Future Work Needed for Understanding the Erosional History of the Blue Ridge

One limitation in our research project thus far is the limited spatial scope. Our research group has focused solely on the Montebello Region. While this area provides a useful sub-view of the entire Blue Ridge it might not be representative of the entire Blue Ridge. Of course, other studies have looked at other parts of the Blue Ridge but these have been few and far between.

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The Coming Year in Blue Ridge Research

The ultimate goal for this research has been to create a Senior Geology Research Thesis by the end of my Spring Semester. I will write and present for the W&M Geology Department at the end of the Spring. The Fall semester will be dedicated to finishing all data collection. Primarily, processing sediment samples to send to the Purdue Research Laboratory. These samples will provide critical data on the concentration of Cosmogenic Radionuclides within the stream basins. These in turn provide a way to calculate erosion rates. Since all our data was collected in paired samples (one above a knickpoint and one below) we will be able to compare how the landscape is eroding spatially. Combining that information with the previously studied landscape metrics (gathered from GIS work earlier in the summer) will provide a full-bodied interpretation of how the Montebello Region is eroding.

Field Work at the End of the Summer

Summer has just ended but right before that happened, I went out in the field with my research team! Greg, Tiff and I were able to travel to the Montebello Region of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The rain was persistent, the bugs roamed unabated, and the streams raged with a monstrous fury to rival the Nile or the Mississippi (well kind of). Our process in the field was relatively straightforward once we got the hang of it. We would drive to a trailhead or road cut. Stare at the maps confused. Then travel down whatever overgrown forest trail we thought had the best chance of leading us to the appropriate stream. Bushwhacking was involved. So was scaling man-sized knickpoints to reach the appropriate section of the stream for sampling. We would then scour the area for sand sized sediment, as much as we could find (some of the more rocky areas were incredibly sparse). Pouring our muddy sediment-rich mixture into a three sieve apparatus, we were then able to extract the appropriate size sediment for future use in the lab. We bagged the sediment and repeated the process numerous times to collect a sufficient amount. Afterwards we scurried back up to the trail and repeated with the other streams in our study region. It was fun and wet and we finished in three days time. Now our goal is to bring the sediment to the lab for processing before we send it off to be analyzed for CRN content with a particle accelerator.

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MidSummer Data Presentation

Well the summer is almost over and today is the day that my research partner and I give data presentations. This will not only help us in determining what each of us has done so far but it will also help begin the rigorous process of data analysis that will culminate with my senior research theses this coming spring. We will also propose what else needs to be done during the school year to really test and pick apart our hypothesis that the Montebello Region of the Blue Ridge is currently in a state of transience.

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Working with arcGIS in the BlueRidge: Week Three of Summer Research

 

Today marks the third consecutive week of my summer research focused on uncovering the past history of the Appalachian mountain range. The first week of the summer was spent examining the current literature. I focused on reading articles related to my research methods of stream profile analysis (e.g Gallen et al. 2011) and cosmogenic radionuclide dating (Bierman et al. 1996). Reading through these helped prepare me for lively discussions with my research team: my advisor Greg Hancock and research partner Tiff Choi.

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