Sunday, May 23, 2010

First 2 weeks in Rawlins

My first two weeks working (and I use that term lightly) have spent reading dry but interesting reports and policies or tagging along with the ranger, recreation specialist, and the soils and weeds people in the field. In the past two weeks, I’ve been able to see lot of the Rawlins BLM area and some of the area in the Rock Springs BLM area.

Starting Monday, I actually get to do the job I was hired for. One of the fun things will be to locate, investigate, photograph, and document methane seeps. According to one of the oil companies here, the methane seeps are naturally occurring and not due to their drilling. How they came to this conclusion is sketchy. An isotopic analysis of the water to determine its source and age may support of debunk their conclusions.

The down side of the isotopic analysis is that we have it contracted with a lab here in Wyoming, either a university of private. My participation will be limited to taking samples, sending them out to the lab, and analyzing the date when it comes back. I’ll find out if there is a chance I can go to the lab myself. Participating in the isotopic analysis looks better on a resume than “I sent samples out”. We’ll see.

Fort Bridger was a fun trip. Ft. Bridger is about an hour west of Rock Springs. Most of the area is sagebrush, greasewood, and juniper like much of the land around Rawlins. The geology there is different. There are interbedded limey sand stones and silt stones and a remarkable cobble conglomerate. If I had a geological map handy, I could be more specific on the ages. I resisted the urge to take back a 50 pound block of the conglomerate much to Jenny’s relief. There are still 5 ½ months to go back a snag a block of it.

The particular area we were in was an alkaline wetland with salt grass. The range specialist had thought he could plant the area with other plant species and create a protected riparian area. Attempting to plant anything different there would have resulted in dead plants and wasted government funds. In the event anything did survive, it would have been quickly munched down to the ground by the elk, antelope, and deer. Despite the futility of the plan, we did a field analysis of the soils and clays and got an all-day road trip out of the deal.

Soil analysis is a different critter than anything I’ve done in an geology class. Soils are analysed for temperature, pH, and electrical conductance (EC). EC is used to determine the amount of salts in the soil. Temperature is measured at the different soil horizons (depths where the soil changes). Color, density, grain size, and ‘feel’ play into the analysis. In many ways, it is much like some of the geological analysis I’ve learned but with different and specific terminology. Geologists get to break rocks but soil people get to make mud pies.

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