Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holiday Greetings Yeehows!

Against my better judgment, I am lugging the family back to Oklahoma for the Holidays. The payoff? Some incredible geology shots from the airplane! This is the most relevant sampling for this research group. Consider them my presents to you. To reciprocate, please send relevant field observations and associated GPS coordinates from the Owyhee River!!

Killer view of lava cascades into Western Grand Canyon!

Large landslides along the Rio Grande, north of Albuquerque!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lava Butte in Google Earth

Today, I noticed an announcement that Google Earth had again updated some imagery in Oregon. Now, the Bend and Lava Butte areas are looking good (see screen snag above). The rapids formed at each lava-river interface are easily detected.

Still no improvement in the Malheur County area coverage in Google Earth. Note that at AGU I had a chance to actually interact with some Google People, and made a point out of complaining (in a friendly way) about the SE Oregon problem. No promises, but some expressions of mild concern. I did score one of those cool Google light-up balls, however. No job offer.

Cosmic Mineral Separation Directive

As Stated by Cassie Fenton:

Mineral Separate Preparation for 3He Cosmogenic samples:

STEP 1: Remove only top 4 cm of the rock (for cosmogenic samples). (If you only use the top 3 cm or top 1 cm, etc., make a note of this. It affects correction of the 3He content in the rocks.) Break the top 4 cm of the rock sample into pieces small enough to fit the crusher (generally the size of a golfball, no bigger). I use a rock hammer and chisel for this process. In some cases, for harder samples, a rock saw is needed, but rarely.

STEP 2: Make sure you clean the crusher in between samples to avoid any contamination. This includes using a dry paintbrush, a vacuum, and/or compressed air to get any/all of the previous sample out of the crusher and out of containers used to catch/transport the sample.

Always save at least one golf-ball sized hand sample of your whole rock for an archive sample. You might need this for chemical analyses etc. in the future. Start with the crusher at its widest position and throw the rock pieces in, reducing the width of the crushing gap each time until you have a variety of grain sizes. You want the majority of your sample to fall in the [250-500 μm] and [500-1000 μm] mesh range (sieve sizes in the US are labeled differently – I used to use US sizes [20-60] or so), so you just have to eye it. Grains in the [125-250] range are okay for analyses too, but makes things a bit more complicated because the grains are much smaller (i.e. handpicking this grain size is slow and tedious). There will still be pieces larger than that, up to 1 cm or so, that’s okay. You want to keep some bigger pieces in case you need to crush more in order to obtain the amount of the mineral you’re looking for. Just don’t overcrush, or you’ll end up with a lot of powder (too small!!) and not mineral grains of desirable size.

STEP 3: Sieving. Here’s a short list of sieve sizes we use:

(From Comparison Table of U.S., Tyler, Canadian, British, French, and German Standard Sieve Series)

U.S. Standard U.S. Alternate Tyler mesh designation
2.00 mm 10 9
1.68 mm 12 10
841 micron 20 20
420 micron 40 35
250 micron 60 60

The sieves we use are the U.S. alternate 10, 20, 40, and 60.

Set the sieves up descending in mesh size from top to bottom. (i.e. the 10 should be on the top, followed by the 20, 40 and 60, with a screen-free container (fitting the stack) at the bottom) to catch the finest part of the sample. You can either dry-sieve or wet-sieve. Both have their benefits. With dry-sieving, you don’t have to wait for the samples to dry, before moving onto the next step. Wet-sieving tends to clean the samples up, so the smaller grain sizes (<>

Either way, place your crushed sample in the top sieve and shake until you have a decent separation (Usually takes ~5 minutes). Take each container and empty it into a properly labelled bag. The labels are as follows (sample # followed by sieve size range; ex: 040609-01 [10-20]):

Clean sieves between samples, using a toothbrush and a thin tool to remove grains lodged in the screen/mesh.

STEP 4: Cleaning: Rinse the sample in a beaker and slowly pour off the dirty water until it runs fairly clear (don’t lose any sample!). Allow to dry. Oven should not be above 55º C (to minimize loss of He from crystals).

STEP 5: Magnetic Separation: I start with a hand magnet and mesh sizes [20–40] and [40-60], unless there are olivines large enough to fall in the [10-20] range, then I use that fraction as well. Often, in my basalt samples, the matrix is very iron-rich and comes off easily with a fairly strong hand magnet. If the hand magnet provides a good separate, put the magnetic material back in the sample bag and save it. Save the non-magnetic part of the sample (olivine, pyroxene, probably some plag and calcite).


1) Hand magnet: Obtain a typical hand magnet (they’re fairly weak, but work well). Dump your minerals grains on a piece of 8X11.5 paper with a clean piece of paper adjacent to it. Place a plastic baggie or weighing paper over your magnet to keep magnetic grains from sticking to the magnet, thereby decreasing contamination between samples. Run the magnet over the mineral grains, placng the magnetic grains on the empty paper, leaving the nonmagnetic grains behind. In our case, we are generally interested in olivines, pyroxenes, and feldspar. These generally stay on the nonmagnetic side, unless they have lots of inclusions or are coated with magnetic material.

If for whatever reason, the hand magnet doesn’t yield a very good separation, move on to the Frantz magnetic separator.

You can also use a Frantz if the hand magnet doesn’t work. Make sure your sample is washed before using the Frantz.

2) Frantz Magnetic separator: It is best to work with a [40-60] range on this machine, but the [20-40] range is feasible. The larger grains just tend to clog up the sample cup every now and again.

Adjust the desired angle on the ramp by turning the proper knob/wheel. I usually use an angle between 15-20 degrees tilting away from me (15 degree works best). A shallow angle tilting down to the sample collection cups also seems most productive. It allows the grains to interact with the magnet for a longer period of time, allowing for a cleaner separate. Take your clean sample fraction and pour a small amount of it into the sample cup. Turn on all appropriate switches, adjusting the strength of the magnet by increasing or decreasing the amps. I usually start with 0.25 amps, run the sample through 2-3 times. This will separate out the very magnetic material from the less magnetic material. I then switch to a higher amp (somewhere between 1.0 and 1.5) and run the magnetic fraction (when run at 0.25) through (2-3 times). This will separate off the very nonmagnetic. Then I just play around with values in between until I get a nice separate of my mineral of interest. Before changing the amps, I check each collection cup under a microscope to see which has the largest amount of my mineral of interest. These values will vary with different samples. You just have to pick and choose, use what best suits your sample.

STEP 6: Heavy liquid separation: We use lithium metatungstate with a density of 3.0 g/cc. At this density, olivines and pyroxenes (“heavies”) sink and everything you don’t want (“lights”) floats to the surface.

Here’s the address for the company we order from. We use litium metatungstate (density = 3.0). It’s water soluble, allowing for a density variation and recycling.


15 E. Palatine Rd., Suite 109

Prospects Heights, Illinois 60070


We recently ordered 3 lbs at a cost of $144/lb, I think.

Here’s a list of equipment we use to

CRU-5000 Centrifuge

50 ml polypropylene, graduated, conical centrifuge tubes with caps

3-piece Whatman filter funnel (9 cm in diameter, 200 ml volume, 17.9 cm height, Whatman no. 1950-009)

Whatman filter papers (medium-fast (1), 9 cm in diameter)

- fill the bottom of centrifuge tubes with sample grains. (Don’t fill it past the 5 ml mark). Label clearly.

- add lithium metatungstate (at a density of at least 2.95, preferably 3.0 or greater) to the 25 or 30 ml line (depends on how much sample you use and how much heavy liquid you have to work with).

- Cap and shake all the tubes

- place in centrifuge at 1.5X1000 rpm for at least 10 minutes.

- have a doer of liquid nitrogen set aside and set up funnel/filtration apparatus.

- remove tubes from centrifuge,

STEP 7: Acids: I usually use HNO3, HCl , and HF to clean up the “heavies” samples. To get rid of any secondary calcite, start with dilute (5-10%) HNO3 and your “heavies” in a beaker placed in a sonicator for 15 to 20 minutes. Then use dilute (5-10%) HCl (in sonicator 15-20 minutes). Sometimes the minerals are well-oxidized. For example, oxidized olivines tend to have an iddingsite “rind” (a red coating) around them. Sometimes HCL will get rid of this. If it doesn’t, move onto a 5% HF solution.

HF treatment: WEAR HEAVY GLOVES, A LAB COAT, AND A FACE MASK. HF is very nasty stuff. Pour your minerals into a small glass or Nalgene beaker (HF etches glass, so if you use glass beakers, set them aside after that for HF use only) and add a 5% HF solution until it submerges your minerals. Don’t use too much. It isn’t necessary to fill the beaker, just top your minerals with the solution. Place in an ultrasound for 15-20 minutes, depending on how oxidized your sample is. Check your sample regularly to make sure you don’t dissolve you minerals completely. Pour off HF into waste container, rinse your sample, and dry. Repeat as necessary, until the majority of your sample is clean (iddingsite-free).

STEP 8: Microscope check. After isolating the olivine/pyroxene, and cleaning them up with acids etc, you should have a good separate. I always check under a microscope and handpick out what looks like crappy mineral grains (grains that are still dirty, or that are obviously not oliv/pyroxene). You want the purest separate of olivine or pyroxene possible.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What the Big Boss said...

I caught up with Mike E. at AGU and asked about the grant supplement to get LiDAR. Here's what I learned:

1. The proposal should be ~5 pgs and has no formal deadline.
2. We should wait till we hear the outcome of Rose's seed proposal, since that should (hopefully) be just a few weeks away, according to Josh R.
3. We should not ask for more than $50k.
4. We need to explain in detail why we want/need the LiDAR, of course (see my posting below). I briefly described three reasons to Mike that we've batted around before: to get the 3-D shape of the valley right for hydrodynamic modeling; to get the distribution of boulder sizes remotely by subtracting bare earth from first returns -- he liked that one, Jim -- and to characterize the wavelengths of mass movements that are impinging on the channel, as this will affect the scale of potential blockages and therefore probably flood character as well. He judged these to be reasonable justifications at first pass, but we will have to substantiate the case in detail. In particular, I think we really need to demonstrate the nature and magnitude of the improvement we get in the hydrodynamic modeling if we use LiDAR rather than the 10 m DEMs. Can we feasibly try this with the Deschutes LiDAR (which Jim has) as a demonstration? Rose, what say ye? If the effects are not great relative to other sources of uncertainty in the modeling, then I think our case is weakened significantly.

5. We need to explain WHY FUNDING FOR LIDAR WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL REQUEST. I want your input on this last matter in particular. Some of the reasons for the original omission, though perhaps ultimately the most truthful, are not going to sound very persuasive in a proposal (e.g., we thought it would inflate the budget too much, or we didn't realize how much damn work all the manual surveying would be, etc.). So, let's hear some wordsmithing. Ready, set, go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Possible LiDAR coverage request

I have taken a stab at plotting a LiDAR coverage pattern that could form the basis for grant supplement request. It's obviously tricky trying to keep the footprint shape both as simple and as small as possible while capturing the irregular pattern of the river corridor. I'm not sure we can even request a pattern as complicated as the one I've outlined here. These four polygons sum to ~208 km2 or ~51,500 acres (for some odd reason, NCALM seems to like using acres as its unit of area), which is within the range of the other NCALM requests I've seen (see, e.g., slide #26 in ). Assuming a cost of about $0.75/acre, which is unreliable but is the only price info I've been able to find (see slide #24 in the .pdf above), our request would be for about $37,000. If Rose's request for 40 km2 or ~10,000 acres is funded, we can reduce the grant supplement request by about $7500. I don't know if this sum is considered reasonable for a grant supplement, but I will approach Mike Ellis at AGU and ask him. Any comments on the size/shape of this pattern?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Correlation Madness.

Thus far, I have spent 10s of hours on the map. As a consequence, the correlation diagram has evolved significantly. The colors in the snippet do not match the map yet, and some of the unit labels have changed. Also, it is likely that some units will be added and some will be dropped as the project continues. All part of my mapping process, and is often maddening to my colleagues. Nonetheless, check it out and go with the flow.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tofu much nicer (but still Tofu)

Made some decent strides on the map in THIG today. Check it out. Pretty much the most complex area I have mapped in a while. Thankfully, I don't have to parse out the bedrock.

The Hole in the Ground is Tofu

Have spent many hours mapping the Hole in the Ground area. It is total tofu. Here is the current rendition. In the process I have added some new units that make sense now that the map has progressed. So far, I have focused only on the north side of the river.