Stop 3 – Virginia Tech

Week 1 of Leg 2 comes to a end with a visit to the college with the hands-down best logo, Virginia Tech. Oh, and some dude by the name of Brian Romans, a.k.a. @clasticdetritus, calls this place home…

This news just in: getting to Blacksburg, VA, the home of Virginia Tech, from Eugene, OR, ain’t easy. At. All. A 16 hour journey, involving transfers at Seattle and Atlanta, deposited me in Roanoke, VA, home to the airport serving the college town of Blacksburg. Compounded by 3.5 hour layovers on both stops, the only plus side to this journey was that I managed to finish reviewing two papers that were waaaaaay overdue, as well as catch-up on emails and Skype home. “Are you having fun Daddy?”, asked Hazel (4) on my transfer in Seattle. “No. No I’m not”, came my reply.

Landing in Roanoke around 2300 I was met at the airport by Brian Romans, who was playing host for my time at VT. I have known Brian, a sedimentologist-stratigrapher-oceanographer, for a few years, partly by (excellent) reputation, partly by reciprocal paper review, and partly by social media presence. In that order. When time allows, he writes the excellent ‘Clastic Detritus‘ blog and Tweets from the handle @clasticdetritus. We briefly caught up on the drive back to my hotel, where I promptly crashed ahead of my busy day at VT.

Now, I’d mentioned to Brian that a slightly late start would be appreciated given my long day and late bedtime. He came up with this:

Dr Roman’s vision of a “relaxed schedule”.

Catheter fitted, the day kicked-off with breakfast at Gillie’s, a vegetarian cafe on the edge of campus and Blacksburg institution. We were met by several of Brian’s colleagues, including Rick Law (and his wife Clare), Ben Gill, and John Hole. Perhaps unsurprisingly for the US, the breakfasts were huge and, filled to the brim, we walked across the picturesque, sun-drenched campus to the Department of Geosciences. The morning whizzed by in a blaze of laughter-filled meetings that, only very occasionally, strayed into anything resembling science. Esteban and I talked about the perils of lecture tours, the challenges of getting from Manhattan to Lamont Doherty, and the fluid inclusion/petrologcial record of mantle processes and melt migration, whereas Rick and I focused on issues related to open access publishing and journal impact factors (we both serve on the Geological Society of London Publications Committee). I then headed to meet Ben, a geochemist and sedimentologist (“the periodic table is my playground”). We discussed issues related to tenure (a process that is still a little alien to me given that we don’t have this process in the UK) and the ethics of selecting and approaching referees. My view: it’s OK and, in fact, probably wise to approach referees before hand to ensure they are willing to provide a reference. Also, choose people who are, on paper and by reputation at least, ‘better’ than you, such that their opinion carries weight with the committee, be it for tenure or promotion applications.

A hokie. Obvs.

1100 came so I took a piss and grabbed an iced mocha before taking a short tour around campus with Brian. He told me about the origin of the word ‘Hokie‘ (spoiler: it’s a made-up word and not, as some may presume, another name for a turkey) and explained to me about the US land grant universities system, as well as showing my some of the famous ‘Hokie Stone‘. I even got a quick glimpse at the Museum of Geosciences , which sated my craving for theropods and fossil plants.

For some reason, it never fails to amaze me how old plants look just like modern plants. Seriously.

I then met Bod Bodnar and his students in the VT Fluids Research Lab before heading for another laughter-filled lunch meeting with some of the department grad students. Over lunch not only did I learn about the exciting research being undertaken by these students (ranging from tectonics to paleobiology, and seismology to hydrology), but I also got an insight into their fears about the current state of the US. Sometimes the latter issues are more important that science.

Immediately after lunch I spent some time with Michelle, a vertebrate paleontologist working on a range of paleobiology problems, and John, a seismologist currently working on crustal deformation in the western US. I then moved down to the Sedimentary Systems Research Group to spend some time with Brian and Sebastian, a PhD student working on deep-marine deposits in Chile as part of the super-cool, super-productive, Chile Slope Systems project. We looked at some recently collected drone data and scratched our collective heads over some complex structural-stratigraphic relationships exposed in on the absolutely stunning outcrops characterising this visually spectacular region.

Chilean deep-water outcrops; proper lovely. Image from:
Me. Doing Science.

It was then time for my talk, which today was on 3D seismic reflection imaging of sedimentary basin structure and stratigraphy. I was a bit rusty and tired, but the talk went well enough, or at least well enough that Brian, Esteban, Ben, Rick and Clare took me out for food and drinks. Related to this last point, a word of warning; caipirinha/IPA-fuelled hangovers are not to fucked with.

Author: Christopher Aiden-Lee Jackson

I am Professor of Basin Analysis @imperialcollege. I ❤️ 🏃🏿, 🚴🏿 and @basinsIC (⛏). I obsess about the tectono-stratigraphic development of sedimentary basins. Why? Because I'm hopeless at everything else.

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