Dig, drive, dig, drive, dig, drive, dig, drive. Repeat x 7.
That describes my past week surprisingly well. I've been out in the middle of nowhere Kentucky doing a part of field work called "site prep". Essentially, before you can install a station, you need to "prepare" it. The vault, which holds the sensor, needs to be secured into the ground ahead of time, so the sensor has a secure location when it arrives on site. Thus, we have spent the last week digging large holes and cementing the vaults into the ground with concrete. Minimum wage skills for maximum wage fun. I'm not kidding.
Field seismology is SO much fun. You bond with your fellow coworkers in a way that you can't in the lab. You don't actually know someone well until you've seen them fall into a vault hole. I'm looking at you, Josh. Plus, you can't really call yourself a seismologist until you've been stung by a bee while raising a post-hole digger majestically into the air as a single bead of sweat drips down your grizzled face, reflecting the 100 degree heat radiating oh so gently onto your concrete laced skin. See Figure A below for a visual representation of the above mental image.
Anyways, jokes aside, the week was a blast. Physically demanding, yet enriching in a number of ways. Firstly, it's given me an enormous appreciation for the organization required to pull off such an experiment. Simply put, it's a logistical nightmare. Dealing with multiple teams in multiple states, organizing an enormous amount of equipment often needed simultaneously in different places, and operating entirely within the permission of private land owners is no small task. Remaining calm when things go wrong (which they inevitably will) is even harder.
Secondly, it's prompted a series of personal musings on the innate sociological aspects of seismology. Because I spend 90% of my time in a highly scientific world, whether absorbed in my geophysical studies at the technical institution that is the Colorado School of Mines, or interacting with the scientifically inclined side of family including my electrical engineer/rocket scientist brother and digital strategy/online communications guru father, I often forget that anything involving the word "seismic" soars over most people's heads. Interacting with and hearing the life stories of land owners from the farming/mining industries naturally raises questions and concerns about how experiments like OIINK integrate into the surrounding communities. Could we better communicate information from our experiment to those interested in the local communities in which we operate? Software limitations currently prevents that data from being easily translated into a publicly available format. How do we communicate earth structure problems in a way that is enticing and relatable for the average citizen? Why is communicating these issues to the local communities important, or is it not worth the time?
I have a particular interest in the intersection of science and society, specifically regarding how we communicate scientific research. Scientific storytelling, if you will. Communication is rapidly changing, and science can't afford to fall behind. Yet when I hear the life story of a land owner who is kindly letting us use his property for our research, I can't help but ponder how experiments can be designed to communicate to an evolving technological society while retaining meaningful impact for a Midwestern farmer. These are the things I think about when digging holes.
Finally, the amount of driving involved in between different sites has allowed me to pick my mentor's brain on a number of topics. Including but not limited to: hiking destinations, Farallon Plate research, and the intersection between academia and industry. It's been great to hear a wealth of knowledge on a whole slew of topics. Computer's can spit out a wealth of accurate calculations, but the information they provide still pales in comparison to a conversation with a 30+ year seismology veteran. I'm excited for many more conversations during this next week of site installations.
I would have never thought a week digging holes would have been one of my best weeks all summer. I would not be surprised if my next week surpasses this one. Site installations are on the board for all of next week, which involves less digging, a whole lot more electronics, and even more camping. I'm recollected, well-rested, and ready to go.
Oh, and lastly, before I forget, I'll just leave this here....
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