Friday, December 4, 2015

Torrents

"Merciless though the wind takes hold with freezing cold
Come, my friend, sit with me; take council in the warmth
Torrents wash away everything
Raindrops flowing all around"
- "Torrents" by Asgeir

I'm writing this post at my kitchen table in Coos Bay. I just finished editing a term paper for my brother (he's an undergrad), and I'm listening to the rain fall outside. Torrents of rain have been falling on the Oregon coast all week, turning my world into a dark, wet mess.
An encrusting sponge on a dropstone I collected in 2012.
This particular stone is about the size of the human hand.

It's true what they say, you know: when it rains, it pours. As the world outside has tried to keep itself from drowning, I've been piled up with papers, projects, and plans. I set the shipwreck project aside for a while, mostly because I'm waiting on comments from my co-authors on my latest manuscript draft. In the meantime, I've turned my attention to the cornerstone of my dissertation: the dropstone project.

What are dropstones, you ask? Well, the definition is pretty simple. They're random rocks on the seafloor, stony islands in a desert of mud. In the Arctic, dropstones originate on land. They're scraped up from the ground by glaciers, along with plenty of dirt and other debris, and when the glacier calves off an iceberg, they ride the 'berg out to sea. When the iceberg melts, the stones fall to the seafloor - hence their name, dropstones.

Can you interpret this graph? 'Cuz I can.
I first became interested in dropstone communities in 2011, while working at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. I was analyzing photos of the seafloor when I started to notice the random rocks in some photos. The stones were densely populated with encrusting sponges, bryozoans, anemones, and soft corals, and I started to wonder why. I've essentially been working on an analysis of those dropstones in one capacity or another ever since. Planning, writing my thesis proposal, analyzing the footage, then analyzing the data; reading a giant statistics textbook, then re-analyzing the data, writing a manuscript, then re-writing the manuscript - so many steps! Well, the project is finally coming to a head. I've made some big strides in data analysis over the past few weeks, and I believe I'm finally starting to understand how dropstone communities are structured.

Of course there's still a lot of work ahead of me, but it's exciting to see the project finally coming together.

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