Ryan Monson '20

Summer Research Scholar with David Harbor, and more

This past summer I was very fortunate to participate in an extremely diverse set of experiences. I first spent six weeks working with Dave Harbor on his plucking research project. Plucking is a form of erosion in rivers where pieces of fractured bedrock can be lifted up and carried away. This commonly occurs where there is non-uniform flow. We used a plexiglass flume to investigate this phenomenon and run our experiments with flowing water. Our goal was to learn more about the patterns and data that Dave and past members of Team Plucking have collected to better understand this process that shapes river landscapes.

We created a hydraulic jump in the flume to change the water surface topography and initiate plucking. To track the water flow beneath the acrylic blocks we used to simulate bedrock, I built a pulsing dye system with a microcontroller, circuits and pumps that shot different colors of dye into the sub-bed network. This was really cool because I had to learn how to code and build this circuit, and it allowed us to get better measurements of flow velocity below the blocks in the flume. I also began filming our experiments from the underside of the flume. This camera angle was awesome because it allowed us to see patterns and information in the water and dye flow that we had never seen before. In all we were able to get good data on sub-bed flow velocity and patterns, but I think the most interesting part is that there is still so much more to investigate!

I also spent three days at the University of Arizona LaserChron Lab with Jeff Rahl. At the LaserChron lab, we were using laser ablation- inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to date zircon samples from the late Paleozoic. AKA a machine shot a laser at zircons and all the little particles that were ablated were run through a mass spectrometer to get ratios of isotopes. I am grateful to Jeff for giving me the chance to learn all about radiometric dating and practice it in a super cool facility.

Also, I travelled to Kangaroo Island, Australia and worked as an intern at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (HBWS). There, I was in charge of managing their volunteers and doing work that included counting Koalas, performing tree health surveys, giving guided tours, beach clean ups, beekeeping and bird population surveys. HBWS was such unique place with amazing people. I loved spending four weeks in a remote area of a different country where I could enjoy the wildlife around me. I am still unsure of my career path. However, the diversity of my summer experiences has helped me to learn more about myself and the kind of work I wish to spend my life doing.

Summer Research Scholars
Geology Department Research Funding
Johnson Opportunity Grant