Tokyo: The First Few Days

Today is our third full day in Tokyo, and we’ve just checked in to our second hotel.  We have had some exciting days with lots of walking, sightseeing and good food!  Tonight we meet up with a friend for a dinner cruise on Tokyo Bay, and until then we thought we’d put our feet up, upload photos,and check in with the rest of the world.

To summarize the last few days:

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Another Big Change: Our Asian Adventure!

I have a couple big announcements today. The first is that I have wrapped up my M.Sc degree! I will miss being a student in the Ziegler/Morrill lab, but after waiting for feedback from the examiners and making the requested minor revisions I am certainly excited to know my degree will be sent to me soon.

The second is that on Monday we are beginning a long awaited extended holiday in Asia. We are beginning with a flight to Tokyo and a rail journey through Japan, followed by a high speed ferry to South Korea. After that we will visit China and some time in Taiwan rounds out the last of our plans. I will be using this space to document our journey, so look forward to more frequent updates!

Thanks, Salomon, for awesome service.

A number of years ago I fell in love with Salomon brand shoes. Finding great fitting shoes had been troublesome in the past, and I used to frequently wear men’s sizes to get the fit I wanted. On Mike’s recommendation, I gave Salomon a try a few years back. He got hooked by their roller blades, and has been wearing their shoes for years. Lo and behold, a size 10 in women’s fits me like a glove, and the shoes are high quality and really durable. Fast forward a while and I’m now the proud owner of 3 pairs of Salomons (light hikers for day-to-day, and two beefier hikers (Quest 4D and Fastpacker Mid) for the trails and winter months). I’m happy to say that my Fastpackers kept me dry and happy in the bogs along the Long Range Traverse we did in Newfoundland.

After day after day of punishment, the insoles finally gave out in my every day shoes, but a fellow named Scott at the Salomon Toronto Store was a great help. He tracked down replacement insoles from the company for my beloved shoes free of charge! I was very impressed, and needless to say, when these suckers finally do wear out, I’ll be back there buying another pair. Until then, I have nothing but good things to say about the company… if you’re in the market for shoes, give them a try!

A Big Change: Moving Back to Ontario

With my thesis in examination, and Mike finished work, we decided to pack up our home in St. John’s and head back to Ontario to visit with family and friends we haven’t seen in over a year (we decided not to go home for Christmas).

Mike is always experimenting with his (now not-so) new dSLR, and we decided to attempt a timelapse video of our three day drive from St. John’s back to the GTA. It turned out pretty great, so without further ado:

Geological/Scientific Drawing

I saw these links posted on Reddit (/r/geology), and wanted to post them here for future reference. Here are some great resources for geological and other science illustration:

Geologic Map Patterns for Canvas (R), Illustrator (R) and Freehand (R) , from Andreas Plesch and the USGS

Integration and Application Network (IAN) symbol library, which contains 2604 science/ecology symbols (vector format), including lots of geologic environments.

What does a Canadian bring to an International Potluck?

Mike and I have been to two International-themed potlucks since the New Year. I am always relieved when the concept is “choose a cuisine and make something” rather than bringing a dish from your own culture’s cuisine. Mike and I love to cook dishes from other cultures, and made baked char siu bao (chinese BBQ pork buns) from scratch, and the Edmonds-take on schnitzel (pork and chicken, with breading seasoned with salt, pepper and Italian spice mix) for the most recent potlucks we’ve attended. However, when the request is “a Canadian dinner”, what does one cook?

Last May, for instance, while I was visiting the Geophysical Laboratory, the boarding house where I was staying had an approximately weekly group dinner where the cook made something from their homeland. After lots of deliberation I settled on an iron-chef style meal themed around maple syrup. After all, I find non-Canadians rather surprised at the volumes in which we consume the stuff!

I made baked salmon with a maple syrup glaze served with green beans and a mix of white and wild rice on the side, and maple tarts topped with raspberries for dessert. I briefly considered maple carrots as a side dish (my favourite vegetable as a kid), but decided it might be maple-overload for those unfamiliar with maple syrup applied to foods other than pancakes. The meal was a hit, if I do say so myself! Everyone was surprised I used maple syrup to make savory food, but enjoyed the salmon, and requested instructions on making the maple custard in the tart. But enough patting myself on the back. I wonder, what other dishes might be a good choice for the next time I find myself representing my country? And do people from other places have this trouble too?


Our paper is out now! It is available here (open access until the end of this year).

I also have some e-prints to distribute if you aren’t affiliated with an institution with a subscription to Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies. Just send me an email requesting one.

Our paper provides high-resolution records of the carbon and sulphur isotope signatures from Aptian sediments recovered during Leg 123 of the Ocean Drilling Program, and discusses potential mechanisms that could cause the perturbations that are observed in those signatures.

Here’s the reference:

DeBond, N., Oakes, R.L., Paytan, A. and Wortmann, U.G. (2012). Early Aptian carbon and sulphur isotope signatures at ODP Site 765. Isotopes in Environmental & Health Studies 48(1) 180-194. DOI: 10.1080/10256016.2012.659732

It feels good to share the results of a project with a wider community!

Insights into the Scientific Process

Electron Café's Scientific Process Rage Comic My suprvisor posted Electron Café’s Scientific Process Rage Comic in our meeting room by the door just before Christmas, and I wanted to share it here. I think it is a very accurate depiction of what science is like – other than the deleted calibration curves (there have been no Melvins in the lab groups I’ve been in so far!), I can definitely say I’ve been at every point along the flow chart! It is always nice to see someone put your experience into words!

In addition to giving those that work in science a much needed chuckle, this image also brings up an important point: we do not teach the true scientific process to young students, and those that do not become scientists end up with a permanent misconception about ‘how science works’.

Science is usually presented to the public as the upper panel. Schools ask students to make a hypothesis about something obvious and test it using a procedure they are given to find the ‘right answer’. The next step is usually to ask them to discuss what ‘sources of error’ could affect such a ‘right answer’, and usually involve human reaction times and imprecise markings on whatever instrument you used to do your measurement. Even if they are asked to consider what they would do better next time to improve their observation (critical in the scientific process), the procedure is usually designed to be pretty decent in the first place which makes that question hard to answer, or worse, pointless.

Science should be presented as the lower panel to students much earlier than what happens now in many classrooms. Sharing and explaining this image (or a PG version) is a good start, already taken by many educators! At least some of the time students should be given the materials carry out an experiment, a goal, and the required time to develop their own procedure, test it, and then improve on it. It would be even better if at least once or twice early on, students are asked to work on a problem with no guaranteed outcome – in groups or individually. Science fair projects are a great opportunity for that. However, that requires a dedicated teacher who is willing to guide students through a real investigation. So how about it? If you’re a science educator, what do you think is the best way to teach the scientific process?

Winter on the Island

Well, winter has finally arrived here in St. John’s. We had a snow day two Fridays ago, and Mike and I took advantage of that by going snowshoeing with some friends around Pippy Park and in the Three Pond Barrens. It was a lot of fun – the new snowshoes are much easier to walk in than the big wood and catgut ones (although that might just be because I used to use my mom’s pair when I was little)!

It tends to rain quite a bit in the winter here, which means even big snowfalls might not last. However, this week I think it is safe to say winter is here to stay for a while. Tuesday we had whiteout conditions in the city, and MUN closed in the afternoon. Today, we had another fair-sized snowfall. The pile at the end of our driveway is starting to look pretty big! I’m excited to get back out on the trails this weekend. The only question is: snowshoes or skis?

Manuscript accepted!

Exciting news! I’ve been working on a manuscript with my supervisor from undergrad, and it has been accepted for publication! The title is: Early Aptian carbon and sulphur isotope signatures at ODP Site 765, and it will be published in Isotopes in Environmental & Health Studies. It will be my first scientific publication, with hopefully many more to come.