metamorphic sole required us to climb up a hill in a sheep pasture to get to exposed rock units.  The scenery was beautiful and we finally got to see a large garnet (1.8 cm x1.4 cm). 

Mon. June 20
St. Andrews Cathedral ruins
  •  This was our last full day in Scotland, and we spent it in St. Andrews once again.  In the morning we prepared, labeled, sorted, and packed all our samples to be shipped back to the United States.  We ended up with three wood crates weighing a total of 66kg (145.5 lbs)!  
  • After we packed up all the samples and wrapped up all of our work, we got to spend the rest of the day as tourists in St. Andrews!  We saw ruins of the St. Andrews cathedral and castle, the 18th hole of the Old Course (the birthplace of golf), more of the University of St. Andrews' campus, and even ate lunch at a restaurant Prince William and Kate once frequented as students. :-)
18th hole of the Old Course- Golf's Birthplace!
Tues. June 21
  • We had to say goodbye to Scotland!  I flew from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Boston.
  • Going through customs at Boston, I got the privilege of going through the "agricultural customs line," (thanks to my traipsing through both cow and sheep pastures) where the customs agent checked the bottom of my boots for animal poop!  I also had another customs agent who barely believed that I was working while I was abroad.  :-)
  • I got weather delayed in Boston for 4+ hours, but I finally made it home safe and sound just before 2AM Wed. morning!
I would say week one as a PhD student went pretty well.

Goodbye Scotland! (River South Esk, Glen Clova)



2 comments:

  1. The Barrovian Sequence rules.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The birthplace of geology and of golf... I can't take it!

    ReplyDelete