Thursday, 28 April 2011

Trashy Swans, Darwinism and a 100 trillion dollar note

A blast of a barbecue : 
I was feeling very virtuous after doing a large chunk of my literature review on Friday, so it was without guilt that I went to a barbecue at my friend J’s house on Saturday night . I was quite touched to discover that there were loads of nice couscous stuffed veggies ready just for me ! We spent most of the evening out in the garden, but when the biting insects got too much we moved inside and the conversation turned to J’s recent travels in Africa. He had pots of interesting tales (and tails !) to tell, but probably the best thing was the ‘One hundred trillion dollar’ note  that he brought back from Zimbabwe.
One swan’s trash is another one’s treasure:
On Easter Sunday after having an egg-cellent Easter egg hunt in our garden, (plus up and down the street) at seven in the morning we decided to chill out by the beautiful River Medway. Lately we’ve been keeping an eye on some swans  who have taken the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ message to heart and built the most amazing nest using recycled materials.  They have also gone for the ‘smallest dwelling in the poshest area’ approach to real estate as their address is at ‘The Esplanade’ Rochester !

A day at Charles’s place :
After a really cool ‘chill out’ by the river on Sunday, ‘S’ and me decided to have a day out at Down House on Easter Monday. Down house is the former home of Charles Darwin and along with beautiful gardens and the Darwin family’s living areas just as they had left them (we loved the ‘stair slide’), there was a fantastic visitor’s centre with a holographic display of Charles Darwin’s cabin on the Beagle. He appeared to be examining some microscope slides ! The most poignant item displayed was his very own mounting needle -a piece of equipment still used in slide preparation in our micropalaeontology lab at the university today... It was a shame that English Heritage had mis-labelled it as a dissection instrument !
There were also lots of delights in the garden too, including a ‘worm stone’ built to test the validity of Darwin’s theory on earth worms, and a hot house full of carnivorous plants.   

J’s record of the week :
‘Pressure drop’
By the Toots and
the Maytals.

The Toots and the Maytals songs  have been covered all sorts of artists from The Clash (who covered ‘pressure drop’) to The Specials. The Toots and the Maytals version of ‘Pressure Drop’ was released in 1968, although  I first heard this song at Easter four years ago. I was in Canada with my family and was bemoaning the fact that I had forgotten to bring my CD wallet on holiday. Luckily my cousin’s partner ‘A’ had a few sneaky reggae tracks up her sleeve and made a CD for me. So even though most people might be visualising palm trees and sand when they listen to this song, I always think of driving through the Rocky Mountains in the snow at Easter ! Jerushah X

Monday, 18 April 2011

More Glorious Mud!

More Glorious Mud:
On the Sunday after returning from Spain, we were out doing fieldwork again...
The good thing was that I seemed to have brought the sunshine back with me – Yay! Our trip was mainly focussed on examining a submerged forest in the intertidal zone of the Thames at Erith and Purfleet.
We were accompanied by a mixed group of geographers and lapidary/mineral enthusiasts from Kent and Essex. Among them were some old friends ‘S T’ and ‘N C’ who I hadn’t seen in years, which was a really nice surprise!
Now I’ll give you a question: What does an eminent Quaternary scientist do before eating his packed lunch? Only read on if you have a strong constitution...
He sticks his finger in a brown, slimy layer that has accumulated on the surface of the river mud (see photo), smears it across his palm and says with an excited look on his face: ‘Jerushah, look at this!  I think we’ve got live diatoms here...  Either that or it’s raw sewage...’
...And in answer to the question posed in the title, actually Kent Mud and Essex Mud are exactly the same, as the submerged forest extends from one side of the Thames to the other.
Pictured here is my illustrious research supervisor  ‘Dr BAH’ with my main mini field assistant ‘S,’ plus  ‘R’ and ‘D’ from the Essex GA.

J’s record of the week: 
Don’t forget, last time I promised two songs for this week, and as I’m a woman of my word  I thought  I would provide you with ‘something old’ and ‘something new’ so here goes :

Something old:
‘Let’s do it again’
The Staple Singers 

This week, I was bored on my way to work and put my iPod on shuffle... As a result I discovered this little gem of a song, full of sensual lyrics and the sweet harmonies that only families of singers can seem to create. It was a hit in 1975, when it reached number one in the US chart. Guess what ? It was very apt, because being an extremely catchy song, I listened to it, only to play it again immediately after !
 Innocent Jerushah says  ‘Of course that’s the meaning of the title !’

Something new:
‘The Time (Dirty Bit)’
Black Eyed Peas

This song was released last October, but for reasons only known to myself, I’ve only just discovered it ! I downloaded it last night and I’m really looking forward to dancing round the living room to it (which will hopefully not be too embarrassing for ‘S’ ) later. Haven’t got round to listening to the rest of the album yet, but I’ll let you know how I get on ! Enjoy reliving those Dirty Dancing bits everyone ! Jerushah X

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

My field trip to the Almeria province!

Earlier this week I returned from my field trip to the Almeria province with the School of Science. We were away for twelve days. Our time was so packed with activities, that I thought it would be nice to give you a day by day account of the trip...

We had to be at the Medway campus to meet the coach at 3am, and miraculously no one was late – not even me!
After we arrived in Almeria we were soooo tired, and slept for most of the evening...

Today we were given a geographical overview of the entire Almeria area, and boy was it good to be back! I studied there sixteen years ago, and you’d be surprised how much information I had retained... Half of our group were human geographers, so it was also nice to have that extra dimension to the day.

Monday was spent around a beautiful little town called Sorbas. The second year undergraduates and some of the masters students were doing some ‘ground validation’ of work they had started the previous week on campus. I made the mistake of asking them if they were ‘ground truthing,’ which is apparently a big ‘no no’ in remote sensing circles...  Oops! That’s Jerushah, never known for her subtlety!
We also learnt about the ecology of the semi arid environment in the area - See my lovely photo’s of a butterfly and a bee orchid?

Today was doline day! Actually it looks like we’re performing some strange ritual doesn’t it? Our group were standing around a doline. These are large bowl shaped structures in the ground, caused by the dissolution of the gypsum geology. Lucky (or not depending on your opinion), it rained shortly after the photo was taken, so we could see the process taking place before our very eyes! Health and safety alert: Each doline has a hole in the centre which can be several metres deep !

On Wednesday we had a full itinerary of human geography in the city of Almeria. Although I’m not a human geography specialist, I do love old buildings, so a day in Almeria was architectural heaven ! My favourite part was a visit to the Alcazaba, which is a Moorish castle on a hill above the city.
It was very atmospheric , there were fantastic, panoramic views over the city and out to the Mediterranean.  The Moorish gardens had been accurately restored, and were shaded by spectacularly pollarded trees. Down almost every set of steps there was cascade (see photo) of water, which in addition to the birdsong  and bullfrogs calling from the water tanks created quite a cacophony – in a good way of course !
There were also a group of little Spanish school children there on a trip, who had obviously hand made their own ‘Moors’ and ‘Christians’ costumes for the day  - so cute, I wish I’d managed to catch a photo of them for the blog too !

Thursday was an interesting day... Geologically, ecologically and meteorologically ! We spent the morning at the old lighthouse (called a ‘faro’), examining the ecology of the limestone pavement, there were also some ancient lava flows, topped by a fossil coral reef – talk about geologist ‘eye candy!’
In the afternoon we stopped in the town of Carboneras, and found ourselves engulfed in ‘sea fog’ within a very short time, which was very spooky...

On Friday we awoke to a beautiful sunrise – as pictured looking out towards the beach from our hotel.
The undergraduates were looking at development in the fishing port of Garrucha (which everyone said sounded just like my name!) in the morning, followed by tourism in Mojacar (the town where we were staying) in the afternoon.

I wouldn’t say Saturday was a ‘day off’ as such. It was allocated as a project planning day, so while the academics did a few reconnaissance missions to investigate field work sites for the rest of the week, the students planned their mini projects.
As for me, I managed to take half of the samples (and accompanying photo’s) needed for my ‘open credits’ diatom project.

Today can be summed up in two words ‘geomorphology heaven!’
I spent the afternoon with the doline mini project group, who found all sorts of really interesting structures in the gypsum. Not only dolines, but also tumuli. These are giant blister like formations which are caused by dissolution and recrystallization of gypsum. Some are so big that six undergraduates can comfortably stand in them!

Not wanting to be accused of too much repetition here, but if yesterday was ‘geomorphology heaven,’ today was definitely ‘palaeoenviroment and geology heaven.’
Two of the undergraduates, ‘JJP’ and ‘LN’ were working on the fossilised Carriatiz reef (you can see it in the picture behind me). They encountered an army of spiky plants on the way, but found some fantastic fossils: Echinoids, pectens, stromatolites, gastropods and two different types of coral.

Our last full day!  I spent a little bit more time collecting my marl samples today. I wanted one last swim in the sea before coming home, but alas it was not to be! I had too many scratches from our encounters with all those vicious plants on Monday L.
Pictured here is a beautiful piece of geology from the Carboneras fault zone. I know I am supposed to be a geologist, but I have to say that this area is so structurally complex, it defies explanation – however I can appreciate its aesthetic qualities instead!

Another early start! I had anticipated feeling cold on arrival in the UK, so I wore as many layers as possible... After a fairly early start, and an uneventful flight we arrived back in the UK to... Not drizzle and chills, but lovely warm weather!
It was a great trip, but it is lovely to be back, as I was really missing my daughter ‘S’ and Twilight kitten of course !

J’s record of the week:

Apologies blog readers ! I have no record of the week, as I didn’t
listen to any music at all while we were away...
I’ll have to promise you double next week! Jerushah X