Friday, May 22, 2015

URSP Student Brian Nunez Analyzes a Shore Parallel Transect of Sediment Cores from Assateague Island, Maryland

In high school I had the opportunity to take two great Earth Science courses, Geosystems and Oceanography. The excellent experience I had in those two classes led me to pursue Geology here at George Mason. While working towards my Bachelors of Science degree in Earth Science with a concentration in Oceanography, the class “Coastal Geomorphology,” completely re-worked my understanding of coastal geology. In class we learned about the morphology and dynamics of barrier island systems and how many processes work together to change the landscape. It was then that I became fascinated by the fact wind and water are continuously moving tiny rocks all around us, controlling the stability of beaches and coastlines all around the world.

Last year I first got involved with my research on a trip to Assateague Island, MD where a team of geologists from George Mason were collecting sediment core samples of relict (ancient) inlets.  Unsure that this weekend of fieldwork would turn into a yearlong project, I have gained a tremendous amount of priceless experience working both in the lab and out in the field. I have become familiar with many geological tools and multiple coring techniques that few undergrads have the opportunity of and have been given a head start into the research process that I hope to one day continue in graduate school.
For my study, I have had the chance to analyze a shore parallel transect of sediment cores from the former Sinepuxent Inlet of Assateague Island, Maryland. The core technique I used for this research project is known as a pulse auger. Essentially, this tool works like a plunger that is able to pull sediment samples up from different depths at certain intervals until the core tube cannot go down any further or a depth of 8 meters is reached. Everyday in the lab I sieve through hundreds of sand grains to sort them by size and weigh them. By doing this for each sample depth I am able to reconstruct visually through statistics any trends within the core. Trends within sediment cores tell a story and from participating in this research I am contributing to a better record of Assateague Island’s geologic history.