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I'm a consulting geologist for a small company in the Denver area. I study problems related to active tectonics, using geomorphology, structural geology and remote sensing.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

eastern forests

The following was written while flying from VA to CO about a week ago...

wow... it's really been a while. as I recall, my last public post of anything related to my life was something about having passed my comprehensive exam. I think that happened about two months ago, but I suppose in reality it was really about 4 weeks ago. plenty has happened since that time, and I'm not referring to political elections in the united states and political demonstrations in Africa, united nations peacekeepers involvement in Darfur, political assassinations in Pakistan and also in Africa, and the opening of bidding for oil rights in Alaska's wilderness...

yes there have been many interesting and mostly disturbing developments in world politics and policy over the last few weeks, but I'll talk about things on a more personal level. I think I mentioned during my last post that I was in the midst of a most-hellish semester, which saw me approach historical levels of stress bordering on mental breakdown. luckily for me, that semester is over. I'm flying home now, leaving the south-eastern united states ( a region of the country which I have never enjoyed, but now holds a new and worthy reason for my renewed attention) and headed back to Colorado. as much as I enjoyed myself over this holiday break, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief as I return home. I'm grew up in the east, albeit the northeast and newengland, and many things about returning to the countryside and forests of the eastern seaboard were wonderful. I immersed myself in the smells and sights of oak and laurel forests... the aroma of wet soil and fallen leaves heightened by the cold rain overcoming my senses and reminding me so vividly of fond memories from my childhood. ...also, but to a much lesser degree of some memories from my childhood which were decidedly bittersweet, or in some cases just bitter.

I recently attended the annual American Geophysical Union's meeting in SF, along with some 15000 other geoscientists, in early December. AGU is always an amazing and overwhelming collection of talks, posters and many of the most influential minds in our field of science. The climate change researchers were out in force, and were a major contributing factor to the increase in general attendance this year... up a few thousand from last year alone. I myself gave a talk to room of close to 100, thanks in large part to going immediately after one of the most influential structural geologists of the last two decades, John Suppe. My interpretations and field models actually clashed somewhat with his, but I only received two questions which were very benign during the Q&A portion of the talk. The more time I spend at these conferences the more I realize that these researchers and scientists, who are held in such high regard, are really my colleagues; people who I will be working and arguing with for the rest of my career... assuming I end up in an academic position and continue along the path that I have begun to follow.

Growing up in the hills of maple and gorges of slate in central new york, I was surrounded by academics for as long as I can remember. Cornell University was always a fixture in my life, in some way or another. I was friends with children of professors, my parents were students there, my dad taught there for a short while, and many of their friends were on staff there. I rode my bike through the campus, often at irresponsible speeds down crowded staircases and through the plazas, to eventually attend, teach and work there myself.

The soils in Ithaca are of higher organic content that the red clays of the southeast; clays which when wet can wreak havoc on a sprained ankle during an easy walk in the rain if one is not careful. the overall feel of the forests is similar though, and so different from the open grasslands and evergreen forests of Lodge-Pole and Ponderosa in Colorado. Revisiting those eastern forests brought to light just how much I have accepted the western mountains as my new home and how free I feel here... but also reminded me quite vividly of my Yankee roots.


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