10 frosty days of field work on the Buffalo River!

Guest post by Hannah Heinke-Green, Geology Undergrad at Oberlin College

My name is Hannah, and I am currently a senior at Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college located in northeast Ohio. During the month of January, we do not have classes, instead students are given the opportunity to further explore an area of interest. As a geology and environmental studies major, who is particularly interested in geomorphology, I was glad to be a part of this research trip to Arkansas. I became connected with Dr. Amanda Keen-Zebert through a professor at Oberlin, Dr. Amanda Schmidt. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to go on this research trip. While some aspects of the work were labor intensive, such as digging trenches in order to obtain the OSL samples, it was completely worth it because I was able to learn so much throughout the entire trip.

Hiking into Boxley Valley to collect OSL samples.

Hiking into Boxley Valley to collect OSL samples.

Previously I had very little knowledge of OSL, however Kathleen walked us through the basics. It was fun to be able to help out with pounding the metal tubes into the soil, taking care to expose the cores to as little light as possible. At the first site I did have a minor rock hammer incident, however I am pleased to report my thumb is healing well!

Dr. AKZ using a rock hammer to obtain a horizontal core sample.

Dr. AKZ using a rock hammer to obtain a horizontal core sample.

At some locations in order to take samples we were required to dig trenches. Digging trenches was a little exhausting, but after the trenches were complete I was able to learn about soil horizons from the experts. This was great because while I had learned briefly about soil basics at school, this was my first time viewing the various horizons in the field.

Kathleen digging the lower trench at the Margaret White Bluff site.

Kathleen digging the lower trench at the Margaret White Bluff site.

On days when I wasn’t digging trenches, I worked with Malcom making 3D images of the bluffs, both at Steel Creek and Margaret White. Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) is a surveying technique. It works by measuring the distance to a feature using a laser. In order to connect the various scans from different locations down the river we set up targets. The targets had to be visible from the scanner in both images, so that they could be pieced together later to make one consecutive data set. Therefore, the scanning process required that we set up three targets on either side of the scanner. The scanner then would run for approximately 30 minutes, would take pictures (in order to acquire color to the scans) for five more minutes, and then we would individually shoot all of the targets. In total each scan would take approximately 45 minutes. By the end of the trip I was confident in my ability to set up the required equipment in order to scan the surroundings.

TLS scanner at the Margaret White Bluff site.

TLS scanner at the Margaret White Bluff site.

Throughout the trip we were constantly being shown different aspects of the local geology. It was so nice to be exposed to these features, because seeing real life examples helped cement what I had previously learned at Oberlin. It was also great to be able to talk with the three graduate students from Auburn. Oberlin is not affiliated with a graduate school, so for the first time I was able to talk with graduate students studying geology about their journeys. Overall, I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this research trip. --Hannah Heinke-Green