William Van Cleve, 2017, Geosciences
I spent the summer working as a field assistant to Ph.D. candidate Akshay Mehra in the Canadian Rockies. We studied 550-million-year-old reef systems, with a focus on a hardshelled tubular organism called Cloudina. Our goal was to recreate the environment in which these organisms lived, and understand how it shaped their development. We flew by helicopter to a remote field camp where we based our research. We collected Cloudina samples, took high-resolution aerial imagery using a drone, and measured the stratigraphy of the carbonate platform in which Cloudina is found. Some samples will be used to create 3D computer models of Cloudina assemblages, and isotope work on others will tell us about the climate and conditions in which these organisms lived. The stratigraphy, aerial imagery, and drone-created digital elevation model will add context to our project. I was also able to spend some time studying subglacial calcite deposits for my own independent work. I learned a lot about data collection, planning a field season, maintaining productivity in nasty conditions, adapting to unforeseen obstacles, and teamwork during my time in Canada. I am sure these skills will serve me well in future academic work, employment, and beyond.