Experimental Determination of Moisture Control on Soil Erodibility




Graduate Chair and Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science

Project Summary

The goal of my project was to learn how to synthesize data I collected during a research trip I went on this past spring break. For Dr. Jerolmack’s Earth processes course my class went to White Sands, a dune field in New Mexico notable for the fact that it is primarily composed of gypsum sand. In the field we used a robot to walk up and down the dunes to get the critical shear strength needed to erode the sand at different parts of the dune.

For my project this summer I had to learn how to use python in order to synthesize and process this data I had helped collect. Having had no significant exposure to programing, I spent the first couple of weeks of my experience going through python tutorials to learn to basics. After that I was able to get started on analyzing my data through codes that I had made myself. During this project I also helped a grad student in the lab by creating a sand and clay mixing protocol. The protocol was done so that we can conduct a large scale experiment during this coming fall semester. Thus my time this summer was split fairly evenly between these two tasks; learning and using programming to process the data that I had gathered this past spring break and creating a protocol to help set up a future experiments.

This summer has been extremely valuable for me for a couple of reasons. Now that I have successfully used python to analyze my data I feel that I have a solid foundation in programing with python. By learning this skill I have become more employable and also significantly expanded what I can currently do in the lab. By the time I graduate I hope that I will become even more proficient in this programing language. I have also learned a great deal about data analysis, such as how to make sense of the data I collected, the number of decisions that go into how the data in broken down and analyzed, and how to make figures that accurately portray my findings. From the mixing protocol I learned more in depth about the work that goes into setting up and experiment. Something as simple as making sure sand and clay powder are mixed evenly in a set up can make or break our future experiment. This showed me the multiple layers of planning and preparation that are involved with each experiment that we do in the lab.

This experience has been eye opening for me in terms of how the world of  academia works, and not only have I gained skills that will be of great benefit to me in the future but I also have a clearer view of the type of work I can get involved in once I graduate.