Sorry about the lack of posts over the last week or so; in a few hours I will be flying to California for Thanksgiving break, and this time will have 8 days (and thus, another 10 days before I write on here again) - my longest Thanksgiving ever, I think. What's this mean for me? Well, obviously I'm going to eat a lot of turkey with some of my relatives (my favorite set of cousins will be there; awesome). However, Thanksgiving is the first iteration of my 'real' field season.
Every spring, all my friends get antsy and extremely excited for the summer field season with Museum of the Rockies; they spend about two or more months digging up dinosaurs in the badlands of Montana - usually the Judith River Formation and the Hell Creek Formation, and formerly the Two Medicine Formation (although a few camps have been there within the last few years).
Summer has a completely different meaning for me; there is very little erosion on the coast, and summer is typically a season of crowded beaches, traffic over highway 92 and 17, high school kids are out of class and go smoke pot on the beach (and usually sit right on the outcrop, and are too dumb to move). Beach sands typically accumulate during the summer, piling up ever higher, foiling any attempt at collecting material below the high tide line. The lack of rain and storm waves means that most exposures by now are coated with a healthy coat of dust and grime, rendering any possibility of spotting smaller shark teeth and bird bones improbable.
Winter, on the other hand, is my field season, albeit short. Winter storms clean the cliffs off, erode the cliffs, and strip sand off beaches, allowing collecting from the wave-cut platform and the base of the cliffs (sand movement during storm and fairweather usually abrades the portions of cliffs that are buried during the summer as well). Additionally, the cold temperatures drive away the throngs of people who flock to the boardwalk and Santa Cruz beach during the summer, which means all I have to deal with is rush hour traffic.
Winter obviously has its drawbacks; 1), it's cold; 2), it's rainy; 3) the hours are short; and 4), the reduced sand level (sand gets stored in offshore sand bars during the winter months) often means access to certain areas is much trickier, often requiring some creativity and flexibility (i.e. lots of climbing, boulder hopping, etc.). This winter is an El Nino event, which excites the hell out of me - some vicious winter storms this year would be awesome. Last winter was fairly lame (although the little rain we did receive made it easy to get out), although I did pick up a nice delphinoid odontocete skull and a partial Herpetocetus dentary. Winter 2007-8 was just amazing, however; a nearly complete Carcharocles megalodon tooth (the day before christmas, no less!), only the second known for the Purisima (and only one available to scientists for research - will be donated to UCMP in the next few months), as well as a 40-50% complete female fur seal skeleton, a juvenile Herpetocetus dentary, and a smattering of pinniped bones.
I wish I really could properly convey my excitement to you - Thanksgiving field trips are the prelude to the really good 'stuff', so to speak, although storms typically haven't cleaned the cliffs and lowered sand levels enough to be terribly different from summertime. However, the three months between summer and thanksgiving makes it seem that much more prolific. I'm also uber excited, because I will be visiting some old localities I haven't been to in a while.
On a final note, for the last three and a half years I've been working on a manuscript version of my undergraduate research project, which was the description and analysis of a new, probable late Pliocene assemblage in the Purisima Formation. In 2007 I sent a copy of this to a couple colleagues of mine (Frank Perry, Santa Cruz Museum of NH, and Chuck Powell, Menlo Park USGS); unfortunately, my writing skills were relatively poor at the time, the manuscript was incomplete, figureless, and had older 'chunks' from previous drafts embedded, much like an accreted terrane that is then subjected to regional metamorphism; a really ugly, foul smelling, nasty thing that no one should bother looking at (can't you tell I enjoyed metamorphic petrology?!).
Needless to say, after reading the revisions, I felt pretty guilty that I had bothered having them proofread it in the first place. In any event, I've spent the last month seriously reconsidering every word in the manuscript, and rewriting it piece-by-piece into a coherent piece of literature, complete with submission-ready figures; last night, I emailed it out (again), and hopefully this time there will be less 'red'. I showed up at our local sports bar (Spectators, my third home; second home being my apartment, first home being my office) and let the 60-page paper drop to the bar table with a resounding 'thud', which, oddly enough, drew applause from my (drunk) friends and a high five from my friend (Hi Christina!) who's going to proofread that copy. Within seconds, a red pen was already out, which had crossed out my last name and replaced it with "boogernecker". Thanks, guys.
Anyway - Happy Thanksgiving!