For this project, I'll be looking at active-source data from northwest Greenland to determine the properties and origin of a subglacial lake there, which was discovered by radar a few years ago. All of the field work and data collection for this project has already been completed, so my job will be to analyze the results from the active-source survey.
It's hard to believe that I'm already getting so close to the end of my time here at the University of Maryland. Only two more full weeks until I'm finished! Adjusting was a little bit difficult when I first came here, but I'm becoming more and more sure that I'll miss this place when I leave. I'm starting to get some results from my research, which I'm thrilled about, especially since AGU abstracts are due soon (it's okay, I'm not worried about that at all, nope).
As far as challenges I've had here, there have definitely been a few. I think one of the biggest ones I faced at the beginning was my own anxiety. I was worried that I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do this. My solution to this wasn't anything new or creative; basically, this was something that I wanted, so I decided to push through my fear and just do my best. And it's turned out okay! Looking back, it's easy to see that it was always going to be okay-- this program wasn't set up for me to fail-- but I also know that those fears were very real. It hasn't always been easy, of course; there are a lot of things I've had to learn over the last couple months, but I think that's kind of the point of being here. I want to take a quick look at one of the specific difficulties I've dealt with here.
One of the things that's been kind of hard (but also really fun!) is learning to code. People keep telling me that learn a programming language is just learn learning an actual language (I guess to make it sound less difficult?), but learning a language isn't exactly a piece of cake, either. Plus, people can usually understand you if you trip over a couple words, but the computer will definitely not; you might as well just be speaking gibberish. Learning to code has been a little frustrating at times, but it's also so rewarding when my code finally works! It'll take some time to really become profient (fluent?) at this, but I think I could really get into coding.
I might sound painfully optimistic, but I really do think most of my challenged this summer could more accurately be called learning opportunities; at any rate, I've really learned a lot while here, which I'm super excited about! It's so great to spend my summer doing something intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
For whatever reason, I've really started to feel comfortable here this week. Of course, I've also started to realize just how far into my internship I've gotten. Only five weeks left! I for sure will not miss the heat or the crazy humidy (or the way that Maryland drivers seem to think that traffic laws are optional...), but I will definitely miss working here. Another professor just got an undergrad intern this week, so now I'm not even the new person here anymore.
One thing that has been a little frustrating is that I haven't really gotten to work with the data much yet. I had a lot of preliminary stuff to work with (learning how to code was a huge one), and people have been out of town a lot. I've been getting stuff done, and I know I'll get everything else done, too, but I feel like things have been moving a little slowly. In the meantime, though, I've been having a lot of fun learning to code, especially now that I've been making figures in Python, so my coding projects are actually relevant to my research project. I've made two graphs in the last week: the first one took me a long time to figure out, even with some starting help from Ross. The second one, though, I did entirely by myself and completed much faster! So I can tell I'm learning, which is a good feeling.
Here is my lovely map of Greenland, with a zoomed in image of the area I'm studying. The map of all of Greenland was created in Python, using Matplotlib and Cartopy. The close-up portion was made in Java, with a little bit (by which I mean a lot) of help from Ross. That little red box on the map corresponds the the area the image is zoomed in to.
Week three shall be indelibly impressed upon my brain as the week where no one was here. A good chunk of the department, including Nick, was in Paris for an InSight conference. I don't know whether I mentioned before, but a lot of people here are working on InSight data from Mars, which I think is insanely cool. It's fine, I'm not jealous that they get to work on that OR that they got to go to Paris for a week. Not jealous at all. In addition, Ross, the postdoc who I work pretty closely with, was out of town for part of the week as well (unrelated to the InSight stuff, although he does work on that, too). And for some reason the other people who work in my lab (the ones who didn't go to Paris) were mysteriously absent for long chunks of time. Basically what I'm saying is, it was super quiet. I think I went at least two days straight without talking to anyone.
I spent most of week three working on making figues, including teaching myself to use Adobe Illustrator and learning how to make maps in Python, which was surprisingly easy.
I also had time to work on my elevator speech. I think the concpet of an elevator speech is pretty interesting. Since getting here, I feel like I've explained my project to a lot of different people, which has given me some good practice, but I almost always have to adapt my summary to my audience. If I'm explaining it to another geoscientist, I feel comfortable skipping a lot of the explanation and diving straight into the jargon. If I'm talking about it to someone I just met at church, I have to get a sense for how much I simplify it so what I'm saying makes sense. My elevator speech caters more to a scientific audience, but I think putting things in layman's terms helps me check that I actually understand what I'm talking about.
So...I'm just a tad behind on blogging, but I'm catching up! I already mentioned some stuff from week two in my first blog post, since I wrote it halfway through that week. In addition to finally meeting Nick, the professor I'm working with, I got a public library card during my second week here, so I guess I'm a real member of the community now! Oh, and I also finally got a campus ID card on Friday of week two, which is nice since I had no access to anything on campus (including the lab I work in, the wifi, and the bus that I often take to and from work) without it.
So, for the data I'm working with: The dataset I'm analyzing this summer was taken in Greenland in June 2017, by Nick. He was in Greenland studying something else at the time, and decided to collect this while he was in the area (I guess it's not everyday you happen to be in northern Greenland). It's an active source dataset, pretty similar to what we collected during orientation week. Since this data was collected by the profesor I'm working with, I'm the first person to really look at it, which is pretty exciting! As far as I'm aware, it's the first seismic study of a subglacial lake in Greenland, as they're a relatively recent discovery. One nice thing about the data is that it's pretty straightforward. I'm looking mostly at reflections from the interface between the base of the glacier and the surface of the lake, which means that a) the reflections are coming from a horizontal plane and b) I don't have too many different materials to worry about. Just ice, water, and bedrock if I can find reflections from that far down. Even though it's now week four, I haven't actually looked much at this data yet-- I've been working on some other things, like poster figures, coding, and setting up some stuff to put the data into context once I finally do start working with it (hopefully soon!).
Well! My first week or so in College Park has been a bit change from orientation in Socorro! For one thing, I get to set my own schedule. For another, the town could not be more different: College Park is crowded, loud, and humid, while Socorro is, well, none of those things. Despite the adjustments, things have been good here. I'm slowly learning my way around and remembering people's names, and I finally met Dr. Nick Schmerr, whose lab I am working in and whose data I'm working with and who was on vacation all of last week. I'm working a little more closely with Dr. Ross Maguire, although so far that work mostly just entails learning to code and getting some background on what exactly I'm studying. The reason this blog post is a tad late is that I was waiting until I could sit down with both Nick and Ross to discuss what my goals are for the summer, which I'll list in more detail below. Just a reminder to anyone reading this, the overall goal of my project is to study a subglacial lake located in northwest Greenland based on active source data, in an attempt to detemine the depth of the lake as well as its origin.
-Become familiar with coding, plotting, and other technical skills necessary to analyze and visualize my data.
-Study the relevent scientific literature to put what I'm studying into clearer context.
-Learn more about reflection seismology.
-Apply filters and corrections to the seismic data.
-Analyze the data, looking for lakebed depth and velocities of ice and water over and within the lake.
-Draw reasonable, defendable conclusions about the origin of the lake.
-Produce presentable figures outlining the research process, including of the data and a cross-sectional profile of the lake.
I'm excited to really start digging into this data and finding out what's below the ice!