Unfinished business

The research I have done this summer has provided the foundation for continuing into senior year. In the Geology department here at William & Mary, every senior has to complete research and write a thesis in order to graduate. I have been fortunate enough to begin this over summer and complete a great deal of preliminary research before the school year gets started. I’ve collected and reviewed many articles pertaining to my thesis and have been able to pare down superfluous information in order to concentrate on what is essential. I’ve also created multiple visuals for my research, including a geologic map, a topographic map, cross sections, a schematic of how the ophiolite and metamorphic sole were created, and a stage-by-stage walkthrough of the obduction process (see below).

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Metamorphic clues

I’ve been identifying minerals and structures within the thin sections I received last month and using them to draw conclusions on the kinds of deformation the area has undergone. The mineral assemblages in the rocks can help identify different kinds of metamorphic environments and therefore give us an idea of the scale and extent of deformation that occurred.

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Through the Looking Glass

The past month has been focused on looking at my returned thin sections under the petrographic microscope. This microscope was developed for use in optical mineralogy and is integral in identifying microstructures and the mineralogy of rock samples. There are two primary views with the petrographic microscope: plane polarized light and cross-polarized light. Plane polarized light (PPL) is when the light shining through the microscope is polarized, meaning it vibrates in a single plane. A PPL image would look something like this:

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Far from Over

As I sit in McGlothlin for my last week of “research” (designing and setting up the new lab so that I can reach everything), I realize a few things. For starters, when they say that on-campus move-out is August 5th, they mean that not a soul will be left after that time, and the Grind will be closed. Also, my research is far from over. We spent two months analyzing June data, and we’re still not done. In fact, our gamma counter just finished working on rainfall from January. Once the move to the 3rd floor is complete and we perfect the most efficient ways to analyze data, the process will greatly quicken.

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When the Professors are Away….

Last week, both of our advisors were on vacation, so we were left to our own devices. We were excited to be independent researchers (even though our professors were only a phone call away) and see how well we could function. Naturally, 30 seconds after one professor left we had to chase him down at the Sunken Gardens because we forgot to ask something. We were left with three main tasks: start collecting a new set of data, continue stripping the resin from the previous data, and keep the liquid nitrogen in the gamma lab full.

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