Monday, October 28, 2013

Matt's pics from the beam

Greetings, it's Matt here, with a few more pictures from the APS, to supplement Audrey's post.

First off, Audrey wasn't just blogging while we were here...she was working hard:

She and DJ spent a lot of time analyzing and discussing data:

The tricycles are definitely a nice option for late-night transportation:

And here are Audrey and DJ, each sitting on a small hippo (with a couple of confused onlookers...):


Well, that about sums it all up!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fun at the Argonne National Laboratory?

Greetings from Chicago (sort of)! Matt, DJ and I (Audrey) are at the Argonne National Laboratory using the synchrotron for our Cambodia sediments and the MSMA turfgrass project. If you aren't well versed in the synchrotron, you can find information here. Don't worry, we're still learning more about it ourselves (well, except for Matt). Here is an aerial view of the whole system:

*photo courtesy of the APS*

As you can see, it is quite the setup. Here are some additional pictures from our trip so far:

Work Station-yes, we use around 8 monitors

 This is actually where we put the sample in. We don't get to see this room very often and it closes with authority. The beam goes through the metal that transects the room. There are also cameras, mirrors, and other really scientific stuff that happens in here that perhaps Matt can explain more.

Here is DJ loading a sample into a magnetic tray that will move the sample around (the beam doesn't move)

Loaded sample with a camera and detector shooting on it. Just look at those coarse sediments!

This place is so big that we need tricycles to get around. Yes, I'm serious. Here we are going to get lunch at the cafe down the path.

Anyway, this is just a quick post to show you what we've been doing. Matt, Liz and I will be attending the SSSA conference from Nov. 3-7 so I think you'll get another blog post soon. 


Friday, August 30, 2013

Lab Photo Bloopers

Hi again, it's Audrey. If you've looked at our website lately, you may have noticed that we now have a lab photo! Well, we may have had a little too much fun with it, mostly with me instigating it. Yes, I fell to the ground and eventually threw Matt down with me. Do you notice how the undergrads are standing behind us looking at us like we're crazy? Anyway, I just wanted to share with you these fun pictures. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Audrey Names Fountain Pen Ink After Her Work

(Organics Studio Arsenic in a Sheaffer Intensity pen)

Hi guys, it's Audrey. I know, it's been awhile! To premise how this happened, I must say that my husband is really into fountain pens and ink. We all have our hobbies, right (mine is nail polish)? He also has a blog if you are interested in looking into it. We've been to several pen shows (yes, those really do exist) and we got to meet a new ink maker from Maryland named Tyler. Tyler is a young biochemist and is really interested in science and the periodic table, so much so that he named his first inks from it. You can purchase his inks on many popular fountain pen sites, as well as on his website here. When I saw Tyler at the Raleigh pen show a few months ago, he wanted to give my husband some inks to review on his blog. He also happened to mention that he has a grey ink he has yet to name, and I immediately tell him to name it arsenic. Since he already has other elements in his collection, it fit right in, and is an accurate description of arsenic. I told him about all the work we do in our lab, and he included the last sentence about arsenic just for me on the box.

We found Tyler again a few weeks ago at the Washington DC Pen show where we got to take a picture featuring arsenic the ink. Thanks, Tyler!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Allison Woods Field Work day

Hey It's Cory again.  Last Wednesday, Liz, Allison, and I went to Allison Woods in Statesville, NC to collect some well samples and soil samples.  The sampling location is on a property owned by Allison Woods Foundation non-profit organization which uses the several acres of woods, fields, and a lake for war reenactments, educational, and research purposes.  We met with our friend, Joju from NCDENR Division of Water Quality at Allison Woods to show us where the monitoring wells were, how to get there, and to help us out with the sampling.

Before Joju showed us where to go, we thought we could meet him at the monitoring wells in our front-wheel 2WD drive mini-van because we were going to use our map and the directions we had.  Well we took a wrong turn on one of the really narrow, dirt trail in the middle of the woods.  When we realized we went the wrong way, we were headed down the side of a muddy hill on the wrong trail.  We had to slowly turn the mini-van completely around on a muddy slope with like a 7 point turn.  Then we had to make it back up this muddy trail to the edge of the woods so we figure out where we needed to go.  Getting the mini-van back up the hill was the difficult part.  The front wheels of the mini-van would loose traction on parts of the hill because of the mud sooo the mini-van would slide back down the hill about a foot or two occasionally.  We were able to get the mini-van up the hill eventually but we did get a little muddy.  Once back to the edge of the woods, we followed Joju to where we needed to go.
The muddy mini-van

Joju allowed us to use his well pumps for all four of the monitoring wells which was really nice.  It made the sampling go quicker since we usually just use our two pumps then switch them out after sampling a given well.  The really deep (like 400 foot) monitoring wells at Allison Woods showed that water at that depth was well connected because the as we pumped the water out of one of the monitoring wells, the depth to water in a 400 foot well that was a few hundred yards lowered.  The geology at Allison Woods was pretty cool too.  The geology was a mix of Triassic Basin, felsic, and mafic rocks in the soil and saprolite (soft bedrock) but was primarily hornblende gneiss, biotitic gneiss, or biotitic schist bedrock.  There was also tons and tons of mica in the soil so it looks glittery.

 The photo above shows the lower portion of the Bt horizon (clayey portion) 
and the C horizon (saprolite layer) of the soil profile.  
There is a lot of glittery mica in the this portion of the profile

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cory and Langtree Field Work continued

Hey It's Cory Connell and I'm one of three Summer 2013 undergraduate research assistants who are on Dr. Polizzotto's team.  As a research assistant, I've worked in the field, lab, and on the computer.  I prefer working in the field but it's always nice to be in air conditioning every once in a while.  All of the work I've done this summer has been pretty neat.  I've collected, analyzed, and prepared water & soil samples.  Over the next few days I'll share a few of the summer sampling adventures with all of you.  I'll start by mentioning a few things Christine forgot to include in the last blog post.

Christine covered most of what happened during the Langtree sampling trip on July 18.  Langtree Peninsula was located at Davidson College's Lake Norman site.  As we pulled up to the sampling location, it looked familiar to me and then I realized I had been there before for a crew regatta.  Since I had been there before I knew where the bathrooms and outdoor showers were, which was nice since by the end of the day we were all dripping with sweat and wanted to rinse off.  Also I think I probably smelled like a wet dog by the end of the day because not long after Christine and I went swimming, I collected and evaluated the soil in the overgrown field by the monitoring wells.  I got some dirt, well soil to be politically correct, all over me along with some of this stuff:

(Source: Google Images)

In the overgrown field where I was getting the soil samples, I did not notice bushes of this stuff everywhere! A day or two after we went to Langtree is when I find out I got poison sumac all over my legs, arms, hands, and belly.  Yes, my belly too, I had mosquito bites all over my ankles and belly from being outside early in the week so intelligent me decided it would be smart to scratch my angles and belly with my bare hands which were covered in poison sumac.  I had to lather myself in anti-itch cream for the next week and a half.  The clayey soil that was in the overgrown field had Rhodic soil properties (aka it was really red) these properties are most likely due to the dark colored mafic bedrock that these soils formed from. Here is a photo of the soil profile to a depth of 4 feet:

(Source: my cellphone)
Even though a lot of things on the Langtree sampling trip did not go as planned I did enjoy myself and we were still able to collect a lot of well water and soil samples.  When doing field work you can not expect everything to go according to plan every time so you improvise, work with what you have, and do the best you can.  By the end of the day Liz, Christine, Allison, and I were all ready to get back to Raleigh though.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Down and Dirty at Langtree Peninsula

Hey! My name is Christine and I am one of three undergraduate researchers who came onto the Polizzotto team at the start of Summer 2013. It's now early August and we've done PLENTY in that time. While my fellow undergrads, Corey and Allison, have been on many a field day, I typically just hang back in the lab and do stuff there. HOWEVER, I finally went along on a field day a couple weeks back and it was definitely a less *cough* controlled environment. Langtree Peninsula is closer to Charlotte, so we all met at the lab at the crack of dawn so that we could arrive in time to meet our liason with DENR-DWQ, Joju Abraham. We met him just outside the gated entrance to the peninsula and then followed him by vehicle just a short distance down the road to our well sites. For those of you who don't know, a monitoring well looks like this:

Looks innocent enough, right? WRONG! Some of these suckers go as deep as 600 feet and when you need to purge T-H-R-E-E well volumes before you can sample, these seemingly innocuous wells can be quite intimidating. In order to accomplish this well purge, we use a pump system. This is mainly comprised of a plastic tube of appropriate length, a power source (such as a car engine or some other electricity generating thing), and a device known as a controller that (you guessed it) controls the output of power and therefore controls the rate at which water flows out of the well from the plastic tube. The tube and the cord attached to the controller are lowered down into the well together and some initial measurements are taken to determine how long it will take for three well volumes to be emptied out, which can range from half an hour to 36 hours. At that point, we would simply hang back, relax, and take some readings using the YSI at appropriate intervals as the well was emptying. If things worked. Which, as it turns out, does not often happen. Our first technical difficulty occurred when Joju could not get his pump working (which later turned out to be a quick fix). Then, after we had split people and pumps up in order to tackle more sites, OUR controller broke. Fortunately, we managed to get some water samples before all the technology broke down, which were then filtered and treated at the site and stored in ice for the ride home. We not only battled technology, but nature. Before that day, you could not have convinced me that any other kind of fly besides a horsefly could bite. This is a false assumption because while we were in an open field and therefore spared the danger of ticks, we WERE subject to the constant nibbling of small flies that ran abundant while a hot sun beat down on us. Corey and I did manage to evade both sun and flies for a little while though. While our deepest well was draining, Corey and I went down to the peninsula and jumped into the lake water, fully clothed and dangerous :D A summer camp was taking place around the peninsula, and so there were giant inflatables floating in the water for the kids to play on. Corey swam over the inflatables to climb on top and was quickly reprimanded by a camp life guard :) We finally returned to the lab around 7:00 PM and, after some unloading and some filtering, we were finally able to call it a day. This is merely an abridged version of all that happened, but all in all, I found that field days can be fun and educational, in that you learn what to do, how to do it, and how stuff might blow up in your face anyway.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Audrey wins 1st place!

Congratulations to Audrey for winning 1st place in the overall poster competition at the Soil Science Society of North Carolina 2013 Annual Meeting! Audrey presented her work investigating arsenic loading to turfgrass systems following herbicide application. In addition to lasting fame and respect, this award also came with some cool cash, so be sure to get Audrey to cover the bill next time you're out with her!