As the sun glides towards the western horizon we wind our way down the trail to the bottom of American Fork Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. It’s been a good day; we are now playing hooky from the Geological Society meeting that is taking place in the valley below. Earlier in the day Jessica Ball (’07), Trevor Buckley (’09) and JoBeth Carbaugh (’09) gave talks and presented research posters on the geology of the Fish Lake Plateau. We’ve returned to Utah in order to finish what we started here last summer. After two days of being indoors listening to talks, kibitzing with colleagues, and plotting strategies for future research, we needed to see the sun and touch the rocks. The Wasatch Mountains rise over 2,000 meters (~7,000 feet) above Utah Valley, as a colleague noted it is righteous topographic relief, and the highest peaks are still draped in snow. It is hard not to contemplate how such a dramatic alpine landscape formed.
Left- Jessica Ball (’07), JoBeth Carbaugh (’09), Jim Coogan a.k.a-“The Cooganator” (’81)”, and Trevor Buckley (’09) playing hooky in the Wastach Mountains. Right- Trevor and JoBeth upright and at full attention with one of their research posters discussing the geology of the Fish Lake Plateau.”
As another academic year draws to a close it is time to gauge our accomplishments. It was a busy year for the Structure & Tectonics research group; collectively group members presented their results at three geological meetings, completed three geological maps, and prepared a manuscript for a professional journal. To be sure there were late nights with these projects and deadlines looming. In addition to being first-rate scholars, my research students are off to exciting adventures in the near future- some will be Teaching for America, or deep the forests of northern California working with the Student Conservation Association, or interning at an organic farm in South Carolina or off to the Tibetan Plateau starting graduate research. I will miss the Structure & Tectonics research class of 2009.
Next Sunday, the Geology Department will confer baccalaureate degrees to 22 students and the class of 2009 will finish what they started at William & Mary. Our graduating seniors are a talented crew. Many are off to graduate school; they’ll be attending universities from Boston to Santa Barbara and undertaking research projects from Venice to Venus. Others are bound for the Peace Corps or will be working with the Army Corp of Engineers or will be teaching science at secondary schools in Virginia. It is an exciting time of year- palpable accomplishment wrapped together with the bright prospect of things to come.