24 December, 2011

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten! Feliz Navidad!

Allen ein fröhliches und besinnliches Weihnachtsfest!

A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, enjoy the free days!

Feliz Navidad a todos mis amigos en todo el mundo y especialmente en sudamerica y Peru!

12 November, 2011

Papers that I am reading

I'm reading plenty of papers these days about carbonate concretions, dolomite formation in terrestrial environments and paleosols. Here's of a collection of the papers that I personally find most interesting and informative. There is currently a lot of cool stuff happening regarding dolomite formation in low-temperature environments. These articles are on the cutting-edge in my opinion. Of course it is but a tiny collection...

10 November, 2011

The joy of research

The joy of research. During the last couple of weeks I have been compiling data from the literature into a big table in order to identify specific factors for mineral formation in the environments that I am investigating. It has been a cool task that was greatly advanced by my recent and on-going cold that has me stuck at home doing not much useful but reading papers and typing Mg/Ca ratios, pH, salinities and many other factor into that table. Today I read 3 whole papers which I included into the table and I have been reading 2...no 3 others for general understanding of the problem at hand. It hit me today while cross-reading through those other papers. It was just a single sentence but...there is no similiarity or single governing factor to solve what I am trying to do. A break-through of understanding the problem. There is more than one road to Rome. What a feeling to breach through and advance the personal knowledge of understanding, and what disappointment to realize that I can compile and analyze as many papers, data and experiments as I like, and yet - dispite it being  fun and informative  - will not solve the problem in the way we (my supervisor and I) thought. What a weird feeling to score such a victory and still notice that it will not help. Back to the start. I need a new idea. Still feels kind of cool.

30 August, 2011

Stuff I should know: ichnofossils, palaeosols, calcretes, and the dolomite problem.

I'm an economic geologist and sedimentologist by training. I search valuble minerals. But guess what keeps my mind going around and around? Issues that, at first hand, have nothing to do with mineral wealth. Today, another day in another open pit mine, and I am longing to be an expert in trace fossils (ichnofossils), soil science and palaeosols, calcretes and palustrine carbonates, diagenetic concretions, and the dolomite problem. And you ask, do they have something to do with mineral exploration and resources?

Well - yes. They do. 

Am especially puzzled by the over-whelming amount of what I interprete to be trace fossils of some kind. Though I am no palaeontologist, especially no ichnologist (is that the right word even?). I should take some palaeontologist and soils scientist to the mines. They'd be amazed. Well, I am. 


P.S. If you can recommend some superb trace fossils for dummies articles or books focusing on fluvial-limnic-lacustrine-palustrine-something depositional environments - let me know.

19 August, 2011

White bentonite - most delicious rock on earth!

The last post demonstrated how we use big machines to dig deeper for science. Let me introduce one of the fruits that we could reap because of it: white bentonite. It is the lower most bentonite bed in the region. Roughly 2 - 5 cm thick and very, very pure montmorillonite. If it would be thicker and if it would not be coverered by 40 cm of sandy dirt it would be a real treasure. Mine workers are known to eat it when having problems with their stomach, i.e. pyrosis. A table spoon of white bentonite and it will pass after some minutes. The best way to describe its physical appearance is white chocolate. It's nearly in-distuigishable visually. We've been literally eating our way upwards in this pit. White bentonite has no taste but a pleasent consistency in the mouth - just like chocolate. It shows a conchoidal fracture and has a waxy feel.

Cream-white bentonite. Yummy!

P.S. Please bear with me for the superficial postings. Being a PhD and a teaching assistant eats all my time and most of the creativity. Writing high-quality post is unfortunately a time-consuming task. I don't have much time.

18 August, 2011

That's the one I want for Christmas!

I've been sharing this image on facebook therefore I thought that I ought to show my loyal readers, as well. Thuesday I've been in the field north of Munich in one of the active bentonite pits that are currently in production. The big machinery just left the pit that morning but we still were fortunate enough to have the small excavator working in the pit which was of great help digging some holes for us to reach the lowest member of the bentonite. It's pretty awesome to direct the big machinery and tell them where to dig for you! I wish I'd always have one at hand for every field trip!

 Digging deeper for science!

29 July, 2011

Images from PhD work

Just some photos taken during work which I am burried in. I am sorry for the lack of posts but writing interesting and quality stories takes a lot of time which I don't have much off. The PhD and teaching assistant position are full-time jobs. Volcanic ash, bentonite and carbonate concretions are piling in my office. That's all I can say. :-)

Friends from the industry.

A trace of history.

10 June, 2011

Industrial Minerals Excursion to Upper Palatinate: Part 1

On May 27th I joined the first of two field trips this semester about industrial minerals in Bavaria. We saw several active open pits. The first location is an active clay pit (Fig. 1). Here relatively pure kaolinite and lignite that are closely inter-calated are being mined to produce chamotte. The clays and lignite are of pliocene age and were deposited in the glacial out-wash valley of the ancient Naab river. The mine is host to a large pond of acid mine drainage in the centre that is pumped out and neutralised with burned lime. Contrary to many acid mine drainage problems this is caused by the high organic content of the clay and lignite. The humic acids are also respondsible for the colors.

Fig. 1: Clay pit with acid mine drainage in center. Dark layers are lignite within kaolinite.

One of the pecularities of this clay pit are siderite concretions (Fig. 2). Peculiar as such as these clays are already very iron poor by nature. Siderite concretions are fairly common and can be the size of a football. What strikes in the field is that these concrections almost always have a small piece of coal or wood at their core. Not visible to the naked eye is that the clays are strongly iron depleted in the vicinity of the concretions. Sulphure isotope data points to the source of formation. Bacterial activity is to blame!

Fig. 2: Yellowish-brownish siderite concretion around wood chips in kaolinite.

The coal is not boring either. Below (Fig. 3) you can see a well preserved fossil leaf about 3 to 4 cm long. I have no idea what exactly this is but the pliocene coals of the region are known for their well preserved and rich plant fossils.
 Fig. 3: Leaf on pliocene coal.

And finally a brief look (Fig. 4) into the oven! The sieved and prepaired clay is calcined at ca. 1200°C for a period of roughly 6 hours. The lignite supplies about 1/3 of the required energy, the remaining 2/3 supplied by natural gas. Fine-spread lignite within the kaolinite clay generates a high-porosity chamotte. Clay with few or no coal burns to a dense, low-porosity chamotte. 
Fig. 4: Readily calcined and still glowing chamotte exiting the oven.

Thanks to my PhD supervisor for leading this interesting field trip and to
Rohstoffgesellschaft mbH Ponholz for showing us their mine and plant!

31 May, 2011

Construction site ahead

Now that I began working and started my PhD I am also pondering to re-work my blog. A couple of people know anyways who I am and I would like to return to my roots and blog more personally of what I do. So it might look a bit chaotic here occasionally in terms of layout and design in the next couple of months (work and PhD eat my time). Perhaps I move to my university website. Or not. Though I will keep making posts also - if my sanity is not affected by all the other things that I should be doing (microscopes, XRD training, reading, writing grants proposals, classes and whatnot). There actually is at least one night post in my head about last fridays field trip to some fantastic open pits and industrial minerals (kaolinite, quartz, feldspar, clays). If time is short I might just post photos...

20 May, 2011

PhD - Teaching - Bentonite

Finally things are close to developing a routine at my new university, job and research institution. The last three weeks were almost exclusively consumed by bureaucrazy, organisational issues, orientating in a new city, moving in and unpacking (still in progress), and and and. Since May 2nd I assist in teaching 2nd semester students the basics of geological map recognition, interpretation and use which turned out to be more fun than expected. Also I am going to supervise a little the microscopes of the Chair of Engineering Geology and once I get some time I will be learning how to do X-ray diffraction measurements.

Yesterday was an important day because I - finally - managed to delineate my planed PhD topic and mailed the dean my official application to be put on the list of PhD students of the university. As I meet all criteria this should only be a formality and I expect to officially be a PhD by next week!

My PhD research will be focusing on the formation mechanisms of bentonites, comparing different types of bentonites from different deposits. I am curious to learn how it all works and am quite glad to be have found a topic within the scope of economic geology and industrial minerals that I consider to gain significantly in importance in the decade. Naturally I hope to also extend my knowledge here and work/research on some other issues.

If any of you should have access or contacts to bentonite (or related like hectorite, etc.) deposits, beds or miners/explorer I would be happy to hear from you. Unfortunately I cannot offer much other than my lasting gratitude and proper acknowledgements. Though I might make this into another post with more details...

19 May, 2011

PhD in sight!

Work is consuming all my time but today was an important day: I officially applied to be placed on the faculty list of PhDs! A matter of days and I am officially a PhD student and not only a teaching assistant. Wohoooo! :-)

07 May, 2011

Week One

My first week at work has passed successfully. Most of my office time was invested into finding a place to live but that has been brought to a success yesterday and I can move-in monday or thuesday. Perhaps I got to sleep one night in the office but I'll happily do that knowing that I have a place to go to. Assisting in the lectures is also quite fun I noticed. This semester it will mostly be in the 2nd semester course of "Maps and Profiles" teaching how to read and use maps, especially geological maps, and interpret them. At the end of may I will be acompanying a one-day field trip to one of the best known Kaolin deposits in Germany. It is mined by various companies and has huge open pits. I figure that it might also be my first geological contribution to the blogosphere in a long time. Otherwise, I like the city. It is wonderful. Hopefully after I moved in I can also invest some time in getting to know the nice sides and finally meet some people. Oh and I hope I finally get my contract and ID so that I can login online and do all the useful stuffs at university...

03 May, 2011

First days at work

WOW! I began working on monday at university. I live in a new large city. Everything, literally everything, is new. Met a lot of new colleagues and professors who are all very kind. Bit chaotic situation and unorganised but I have my own office room (still needs more furniture) and keys for all the rooms. Hehe...contract still floating around missing and I still live in a small guesthouse. No room nor flat, yet. This is really tough here. No science done yet but the PhDs/assistants have a monthly and very fun bar meeting. Been tossing around ideas today with my PhD supervisor and had some of my own. Perhaps with one of two of those ideas you my dear readers and followers might be of very practical help. But I will reveal that once it is more thought through. We also plan one or two trips to the USA sometime this or next year. It might be a chance to meet some of you geobloggers out there! But we have no route planed, yet. Just some states that we will certainly see. Till soon! Sorry for any spelling mistakes - currently I practically live in a bar next to the guesthouse and I ain't feeling like spell-checking. :D

24 April, 2011

The Horrors and Pleasures

Well, I can reveal it. I am going to move to Munich sometime in the next days. It is an exciting development. A job and PhD waiting, a cool and interesting city, wonderful landscape and great geological places near-by. Just one small thing is stressing: I have no place to live that I can possible afford to pay with the small salary. Munich is the most expensive city in Germany. I don't even have a hotel room. Sadly I have no friends or relatives living in Munich either. Oh boy...but this is the life of a young geoscientist. Haha! Prices are obscence with some rooms of only 9 to 10 sqm costing 600 EURO!

On the pleasure side: I am going to work on the genesis of bentonites within the context of economic geoloy. There are large bentonite deposits in Germany but we will be focusing our efforts on deposits overseas. Am not quite sure how much I can reveal with a good conscience, yet. But it seems promising and will include a few travels abroad that I am looking forward to a lot. Stay tuned.

Oh BTW: HAPPY EASTER to everbody!

13 April, 2011

It's alive, it's alive!

The dinosaurs probably got extinct more than once in the time of my online absence from blogging, however, this blog ain't dead - just in temporary hibernation that may end soon. Life threw a couple of more rocks at me that I had to handle in style suitable for a geologist. As things are going I have a job! Wohohooo!!! I didn't sign, yet, so I will delay the official celebration until later but as things are developing I will be moving to a large, wonderful city in Southern Germany soon to work at a reknown university and also persue a PhD related to industrial minerals. This also means that I finally have something to blog about and will be doing my own research - and behold: they will use me as a teaching assistant on the first year students! No idea who should be more scared: me or THEM! Haha... Stay tuned. The next weeks might be full with work here to move and organise but I promise once I get the time I will let you know and restart the geoblogging. :-D