My first summer research opportunity

During the summer of 2013 I went on a ten-day trip seeing beautiful places, learning about the geology of California, and nerding out over some amazing geological features. All of this was free.

I was able to do all this because I went to Deep Dive, hosted by the Berkeley Science Network. While I was there, I met a paleontologist who works on campus. She gave me her contact information and I made sure to see her in the next few weeks.

At one point she told me about a program she was a part of that took high school students to see different geological features, and expose them to earth science. She told me there was a chance I could go, so the next step was to follow up with the paleontologist… a lot. Luckily, there ended up being room for me!

We started out in San Francisco, first looking at an old fort underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and then we went to a beach to look at sandstone. From there we headed north, and went to Point Reyes where we walked next to the San Andreas Fault, and saw ruins of an old bathhouse.

The next area we went to was Lassen Volcanic National Park. We played in the snow on top of Mt. Lassen, which last erupted in 1915! We climbed to the top of a cinder cone volcano that was 846ft high! We saw colorful volcanic dunes, deer, and lakes with the clearest water I have ever seen.

Our final destination was Yosemite national park. My granny said, “That’s where Oprah went!” I actually to met the ranger who invited and escorted Oprah around the park. The park was gorgeous, granite EVERYWHERE, schists, more deer, waterfalls, giant domes, amazing views, and the biggest trees I’ve ever seen. My favorite feature was Half Dome, a huge granite structure with a vertical side.

There was so much to learn on the trip. I learned about specific features, different phases of rock types, how geology can involve biology and chemistry, about national parks and wildlife, and more. I learned about different ways to explain science to people. I learned about geologists working together and deciding/arguing about what they see, and just how subjective geological fieldwork can be.

The groups attending were from the bay area, Texas and Louisiana. The chaperones almost all specialized in something different. One of them had even been a part time professor here at Cal and San Jose State, but now works part time at San Jose State and NASA! There was a married couple who helped establish S.H.E.A.R, a little shack in Death Valley where geologist can stay while doing fieldwork, also where I stayed during a class trip. There were grad students, some people who just graduated from undergrad, a couple biologists, and even a high school chemistry teacher.

The trip made me realize how much I do know about geology, and just how exciting it is to me. It really made me want to get back to school to declare geology as my major. It also made me think about what I would like to focus on and do for a career. It was a wonderful experience and I am grateful to have had the chance to go on the trip. Now I am as excited about being a college student as I was my senior year of high school.

Alexis M. Williams