Sorry for getting behind with updating the blog--the past couple of weeks have been insanely busy in the lab. Last Saturday we traveled to Buffalo, New York to take part in an international volcanological initiative, which was absolutely awesome. So, leading up to last week, there was little time to work on my project as the whole team was needed to test our equipment before the trip. We tested everything outside of the geology building on campus and then loaded it all into a car and drove to a farm outside of Chapel Hill where we set off some dry ice bombs to collect infrasound and seismic data. Did you know you can buy dry ice at the grocery store? Anyway, the tests were successful, so we packed our microphones and seismometers very carefully for a week of observing some real TNT explosions.
We hauled all of our infrasound and seismic equipment up north to participate in a week-long field campaign where groups of researchers from around the world came to collect data and collaborate. The bulk of the field work was done in a rural open field in Springville, New York, which is about a half an hour away from Buffalo. We had a few days to set up, and two official blasting days to collect data. It was hectic with so many different groups all collecting different things at the same time, but also very exciting. Over 20 explosions were detonated, ranging in size and burial depth, strategically placed amongst 5 separate blasting pads. I think our group brought the most equipment, so our setup was pretty extensive. We had a "far" array of 3 infrasound microphones and a seismometer connected to a Reftek data logger, which we placed about 50 meters from the blasts in the middle of some tall grass. It was a nice surprise each morning coming out to put batteries in each of the microphones and finding slugs and grasshoppers crawling all over them...there are some weird bugs living in Springville, NY, and they obviously didn't like me because I left each day covered in bites. On the first day, I got stung by something weird and my whole hand swelled up. It looked like a balloon, or like one of those cartoon Mickey Mouse hands. Pretty gross.
We also had a "near" array of 5 infrasound microphones that we set on the ground closer to the explosions. Then, in order to observe the vertical propagation of sound waves, the microphones that will fly on the NASA project at the end of summer were placed in soft-sided lunch boxes and mounted to a 25 foot flagpole in three locations (top, middle, bottom) to create our "flag" array. It was kind of a crazy setup, something no one had ever tried before, but it ended up being super successful. As if we didn't have enough equipment, we were given accelerometers and another seismometer from PASSCAL to observe the explosions, so we had to collect data from these as well. The two accelerometers that PASSCAL gave us were super nice and expensive so we had to be careful with them, but we were curious to see how the ground accelerates really close to the explosion site. We decided to build two cheap accelerometers of our own which could be blown up without consequences. I hadn't used my knowledge of circuits and electricity from freshman year physics since the class ended, and suddenly I was using my hands to solder things to a circuit board. I loved the hands-on aspect of electronics, and I feel like I actually gained some practical knowledge. I don't think I will ever find myself soldering in a hotel room ever again--quite an adventure.
After a few long days in the field and lots of sunburn, we packed up our equipment and celebrated with ice cream and cold beer. Then, on Thursday, we took some time to be tourists and trekked over to Niagara Falls, which was gorgeous. We had perfect weather, and spent the day walking around and enjoying the falls. But, of course, in a group full of scientists everything becomes an experiment, so we took one array with 6 microphones with us to collect some infrasound from the falls. Two other groups came with us--one brought an infrared camera to do thermal imaging of the falls, and the other brought a high speed camera. I was walking around with a Reftek shoved in my backpack as we moved between three different sites within the park. We definitely got some weird looks when we laid out all of our equipment. I'm sure some people thought we were crazy. It was a great day, though, and produced some cool data. Also, that night we went out for buffalo wings in Buffalo, which turned into a challenge of who could eat the hottest wings--seriously hilarious adviser-intern bonding.
Although the week was unbelievably exhausting, I had such an amazing time meeting people from around the world and learning more about other types of volcanological research. I was by far the youngest person there, but I loved being able to get to know scientists from different backgrounds and hear their advice and perspectives on going into a career in geophysics. The week was extremely valuable to me in so many ways. The blasters let me detonate not just one, but two of the biggest explosions on the last day, which pretty much made my week. But, even better than that, I made connections with an amazing group of researchers while experiencing all the stress, hard work, and reward of being in the field.
P.S. I have so many cool pictures and videos I want to share, so hopefully I can figure out how to get them on here--next entry should be way less words, way more pictures
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