The next few weeks will feature blog posts written by our students who spent their Spring Break doing research on the islands of Curacao and St. Lucia.
This blog post written by Rachel Capps, junior geology major.
During the week of March 18-25 I, along with one other student and two professors, traveled to the island of Saint Lucia to collect data for our research projects. My research was in regard to Slope Stability. Over the course of our trip we were able to successfully identify up to 13 failures on the island. Each varied in size and debris amounts but it was found that almost all the slides took place along roads and areas of high agriculture usage. Overall data was collected from about 8 slides with one slide being the main focus of my research. This trip was my first every expedience in the field and one I will never forget.
WTo really express and help you visualize what this trip was like, I'm going to give you an overview of our day to day routine and my first experience in the field. Every morning we woke up around 6-7 am. I'd hand brew a cup off coffee sit on my balcony and then get moving. I'd pack up my research gear and then my own personal pack that included my rock hammer, field notebook, snacks, water and any other essential items for the day. We would then load up the car and set out. The whole week we had been stopping to look at outcrops which were pretty much everywhere considering most of the roads were carved into the sides of lava and debris flows. Learning about the volcanology of this island was very fascinating. But by the time we started to do my landslide research, I was more than ready.
This is my slide, isn't she pretty. We choose this location mainly because we got permission from the land owners to climb around and go crazy an you can better believe we did.
We started to climb, slowly making steps in the side of the failure as we made our way up. In total I think we spent about 5 hours on the slide our first day. I was pumping with adrenaline the whole time, I was so excited just to see and observe the history of my failure. As we climbed we could see where the landslide had initially occurred and where, over time with different periods of rainfall, it failed again and again. This created a really cool hummocky appearance and was great for data collection. We measured the height and distance of as many hummocks as we could, and in some areas the steepness angle.
A total of three cores, each in one foot of the failure, were taken in order to perform sheer strength analysis. In addition three smaller cores were taken, the depth being about 6 inches, in order to understand pore pressure. Lastly at this site a number of measurements (length, width, and depth) were gathered for infiltration testing.
We believe the failure occurred due to a number of things, but mainly the amounts of continuous rainfall during the wet seasons, the land continuously being used as a sight of farming, and the initial use of the original ground level to serve as a road. But all of this was figured out and observed just by climbing the thing! I felt like I had learned more in my first day in the field than I had in a whole semester! Probably because I was finally applying and putting my knowledge to the test!
The whole experience was very heart warming and inspiring. For one of the first times I was truly able to understand why I choose my major. I was so intrigued and passionate about what I was doing, that I could never imagine doing something else with my life. Each day I learned, whether it was about the economy, the people of the island, their history, how the island formed, why this rock was here, or how this landslide occurred. Each day I was bombarded by information that spanned in every direction and I would never have learned the way I did or enjoyed it as much if it wasn't for taking a chance and enjoying my major.