It was a busy first week for students attending the UF in Merida (Yucatan, Mexico) Program. After arriving in Merida on the evening of June 17, students met on Monday (June 19) at the Centro Institucional de Lenguas, where they study Spanish.
On Wednesday, they headed for the town of Izamal, where they visited a technical university, interacted with local students, reaped the benefits of the culinary arts program, and encountered some of the gaily decorated horses and carriages in the main square (Photos 3-5).
On Friday, it was off to the organic farm of Dr. Juan Jimenez, where students learned about cultivating dragon fruit, a native climbing cactus that blooms for one night only. It is know locally by its Maya name, pitaya. The UF students also instructed a couple of students from the University of Yucatan on details of the “Gator Chomp”.
Then it was on to the town of Dzitya, where local artisans work with tropical hardwoods and local limestone. Although they use power tools today, they used to rely on more traditional tools to work wood, like the foot-operated lathe.
Next, it was off to the archaeological site of Dzibilchaltun, where the group visited the “Temple of the Seven Dolls” and saw some of the local fauna, such as the ubiquitous “black iguana.” Much as today, the ancient Maya “mined” the local rock to create their infrastructure, such as buildings and roads. As you look around Williamson Hall, note that so much of what you see ultimately came from the Earth (walls, windows, desks, light fixtures, tiles, bathroom sinks and toilets, etc.). Everyone was pleased to have the opportunity to take a dip in Cenote Xlakah, a sinkhole where the underlying aquifer is exposed.
The next day, it was off to the west coast, and the town of Celestun. Students toured the long coastal lagoon via boat, stopping at the “ruins” of an old village previously involved in salt production. Heavy rains made it necessary to wade along parts of the inundated old road. The lagoon is bounded by a barrier peninsula and rimmed by mangroves (4 species). The very productive coastal lagoon system is a source of aquatic resources (e.g. crabs) , and is home to a large population of flamingoes.
At Valdiocera Spring, which discharges into the lagoon, we had the good fortune to see a young tiger heron.
UF Geological Sciences PhD student Stephanie James has been advancing new methods to use seismic noise to monitor seasonal changes in depth to ice in Alaskan sediments. With co-authors from Sandia National Laboratory and UF, she recently published a paper “Improved moving window cross-spectral analysis for resolving large temporal seismic velocity changes in permafrost” in Geophysical Research Letters. This paper was selected as a recent “Editor’s Highlight”.
Stephanie James completed her PhD in May and received a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue her research in this field. She will be collaborating with researchers at the US Geological Survey in Colorado.
The goal of the project is to sample two types of streams in Greenland, those that drain ice sheet meltwater from newly exposed landscapes and others that drain annual precipitation and permafrost melt (no glacial water) from more mature landscapes. The team analyzes the chemical composition of these two stream types to determine how they differ and how those differences may vary over a range of time scales from daily, to annual, to millennial.
Their results should contribute to our understanding of how weathering in these two types of streams affects delivery of nutrients to the ocean as well as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans to help refine predictions of future responses to ice-sheet retreat and to provide context that will allow scientists to interpret past ice-sheet retreats and climate changes, based on chemical records.
See information about ongoing NSF-funded Greenland Research aimed at developing a holistic understanding of weathering across forelands of retreating ice sheets: https://grainfluxes.geology.ufl.edu/
The trip: organized by GeoClub officers Ashlyn Spector, Nikita Kepezhinskas, and Graduate student Anthony Pivarunus, exposed sophomore and junior undergraduate students to excellent examples of igneous and sedimentary geologic structures in the St. Francois Mountains of Missouri and the highlands of Arkansas.
Photo Credit: iStock.com/AlexKazachok2