Oops, there should be a background

I am interested in interdisciplinary Earth Sciences, especially when they have a direct positive impact on society. My goal in research is also to make science more accessible to the general public (see my Outreach section). The methods I currently find myself using most frequently are digital image processing, computer modeling, and field geology, but I am always interested in learning new techniques (and other new things)! See below for a few of my current and previous projects.

Image courtesy of Sean Mackay


Finnish Insights on Education and Environmental Sustainability (Funded by a Fulbright Fellowship)

According to recent comparisons, the United States currently performs well below its peers in both education and environmental sustainability. I believe that a society must be educated about the effects of its choices on the global system in order to care about those choices, so I am currently in at the University of Turku in Finland (a top performer in both categories), trying to learn as much as possible about the Finnish treatment of both so that I can return some best practices to the USA. I am keeping a blog documenting my findings.

Digital Field Geology in the Antarctic Dry Valleys (with Dr. David Marchant, Boston University)

Traditional field work in Antarctica is expensive, time-consuming, and difficult. I have been looking for new ways to support and perform field work with the highest-resolution (up to 0.5 meters per pixel) images and digital elevation models available in collaboration with other members of the Boston University Antarctic Research Group (BUARG) and the Polar Geospatial Center at University of Minnesota. I use techniques of manual inspection and automated land cover detection with a variety of software in the Digital Image Analysis Laboratory at BU and will eventually result in products for use by the general scientific community, a masters thesis, and techniques that will be applicable to field geology at other remote locations, like Mars.


Coiling Geometry of Proboscidean Tusks (with Dr. Dan Fisher, University of Michigan)

Logarithmic spirals have long been used to describe the coils of natural objects like shells. I analyzed extinct proboscidean (mammoth and mastodon, specifically) tusks using software I wrote, and found that logarithmic spirals also describe these tusks well. The project resulted in a senior honors thesis and poster presentation at the 2011 meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology.

     Visit thesis

Methane on Mars and Potential MSL Landing Sites (with Dr. Sushil Atreya, University of Michigan)

This was a small project in which I served as a geological consultant to evaluate papers on using isotope fractionation to identify sources of observed methane on Mars and to help put these tests in the context of deciding on a landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory (now named Curiousity).

Effects of Earthquakes on the LIGO Observatories (with Dr. Keith Riles, University of Michigan)

The LIGO (Laser Interferometry Gravitational-wave Observatory) project uses extremely large (~4 km) and sensitive (~1 part in 10^21!) laser interferometers to (in theory) detect the minute changes in space due to passing gravitational waves. Since the interferometers are so sensitive, they can be affect by all sorts of seismic activity, including passing trucks, waves lapping at nearby(ish) shores, and most obviously, actual earthquakes. I wrote software to analyze databases of earthquake events and instrument performance, the results of which I posted in a website I wrote (below) and used to write another website (also below) that updates in real time with current and recent earthquake events and their likelihood of affecting the sensitive instruments.

    Studies of seismic activity at LIGO observatory sites
    Real-time earthquake threat for LIGO observatories