I am interested in the Holocene evolution of the Mississippi Delta; specifically, how land was built in different areas at different times and the processes and timescales involved in delta building, reworking and erosion. I am a student in Torbjörn Törnqvist's Quaternary Research Group, and am looking at progradation rates (how quickly land was built coastward) of Bayou Lafourche. Bayou Lafourche is an abandoned distributary of the Mississippi River that was active until pretty recently.
The field component of this work involves hand-coring along Bayou Lafourche using a gauge, auger and extension rods to reach depths of about 10 meters. The sediments are then described and I use this information to draft interpretive cross sections of the subsurface lithology and facies. Samples taken from these cores are dated using a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), which I am learning under the guidance of Zhixiong Shen. This is done in a dark room similar to the kind used for photography. OSL dates the last exposure to light of quartz grains, which serves as a proxy for when they were deposited. By linking these dates to sedimentological events that have been preserved in the geologic record, we can better understand the land building processes that have taken place in the Mississippi Delta over the last few thousand years. This understanding is very important in the context of modern coastal restoration projects.
I became a geoscientist in part because I like to travel and think about different places and landscapes. I have recently enjoyed a lot of mini-travels to the neat places in and around New Orleans including the Audubon Zoo and Jean Lafitte National Park. It is exciting to live in part of the greater system that includes my field sites.
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