Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SPECIAL BLOG: Accretionary Wedge #48 (Geoscience & Technology)

While my blog has been on an extended hiatus due to graduation, moving back home, field camp, job searches, masters program registration, apartment hunting, blahblahblah, I've decided to finally contribute to an Accretionary Wedge event hosted by Charles Carrigan at Earth-like Planet.

I'll let you explore the idea behind accretionary wedge on your own (HINT, look here!) since I would do a terrible job if I tried to explain it to you myself.

The topic for this Accretionary Wedge is: geoscience and technology.  While I do not currently have a career in geoscience, I have been a student in the geosciences for over 4 years, I've interned with an environmental geology consulting company, and I've been a geoscience blogger for roughly 1 year.  I'm calling that certifiably qualified to write about geoscience and technology!

What came to mind when I first thought about this topic was the idea of "the old way" versus "the new way".  For example, geologist Dr. McFritzdog prefers to rely on his topographic maps and Brunton compass when out in the field.  However, Dr. Hipdude just carries his smartphone with downloadable maps, gps, and the Brunton compass application when he does field work.  Dr. McFritzdog argues that topographic maps and a brunton compass are the proper tools of a geologist and were designed for rough and rugged field work.  He's convinced that bringing a smartphone into the field is just an expensive accident waiting to happen.  Dr. Hipdude argues that he's careful (he even bought one of those expensive phone covers!) and that all his tools fit conveniently in his pocket.  He can even download geologic maps and make stereonets in the field!

While I just made this situation up, it's not much different from what I've experienced during my field trips, field work, and field camp.  During my field camp course last month, our professor was adamantly against our use of smartphones and downloadable maps and gps applications.  He wanted us to use only our Bruntons and field maps during our days in the mountainous desert wilderness.  Since I did not have a smartphone at the time, I was totally okay with that.  However, many of my friends immediately ranted about how ridiculous it was that we were being forced into the "old-fashioned" way of doing field work.  I understood their frustration (some of them had even spent money on various applications they thought would be useful) and at the time, I thought maybe our professor was just being stubborn.  However, after a few days of relying on just a compass and paper map, I got the hang of locating myself on the topo map.  When we got to our third and fourth mapping sites, cell signal was fading in and out and the students who had spent the first few projects relying solely on their phones found themselves SOL and had to try and learn quickly to use the "old-fashioned" method of locating themselves.

While smartphones have really expanded on the ways field work can be done, they aren't ready to  replace the trusty brunton and the paper topo map.  Smartphones can do amazing things now (there really is an app for that!) and I really believe they are just as much a field tool now as the brunton compass and the topo map are.  I personally think that anyone who would choose to rely solely on their smartphone in the field is a reckless fool; and just as well, I think that anyone who disregards smartphone technology as a legitimate field tool is a stubborn fool.  Becoming familiar with both methods allows room for a backup plan and will keep any geologist one step ahead.

And now that I think about it, there is no smartphone rockhammer app.  I guess that one's still in the beta.

-Brian Schrock




NOTICE! My regular blog posts will be back shortly.  I have a few that are almost ready to go and I'm pretty excited about them!  Until then, enjoy your summer!  Happy Hurricane Season to my Gulf Coast and East Coast friends.

ALSO! Here are a few pictures from field camp:


Me with my selenite gypsum (that I lost =[)

Knight Peak in NM (1st mapping area)

Me with Knight Peak in the background

Fire near Silver City, NM

Little amphibolite fold in a quartzite dike
(at 2nd mapping area: Bullard Peak in NM)

Petroglyphs at Parowan Gap, UT (3rd mapping area)

12,000+ ft Mt. Tuk North (4th Mapping area, UT)


We were originally known as the foreigners (we all came from different schools while the rest of our class came from SFA).  We met each other at the beginning of field camp and spent literally every minute together for the next six weeks.  By the end we became known as the family.  Left to Right: Naomi, Michael, Ana, Kyle, Jess, and Me.  (At the Grand Canyon's South Rim)