22 May 2017

Fieldtrip preparation

In June we have a 10 day residential field trip in South Wales. I have been participating pretty much since the very beginning of my time in Wales. It is a trip during which the students do something else in the Taf Estuary every day; they do temperature and conductivity measurements in the water of the tidal river, they do geophysical measurements in a field, they core in a field too, they look at sedimentology and suspended sediment, and survey many transects over the estuary. We hope it all comes together in the end. They see this estuary system from all angles and we hope they get some holistic insight!

I always take them into the salt marsh during the first low water of the day; we take surface samples, and take these back to the holiday park where we stay, and there sieve out the fine materials and let the samples dry. After lunch the students come back, and then they are asked to sieve the samples and then pick forams from the sand-sized fraction. They have to identify them and have the identifications checked. That tends to take to dinner time! And sometimes beyond. These are long days. The students only do it once. I do it every day.

The trip used to be organised by Colin, but he is now the dean, and has other things on his mind. For the past few years it has been a spiffing lady called Suzie who organised it; she is some superwoman who manages to combine a full-time academic job with winning loads of gold medals in European rafting championships. And being generally lovely. But this year she's on maternity leave. Colin is back as the module leader but as he's still the dean, I was asked to do the general organisation this year. Eek! That's a lot of work. And as far as I know,Suzie has done this trip as a student, so she's seen all the different aspects of it. I haven't. And now I'm in charge! It's intimidating. I do my best.

The best thing that happened was that this year it was compulsory for fewer students than before. And many of those who now can choose have chosen not to go! I think that's unwise; I think it's a marvellous opportunity, but then again, it is a lot easier to organise if you're not stretched to the max with regard to space in the improvised labs, spaces in the vehicles, number of staff available for supervising all the field elements, etc.

We already have had meeting about who and when and how and such. I will soon have to print the handouts. I hope the technicians check whether the drill works. I am trying to get the students to tell me how they intend to travel there and if they have medical issues I need to be aware of.

The run-up is already scary, but being there will be too. The students will have questions on whatnot, and I will be the logical person to turn to. Except that I only know my own assignment. And I will be locked up in a lab all day. We'll see how it all pans out!

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