Science on board – Chit-chat with a Sedimentologist

I’m going to continue introducing to the blog followers the scientists involved in the expedition. This time is the turn of Caroline Robinson. Anytime she helps me during the video connection with the school she is always able to inspire students with her enthusiasm. Here is her interview.

Caroline (FILEminimizer)

Q: Caroline, where did you study and where do you work now?

C: I graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Geology and I am currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Earth Science at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH

Q: When did you decide to be a scientist?

C: My passion for geology started with my admiration for rocks. I have collected rocks since I was little because I love how each one is unique and tells a different story of formation. I have always wanted to pursue science because I like using research and observation to understand complex processes and better understand the history of the Earth. I think it is fascinating how we can use the rocks and sediments we find on outcrop or deep beneath the seafloor to understand a previous time period or environment and better understand how the Earth was altered to look like it does today. I also like that there is endless material to study and that this field of science is constantly evolving and accepting new ideas. Studying geology also provides you with the opportunity to work outside in the field and travel around the world.

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(Caroline working at the core description. Credit: Bill Crowford & IODPSO)

Q: What is your job in the JOIDES Resolution?

C: I am a Sedimentologist on the ship so I help describe the sediment cores in detail and enter this information into a database for other scientists to reference in the future. This is important because we have to describe the core so that other people can read and understand what type of sediment was deposited and what that means for the history of the Earth. We also make smear slides and look at them under the petrographic microscope to better understand the abundance of different micro-fossils and mineral grains in the sediment. We also run the sediment core sections through different tracts that measure color reflectance and magnetic susceptibility which help us to further identity and describe the sediments. One of the best parts about being a sedimentologist on board is that we work with a lot of the other science groups on the ship to understand how the different types of sediment compare to other interpretation of data.

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Q: What is the best thing about being a participant in this expedition?

C: This is my first IODP expedition and it has totally exceeded my expectations. I think the best thing about being a participant is that you get to collaborate and talk to people from different backgrounds, specialties, and fields of study. This is such a great learning experience because we have the opportunity to ask other scientists questions and learn more about different types of research and understand how to interpret different types of data. Another great thing about being a participant is learning about so many different countries and cultures through meeting people from all over the world.

To give us a “taste” of her job Caroline provided us with some pictures she took of smear slides.

sand with forams (FILEminimizer)

Picture 1:  Sand with forams (credit: Caroline Robinson & IODPSO)

zircons in plain light (FILEminimizer)

Picture 2: Zircons in plain light (credit: Caroline Robinson & IODPSO)

zircons in cross polarized light (FILEminimizer)

Picture 3: Zircons in cross polarized light (Credit: Caroline Robinson & IODPSO)

C: These pictures are of a smear slide under a petrographic microscope. I love taking pictures of micro-fossils and mineral grains under the microscope because it is amazing what you can see and understand just by magnifying a very small amount of sediment. The first picture is from HOLE 1499 A. It represents a sand layer in the sediment core with quartz, some foraminifer micro-fossils, and many other minerals. 

In the pictures 2 and 3 there is a high relief mineral (has a dark rim) and that is called a zircon. The picture 3 was taken under cross polarized light and the zircon has very high birefringence which means that it has bright colors (looks pink and green).

Thank you Caroline for sharing your enthusiasm for science with us!

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