27 November 2011

Coastal geomorphologist

Coastal geomorphologists, those are people who know stuff about, well, coasts! And how they form and how they evolve and all sorts of things. I have less than four months to become one.

I mentioned before that my career needs some teaching. I have started that; every week I now spend my Tuesday morning trying to convince students that foraminifera are splendid. And I enjoy that! I’m fortunately quite comfortable with the little buggers (the forams, I mean; not the students), and it’s a nice group of students, so all goes well.

Forams on a, eh, a stem of sorts

In March I’ll be dragged right out of my comfort zone. That’s when the Ireland Fieldwork takes place; we’ll take loads of students to the Irish west coast and let them have their way with everything geographically interesting they can find. The first two days we’ll take them on excursions. The next two days we’ll let them do a research project that we have designed; I’ll have them do Roland’s old project (Roland himself is not coming). It involves foraminifera, so that will be fine! But then the last two days it gets tougher.

The last two days we have to give the students a starting point to do a project themselves. And I’ve never been to that site, or anywhere near really, but we already had to submit our projects. No way one can come up with a feasible project without having seen the place, so I had to recycle extant projects. And I ended up with two projects designed by our other Dutch professor, Gerd; he has a chair in, you guessed it, coastal geomorphology. So I’ll be offering a project on a beach with conspicuously large boulders and even bigger rocks on it, and one on a spit there (a sand barrier stretching partially along an embayment). And what the students do with these is largely their decision, but questions they could address are in the direction of: how did these structures form, what does that tell us, how are they likely to change, are these unusual features? And I, of course, have to know the answer to all that. So now I’ve started to read up on sediment budgets, wave dynamics, currents, tides, and whatnot. I’m quite sure I’ll learn more than the students! And it’s a bit daunting given that I myself was educated as a geological lab rat, and now suddenly have to be a geomorphological field geographer, but I trust I can pull it off. And be a better scientist for it!

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