Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I didn't know (but now do)

       I have often found that scientists have a tendency to either hide what they don't know or make up something to cover for it. Professors often do this when students ask questions that they don't know, or when they are asked questions by the public (i.e. non-scientists). Granted, this is not all scientists, but I would say a good chunk of them. I wouldn't say that I am more humble than most scientists but I readily will admit when I don't know something. But afterwards, I will usually go and figure out the answer to that question and then get back to the person that wanted to know. It is a drive for knowledge that drives me, and I feel, should drive most scientists.

That is partially where this month's Accretionary Wedge topic stems from.
What geological concept or idea did you hear about that you had no notion of before (and likely surprised you in some way).
I feel I have taken enough geology classes to be able to pick up new concepts rather quickly even if I had no notion of them before, but in some cases there are things that really surprise me. Now being a paleontology student I have taken years of paleontology classes so most concepts are not foreign to me but I have found that there are still some things out there, which a good majority of people probably know, that really surprised me.

The first one is when I was taking a Paleoecology class and we took a field trip to Mexico. While we were in Mexico we stayed at Puerto Penasco, located towards the northern most tip of the Gulf of California.

While we were there we were tasked with the job of analyzing the fauna of different environments in an extreme tidal environment (they have possible the second largest tidal range on the planet, up to 5.2 vertical meters). Growing up on Long Island, I went to the beach often. I always found shells all over the beach but almost never, ever, found something alive besides the birds. Well when you look closely you can find some things alive.

Well, I started to find life. Now I should have known that life would be there but it really surprised me by the amount of life that I found. We found everything from a couple of mini-octopuses, an echinoderm, bivalves, gastropods, starfish, to your everyday birds. All in all, we found and catalogued about ~110 species of animals, most of them alive (or we found at least one alive specimen and lots of dead representatives).


Turtle carcase

So that is my surprise of information. I did not expect so much life to exist in an area where it looks like there is almost nothing there. Life abounds even when you can't see it, it only takes a careful eye and some time to stop and look at the flowers (or gastropods as the case may be).

Our first view of what we thought of as a "dead" beach.

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