Last entry was a bit of a downer, so let's try to improve with this week's.
I still have not processed data. I know, shocking right?! However, this week I feel much more acceptance about that fact. We have uploaded it, and I can see it, taunting me, available to use, however, there are of course a few more things we have to do at the NEIC before I can dive in. Oh, and a new twist for you all - my abstract is no longer due on the the 30th, it's due next Friday. Yes, that's right, 1 week from today. And today is almost over.
BUT, I have a plan! I have done a lot of thinking about what I need and want to do with my data this past week from working with Nicole on the same processes in OK, from meetings we have had with our NEIC advisor Harley, Dan McNamara of the NEIC/USGS, and now talking with Rick. We were also assigned to make a powerpoint this week explaining our research to a hypothetical audiance of 15-18 year olds with only basic intro knowledge of earthquakes. Not having much research to talk about, it really made me reflect on the background of my project, what has been done and what I will do.
Since I have no real research leaps and bounds to discuss, I'll just tell you about highlights from my week...
Tuesday Nicole and I planned to go down to Golden for a day at the NEIC, so I left Monday night to meet my good friend Laura for an evening climb at Earth Treks, her local gym down there. It was incredible. This gym is really new, with an obviously insane budget for holds, and the sport climbing walls are both steep and long - perfect for an evening of girls crushing on some plastic. Tuesday at the NEIC was pretty mellow. Harley and I made plans for what data was priority to download next, and things began to make headway there. We went to lunch at the Sherpa House again - third time is not the charm. I think we need to try something new... However, Wes Thelen of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory joined us. A former student of University of Washington, it was really nice to talk to someone who spent some time in the northwest, knew my advisor Jackie, and knew the research that had made me interested in pursuing seismology in the first place (Kate Allstadt's research with icequakes on Rainier and Jackie's work with signals from rock-ice avalanches on Iliamna). Wes and I joked about how much these women enjoy and excel at studying these less than classical earthquake signals that I have a growing interest in - it's like the "one man's trash is another man's treasure" except with seismology... and that trash sounds like a harsh way to describe these events... because they truly are intriguing. I'm excited to delve more into icequakes with my own research this summer. The highlight of Tuesday though was Nicole and my meeting with Dan McNamara. He told us about all he'd been doing with OK earthquakes, doing multiple event relocation, as well as looking at b-values and swarm characterization with this program in Matlab called MapSeis. What he was doing revived my excitement for this research. I suddenly started thinking of all the things I could do with my data - how I could do a lot of the same things he did to understand swarms myself.
Wednesday was a pretty lackluster day at CSU for Nicole and I. Got some work done, but nothing exciting. I met a new friend for lunch, after which we were going to go climb in Poudre Canyon. However, it was drizzling and the idea of climbing on wet rock is not the most appealing. Yet, like it was meant to be, I locked my keys in my car, so we had to wait for AAA to come rescue me, and by the time that was done it was starting to get sunny! Off to the Canyon we went! We managed to get in 3 pitches of sport, then it poured. I mean really started raining. And I still had to clean the draws off our last climb. A really cool moderate 5.10 that I wanted to climb, but with water starting to pool in crimps, I opted to top rope it so we could get out of there faster and with no needless falls. So we finished our climb in the gym. But the craziness of that afternoon, and just getting out on the rock for those two pitches each made Wednesday one of my favorite days in Fort Collins so far.
Thursday, yesterday, we were back at the NEIC. In dresses. Yes. Nicole and I dressed up (literally. ha. ha.) for a meeting with the Colorado Earthquake Hazard Mitigation Council, where Dr. Anne Sheehan of CU Boulder gave a talk about the earthquakes in Greeley earlier this year. It was really interesting to see the methods that we are pursuing put to use with recent events, especially with events as controversial as induced seismicity. They are making some incredible policy decisions in that area, and it's exciting to see the development of these regulations occur in realtime with the methods Nicole and I are using! We also went to a talk on earthquake induced landslides, part of a summer seminar series at the USGS. After taking a landslides class this winter, and learning more about seismology, and the difficulties of research, I felt like I could understand a lot of what was being discussed, and the fellow USGS/NEIC interns and I talked about what we thought of the predictive programs being used.
All in all, a long post for a long, yet much improved, week. Don't have much substantial to show for it, but do have a new peace of mind. Let's hope next week goes off without a hitch and I will have lots to share.
Let's just start by saying this post is going to be really honest.
This week has been really hard for me.
I still have not been able to begin processing my data. It's not that I'm worried about time, I still have almost 10 weeks left and will likely be continuing work into the fall, but with an abstract looming, due in less than a month (a draft by July 30th for me because Rick will be gone the beginning of August), and with other interns being so far along with understanding their research, it's hard not to get incredibly discouraged and ultimately feel truly incompetent. I know I'm much earlier into my internship than the others, that we all have different backgrounds coming into this, and well, I would love to hear from others that this is a shared feeling, but it has been pretty difficult not knowing even the basics of coding, the upper division math that is the basis of my project's processing, and really how to do most things on my own. Nicole has been extremely helpful with learning code as well as the steps to using the processing code, and I do feel like I've learned a lot. But sitting around waiting has this nack of making you think a lot, and of course we usually go to thinking a lot about what we don't know, sinking into the struggle of collaborative scientific research. Because ultimately I've downloaded all my data, I am just waiting for it to be uploaded in the format/location we use for processing, and also for the processing code to be fixed. The general feeling is a bit of helplessness mixed with a lot of incompetence.
After talking on the phone with my wonderful advisor back home, Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, I got some reassurance that I'm not on the path to failure, and that I can still have a future in geophysics (yes, my week was so bad that it brought me to those thoughts). She reminded me that I was chosen for this internship for a reason. And I know that - perhaps that's also where my struggle is, because I know I am somoene who is very dedicated and determined when it comes to learning, and feels annoyance when there is a lack of progress or understanding. I still have a lot to learn, and that's okay. That's what grad school is for. That's what talking to your advisor is for. So Rick and I talked, and he was very understanding and wants to help refocus on what I don't know, taking this waiting time to really build up my background knowledge of this research in the nitty gritty details. I had read papers on past reserach of the area, of the techniques I will use, and got the jist, but to really understand it is taking a lot more work. Today I'm reading a linear algebra textbook (one that my advisor Rick wrote!), we have gone over the basics, talking about how they relate to seismology and tomography. It does feel good to start to understand some things, but it's dense stuff let me tell you! For someone who has only taken one class past calculus in college (multi-variable), and that was four years ago when I was a freshman, this is quite the leap. Anyway, we will discuss what I've read, any issues, and then take it further into subspace detection and singular value decomposition (which is what my research is based on). Harley is here from the NEIC to catch us all up on where we are with the projects, and hopefully we can all get on the same page about what I will do next.
Updates to come.
Today is the last day of my second week at CSU! As I'm starting to get more involved with my project here are some more details, the nitty gritty about the data and the processing that will be used...
The dataset that I will be working with this summer includes seismic recordings from various networks/stations throughout Antarctica. We are in the process of downloading data from several networks, each with it's own functioning time period: POLENET YT (2007 to present), Erebus ER (2002 to present), Southberg XV (2003 - 2006), AGAP ZM (2007 to 2012), as well as a few other stations that will give us data from time periods before those above. Each of these networks has many stations within them, and those then have many channels. As you can tell, there is just a whole heck of a lot of data! And as we began processing it, we realized that some of it was just too large, taking too long, and ultimately wasn't necessary for our studies. So within some networks we would only use data stations, not conditions stations (temperature, pressure, etc). We would also only select the highest sampling rate for each station, because that would give us the most complete dataset. What has been the greatest hurdle is making sure we are getting all the data from POLENET. Some of it is restricted and it's hard to tell if you've actually got all the data or are missing some. Therefore a lot of this data is available to the public, however some is not. I doubt we are the first people to look at most of this data, but perhaps some more recent POLENET information is less analyzed. The data is all raw as far as I'm aware. We wil be cross correlating events with an already made code by the NEIC/USGS, but I'm sure I will have to do some manual picking for alignment purposes.
Tools that I will use to do my summer research are many! Just within terminal I am using a lot of different programs, gsac, sac, pico, etc. I am also using Java a great deal, which is where we run our subspace detector coding and made our getfetch requests of the data. Matlab has been the best resource for making my basemap and interpreting the background seismicity so far with Gutenberg-Richter relations and the magnitude of completeness. I am sure it will continue to be a vital program - we even installed the student edition on my personal laptop. I'm excited to play around with it; maybe someday get as good at generating scripts as Nicole... GMT will definitely be needed later on for figures. But due to my lack of current enjoyment with that program, we will just say that and move on...
Outside of the internship, I have officially made friends! I guess it's not that surprising that many of the people I have met are also summer interns or part of an REU (Reserach Experiences for Undergraduates). We come from all over, France, Puerto Rico, throughout the US, etc etc and yet seem to understand the process we've all been going through this summer. Two of the students from France, Robin and Tony, invited me to go bouldering last Thursday at Carter Lake and then up to Vedauwoo, near Laramie, WY, for the weekend. I have already had such a blast with these two. Brushing up on my French, I have found people I can joke around with and also climb hard with. It was a fun weekend of getting lost, drinking wine, making ratatouille at our campsite on a tiny stove, accidently getting on a 12c/d sport route when we meant to be climbing the 11b next to it, learning the basics of dancing salsa from Tony, midnight roof crack bouldering, and even later dancing under the stars and a disco ball that their friend Ryan just happens to keep in his car for moments like these. The Brewer's Festival was this weekend, but I have to say that the adventures I had in Wyoming could not compare and I'm not too bummed I missed it. Instead, I am excited to get back up there to climb more.
Hoping to get some data to start playing around with in the next couple days. I need to feel like I'm making progress again... Soon enough! I need to not worry and just remind myself I am only just finishing week two, and I have plenty of time left!
Nicole and I went down to Golden, CO yesterday to visit the NEIC. I am still in the works of getting personal access to the building, but was quickly accepted to the group of wonderful college-aged interns working at the USGS/NEIC this summer. As residents of "FoCo" (Fort Collins), USGS intern Sam dubbed Golden "G Den," unpleased that there was no associated abbreviation with Golden. The intern office is very quiet and motivated, so Nicole and I forced them out of the office and out to lunch, something they had yet to do together. All nine of us went to the Sherpa House and had the most filling, and delicious $10 Nepali/Indian buffet. After seconds, and thirds for some, it was agreed that this lunch was infinitely better than any pb&j.
But now down to business! Harley Benz, whom Nicole is working with on Oklahoma data, started by giving us a tour of the basement computer rooms. I felt like I was staring up at many versions of the great black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Their computer setup is amazing, and so incredibly backed up against any failure. This is necessary since they are such a national and global force in earthquake response. Harley then showed us the difference between portable and permanent seismic stations. He then explained how they process and share earthquake information, the scary steps that go into publishing this vital information to hundreds of thousands of people with a click of a button; the White House, the press, the public, etc etc. It was pretty amazing to see how quickly they can provide so much information. Much of the data that I'd been introduced to in my geophysics classes at school, through the earthquakes.usgs.gov website, is processed, analyzed, reassessed, and published within tens of minutes. Very impressive to say the least. Harley explained this is quite the norm around the NEIC. Even with the big 7.9 in Alaska on Monday, he didn't have to even leave his office to handle this process. This kind of visit really made me want to continue my involvement with the NEIC even after this internship is over. What they do is truly amazing.
Now I didn't get much done at the NEIC. I did get some new event and station data for my basemap. But with the discovery of Bedmap2, GMT has been abandoned for this assignment (thank goodness), and I pursued putting all of my initial data onto this reference map. Bedmap2 is truly an amazing toolbox used through Matlab that makes easy maps of Antarctica. Who knew that the south pole was such a pesky place to plot.... Anyway! Here is my initial map! I wanted to add a legend for the symbols (Triangles are stations - magenta are POLENET and yellow are OTHER, Circles are past events), but since the symbols were ploted on top of the bedmap, it is likely a task to do later in Illustrator, as Nicole and Rick tell me.
We have also been given the okay to start downloading our data! So after I made my map for us and we bought a new 2TB external drive for all of data, we began the slow process of downloading it all. Station by station. Year by year. It's going to be slow. That's okay. We've got pandora open, a webinar to watch, and plenty to do. Our hopes are to finish the downloading by Friday, when we return to the NEIC, so that we can give it Harley to put it into a format that we can use in our codes. It's all very exciting to finally be producing things, like this silly little map and files of data for future processing. We will need to create a script to run the downloading even after we leave the lab today... We'll see how it goes!
This is my last day of my first week in Fort Collins, and I’d like to provide a bit more information about my internship, my goals, and what I’ve been up to so far!
Above you can read my project summary, which is essentially how I understand the project thus far. Unfortunately, I have yet to delve into this data myself, but have been reading up a lot on past research and the methodologies that we will be implementing, as well as practicing with those methods on other data and with Nicole on her research of the induced seismicity in Oklahoma in the past year.
Anyway, here are my goals for the summer, both general and specific...
My general goals for the internship:
- Become familiar, proficient, and largely independent in my data processing and program handling.
- Personally become more confident about being self-guided, trusting my intuition/ideas. While at the same time, be confident in asking questions and for guidance when needed.
- Make some professional contacts in the field of seismology so that I have a network of people who know who I am and what I am doing for support with my project as well as in future endeavors.
- Become more informed about my post internship choices from my advisor’s own experience/advice, as well as others who assist me this summer, and my own experiences; these include grad school, industry, research, etc.
More specific goals related to each third of my internship (which will last 13 weeks total, June 17th – September 17th!)
- The first third – I would like to begin with really obtaining a thorough understanding of the area (Antarctica), past resereach, and the methodologies that we will be using to reassess the area and develop upon that past resreach. With that regard, it seems appropriate to learn about different seismic signals/sources and characterizing them (earthquakes vs icequakes).
- The second third – With more of a background in the codes/methods I will be using, I hope to begin retrieving and preparing data for analysis, then applying those developed codes for event detection/catalogue creation. Hopefully I can create some maps and catalogs of data, as well as expand my understanding of my project in my abstract, all things that will help me prepare for AGU.
- Final third – At this point, my abstract for AGU should be finalized and sent in (deadline is August 6th online), and then assess and prioritize my time left for what results will be presented and need follow-up. This will largely be a time of final reflection and analysis, outlining and beginning scientific papers.
*These are tweaked from what my advisor has outlined for me, and I am certain that they will quickly blend together throughout the summer, as I already feel like I have become well informed about relevant publications and begun understanding and applying the use of subspace detectors and other correlation/detection techniques we will be using. Also, I will be continuing my internship for more than a month after AGU abstracts will be due, so I hope to be able to really process a lot of information, and provide substantial work towards this project.
So far, with a lack of data, I have been working to become familiar with the many programs I hadn’t used before, such as coding in Terminal, using bash and editing text files with pico, pulling in metadata, processing it with gsac and sac, and then taking it further with applications of the methodologies of subspace detectors we will be using in Java, scripting in Matlab, and presentation in GMT. I must say GMT has been the biggest struggle for me personally. It is difficult to figure even where to start. The Internet is a good resource for base projects that you can tweak, but there is very poor explanation for why someone made his or her code a specific way. I have made one successful map of Oklahoma and the earthquakes of the past few years in Nicole’s research area, as well as a histogram of the magnitudes. This was pretty easy compared to my next step - I will be attempting to understand the program more this week by generating a good base Antarctica map from a file my advisor gave me of the Ross Ice Shelf, expanding the fields over the entire continent so that I can later zoom in and use whatever specific areas I need for the results I find. I hope I can get a bit further with it than I did in my struggles last week. I know this all just takes time and repetitive application to truly become proficient. And as Nicole and my advisor remind me, that’s what this summer and being an intern are all about.
Tomorrow I head to the NEIC (National Earthquake Information Center) in Golden, CO with Nicole to meet with her advisor and my contact Harley Benz. He has finished the last bit of code we need to process data, and while I wait for government access and my data to be provided to me, I can at least continue practicing with Nicole’s Oklahoma data in the meantime. I am excited to go to the NEIC and get a look into what it’s like to work for a nationally, if not globally, influential place in the field of seismology.
As for personal experiences, I've essentially been embracing the solitude. Still not knowing many people here, I've taken it upon myself to really explore Fort Collins, especially the outdoors. Taking a walk downtown as well as biking, trail running, just laying out catching up on some fun reading (100 Years of Solitude - appropriate in the title at least?) at Horsetooth Reservoir, and enjoying a beer at Odell Brewery. I have met a few people at the school climbing gym, and am looking forward to climbing with them outside sometime this week.
More to come in the next few days. Hopefully I will have struggled through a good basemap of Antarctica to use, as well as a map with all of Antarctica's historic background sesimicity...
Anyway, something to look forward to: The Brewer's Festival is this weekend and sure to be a good time!
After driving about 20 hours from Bellingham, WA with a stop in Missoula, MT, I have finally made it to Fort Collins, CO for my summer internship! Numerous rest area stops, a couple nervous, fully leaned forward in my seat coastings off exit ramps to gas stations, about a dozen Snap Judgement and ClimbingBeta podcasts, and just about endless singing. I must say that the independent road trip may be a struggle, but it definitely is fun to see how you make it through.
I am officially on day 2 of the internship, and though maybe less nervous than I was initially, I am still very excited. The general explanation of my internship is that I am working with Dr. Rick Aster at Colorado State University and his PhD student Nicole McMahon assessing the seismicity of Antartica. I will also be working down in Golden, CO at the NEIC (National Earthquake Information Center) for this project. Though I haven't seen any of my actual data, I have already been thrown into immense amounts of learning with Nicole using Java, SAC, GMT, Bash, etc etc, practicing the sort of tasks I will be doing with data of West Antarctica. I have a lot to learn, but I'm very thankful that Nicole is eager to help me, will answer any of my silly questions, and is essentially learning along with me on many fronts. It makes the transition to a completely new place, where I know no one, and have no idea where anything is much less intimidating. We started my first day about with a quick chat, tour, and a little computer time before lunch at the Rainbow Cafe across campus. I can already tell that Fort Collins is presenting me with the wonderful challenge of trying a lot of amazing food and perhaps a beer or two - I accept. I'm excited to get to know my advisor and student mentor a bit more. They are both incredibly smart, but I can also tell they will be a lot of fun. We've already discussed climbing together (getting Nicole on the ropes for her second time, and I'm eager to check out Poudre Canyon and Lumpy Ridge), Nicole teaching me a thing or two about basketball (let it be known I'm 5' and very uncoordinated, think I'll learn to dunk?), and we've even discussed getting Rick to try Zumba sometime with us. Let's just say it's going to be a fun summer and we'll all have plenty to learn and enjoy! I will definitely keep you updated, hopefully with documentation of our joys and struggles.
Want to know more?! I will post more about my project, my goals, and my general thoughts about the academic side of this internship in my next blog entry at the end of this first week, and of course the nonacademic experiences that arise as I settle into the sunny "Fort Fun" - looking forward to maybe exploring some mountain biking trails this afternoon!
At the IRIS orientation for all of the interns, discussing our blog entries and how to stay in touch this summer.