Some Ongoing Research

Martha's Vineyard
Sampling in Martha's Vineyard, summer 2021

This project is in collaboration with Greg Balco (Berkeley Geochronology Center) and is trying to determine the sedimentation rate of a small dredged inlet in Martha's Vineyard in order to inform management decisions. Paige Monyak (OC'22) is completing an honors thesis analyzing the core samples we collected. She also made a video introducing the project and our field work.

Sampling in Cuba, summer 2018

This project is aiming to understand the effects of land use changes in Cuba in the late 1980s and early 1990s that converted agriculture from conventional to organic. In collaboration with the University of Vermont, Williams College, and the Center for the Study of the Environment (CEAC) in Cuba, we have completed two field seasons and are planning for a third. The project has resulted in numerous conference abstracts, a paper published in GSA Today, and a paper in press at Geochronology. Approximately five Oberlin students have worked on the project so far. Most recently, Emily Bengston (OC'24) completed analysis of the short-lived isotope data for our second field season. We are currently in the process of writing multiple papers on this project.

Valley of Desoluation, Dominica

The goal of this project is to understand the relationships among tropical storms, landslides, land use, and spatial and temporal patterns of erosion in Dominica. We completed field work in summer 2017 with a team of undergraduates from 15 different schools and faculty from 4 different schools. Team Geomorph (Marcus Hill (OC'19), Kira Tomenchok (Washington and Lee '18), Haley Talbot-Wendlandt (Ohio Wesleyan University '18), and Cole Jimerson (College of Wooster '18) collected sediment samples from the outlets of the 20 largest rivers on the island. This project was part of a Keck Geology Consortium Frontiers Project. Following Hurricane Maria in fall 2017, a team from Oberlin College and the Universit of Vermont returned to collect samples at the same sample sites. Melinda Quock (University of Vermont '20) completed an honors thesis on this project that is now in press at Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. Marcus Hill completed an honors project on the short-lived isotope and repeat photography data comparing before- and after-hurricane samples. Since that time, over 20 Oberlin students have worked on analysis of the short-lived isotope data from this project. Most recently, Simona Clampin (OC'23) is working on finalizing the short-lived isotope data analysis.

Anthropogenic Hillslope Terraces in Jiuzhaigou National Park. Photo by Porter Teegarden.

This interdisciplinary project with scientists from Sichuan University, University of Washington, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Oxford University, Furman University, the University of California at San Diego, and Oberlin College is interested in how hillslope terraces form in Jiuzhaigou National Park. They don't quite seem manmade or natural but rather a natural result of human processes. Local people say that some terraces are a natural result of swidden agriculture while others have been around for as long as they can remember. We are now interested in how old terraces are, what archaeological insight they give us about the area, and how they change sediment yield to downstream areas. At least five Oberlin students participated in this project at various stages and it is now in preparation for publication. Some student involvement is described here. Xenna Goh (OC'13) participated in field work on this project in summer 2011. Zeki Alikaya (OC'13) worked with my colleague, Bruce Simonson, to analyze thin sections of loess from the study area during spring 2012. Dominic Fiallo (OC'16) worked with Bruce Simonson and me to analyze the loess thin sections during summer 2015. During the 2015-2016 school year, Dom also created a conceptual model for how the needle fiber calcite in the loess formed and modeled landslide hazards for the terraced area. He presented his work at the GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore in 2015. Casey McGuire (OC'17) participated in interdisciplinary field work in China in summer 2016 and then continued to work on analyzing data for this project during the 2016-2017 school year.

Apiladda valley, near Yangjuan Village.

A team of anthropologists, ecologists, and geomorphologists at Oberlin College, Sichuan University, and the University of Washington is working in Yangjuan to understand how long-term land use and modern Chinese environmental policies have created the current environment - a flashy, braided river; low productivity soils; and few trees for use in homes. Elizabeth Whitcher (OC'12) participated in field work for this project in summer 2010. Megan Curiel (OC'16) and Philip Swanson (OC'18) participated in field work for this project in summer 2015. Megan and Zanna Doak (OC'16) analyzed our field data during the 2015-2016 school year and presented their work at GSA in Denver in 2016. Some of this work is in press as a book chapter and other data will be in a paper that is in preparation.

Road building
Road building on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. Photo by John Weller.

Using a long-term record of Chinese sediment yield and modern isotopic techniques, I am collaborating with scientists in the Rubenstein School of Natural and Environmental Resources at the University of Vermont to understand where sediment comes from and where it goes when land use changes in mountainous areas. Over 20 Oberlin students have participated in this project to date, and work continues on the short-lived isotope parts of the project. Most recently, John Chen (OC'23) and Stephanie Macedo (OC'23) have been finalizing the data analysis on the silt and clay sized samples. Paige Monyak (OC'22) and Lauren Holmes (OC'21) presented work done while they were at Oberlin at the GSA meeting in Portland in fall 2021. Adrian Singleton (OC'16) conducted a detailed look at grain size dependencies in fall out radionuclide concentrations. He published a paper on this work in GCA. Students from other institutions have also participated in this research. Wei Renjuan (Sichuan University master's student) spent 3 months during fall 2013 visiting the lab to collect data for her master's project, which is related to one of the sample locations from field work in summer 2013. Veronica Sosa Gonzalez (University of Vermont PhD 2016) and Thomas Neilson (University of Vermont MS 2015) both participated in field work. Tom visited Oberlin college as part of this project.

Some Past Research

Rocks and sun
Lake on the Tibetan Plateau. Photo by John Weller.

In collaboration with Christoff Andermann and Stefan Ludtke (both at GFZ in Potsdam, Germany), this project aimed to better understand the hydrologic cycle for large rivers draining mountainous areas. It resulted in a paper published in EPSL. Alden Gilliom (OC'13) worked on this project during the 2012-2013 school year.

Rocks and sun
Mixed land use along the Vermilion River. Image from Google Earth.

Jenny Bower (OC'13) collected river sediment samples from along the Vermilion River in northern Ohio and is using them to quantify the relationship between agricultural drainage (drainage tiles) and depth of erosion. Sylvia Woodmansee (OC'15) continued this project by redesigning the sampling scheme and controlling for grain size. Mae Kate Campbell (OC'17) worked on this project for her honors thesis. She was funded by the EPA GRO fellowship.

Meadow change
Ranwugulang Meadow in 2007 and 2010

An interdisciplinary team at Oberlin College, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan University, and the University of Washington was trying to understand the effects of Jiuzhaigou's reforestation and afforestation policies on meadow habitat throughout the park.

Bedrock meanders
Active meander bends on the Salween River. Image from Google Earth.

For her senior thesis research, Lydia Curliss (OC'13) studied the relationship between sinuosity, as a proxy for lateral erosion, and typical geomorphic parameters thought to correlate with erosion, including climate and hillslope steepness.

13 Falls
The natural waterslide at 13 Falls campsite.

This is a continuation of senior thesis research started at Princeton University in collaboration with Jim Smith and Gordon Grant at Oregon State University. Caitlin Zinsley (OC'12) continued work on this project in spring 2013 by looking at how GIS-derived slope-upstream area plots differ from those based on field data.

A massive landslide in Jiuzhaigou National Park

In this project we looked at where people choose to live and how that is related to the surrounding landscape. This project was an outgrowth of the terraces project (below) and is sparked by an interest in whether people tend to live in more dangerous locations with more landslides because those areas get more sunlight.

Home  |   Teaching  |   Research  |   News Coverage  |   Publications  |   Facilities  |   CV

Web Curators