Stop 6 – University of Arkansas

Doctors prescribe a trip to Fayetteville as the antidote to New York. I was happy to swallow the pill.

The journey down to NW Arkansas Regional Airport, AR from La Guardia, NY was the first direct flight of my tour. This was much appreciated, given the ‘exertions’ of my time with Matt and Graham in NYC, not to mention the incredibly fraught journey out to La Guardia from downtown Manhattan (turns out that, in the city that never sleeps, subway trains do). The flight down to Arkansas was nice, passing over the northern part of the Appalachians and some striking fluvial geomorphology.

I was met by John Shaw (@johnburnhamshaw), a sedimentologist, stratigrapher, geomorphologist and physical modeller, with a weakness for deltas and distributary channel bifurcations. It was great to finally meet John, having first made his acquaintance on Twitter. Having tweeted the fact I had been made one of the GSA Distinguished Lecturers, John contacted me to see if I’d be willing and able to come and talk at Arkansas. Having never been, but having heard of John’s work, I jumped at the chance. We took a scenic route into the beautifully situated town of Fayetteville, with John providing interesting insights into the surrounding geology and geomorphology and, perhaps as interestingly, a story about the area’s long-standing link with the much-hated, megalithic shopping experience that is Mal-Wart.

He dropped me at The Inn at Carnell Hall, a grand, 1905-built building situated on the edge of campus. Named after the distinguished Miss Ella Howison Carnell, a Professor of English and modern languages and the first female faculty member of the University of Arkansas, the building has a rich and fascinating history, having served as an all-female dorm, a fraternity house and, most recently, as a hotel that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Having settled, John and I met Chris Liner (check out his blog here) and Mac McGilvery, two faculty members at U of A, for dinner, locally brewed beer and conversation. Despite the server’s best efforts to ruin everything by describing the minutiae of every dish (for future reference, and beyond knowing that the food is of good quality and prepared well, I don’t give a fuck about the name or height of the person who cut up my fries), all three were excellent. Oh, and I am now addicted to fried brussel sprouts. Full of food, drink and chat, I headed home to bed.

The morning started with a bang. Hearing I was an avid if somewhat shit runner, and having learned that I aimed to run at each stop of the tour, John had arranged for me and him to go on a trail run with his colleague, Matt Covington. It. Was Awesome. We winded up and down Kessler Mountain, under a dense canopy of tall trees, dodging tortoises and swampy puddles, whilst simultaneously avoiding breaking our legs. We popped-out at ‘Rock City’, an exposure of Carboniferous sandstones, where we did the typical geologist thang of failing to come to any sort of conclusion on a depositional environment.

A quick dash back to the hotel, a shower, and it was straight into the department for breakfast and a series of meetings with staff and students. Like all the department visits on this and the previous tour, it was great fun to learn about all the work being done by people in fields wildly different to mine. Particularly exciting was the way in which MSc and PhD students in particular feel so engaged with their research; they wanted to do it well and they were keen to talk about.

My talk, the final one of the tour (*sniff*) was to again be on normal faulting. The large lecture room was pretty full, and the talk went well despite me getting some neck strain due to the lofty situation of the giant screen. A Q&A followed, before I was presented with some ace swag (see above). A pizza-fuelled ‘meet-and greet’, where I chatted with several more students about their current research and future plans. A splinter group then headed down to a pub on main street, where discussions continued, this time fuelled by beer and, in some cases, whisky. It was around 1730.

Celina Suarez and I then met here husband Andy Lamb and their duck-obsessed daughter Ella, and we headed to the rather questionably positioned, but incredibly characterful Cafe Rue Orleans, a Cajun restaurant that came highly recommended by some of the students. An awesome meal was capped by beignets, which quite frankly should come with a health warning (imagine a oil-soaked doughnut, drowning in icing sugar). Andy and Celina told me all about their collective exploits travelling around and living in various parts of the world, whereas Ella told me her duck-house plans. It was a great evening, and the perfect end to a long, tiring, but inspiring day.

Up early(ish)the next morning, I packed, called home, and then met Mac for breakfast. Over remarkably restrained American breakfasts, we chatted about everything, including our joint love of paper-based, 2D seismic-stratigraphy exercises, and the stunning geology defining the state of Arkansas. Mac then kindly took me to the airport, where I currently find myself trapped, in a horrendous lightening storm, writing this final(ish) blog post.

Given the weather, it’s likely I’ll spend the rest of my natural life here in Arkansas. However, if there is a slim chance I’ll be leaving sometime soon, I’d like to say a huge ‘thanks!’ to John Shaw, my host here at U of A. Thanks also to Chris, Matt, Mac, Celina, Andy and Ella, for your company and laughs; I look forward to returning in the not-too-distant future!


Published by 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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