Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mt. Edgecumbe and other volcanoes

Several times a day I get to see the lovely Mt. Edgecumbe. I didn't take the above picture but that's pretty much what he looks like on my walks to and from work this year. (Mt. Edgecumbe is a he because volcano is un volcan in french. Masculine and all that.) Different light yields a different feeling volcano. Near. Far. Lumpy. Graceful. The gamut.

I am also working on Mt. Edgecumbe right now. Not physically, but paper-ly. I am slowly grinding through 30+ years of data to try and finish the soil map for the south end of Kruzof island. It is a very slow, occasionally rewarding process. I have classified all known pedons for the island (There are about 200 soil descriptions for the survey area in question). Googling Duric Cryaquods led me to the Japanese soil science arena where I learned the words Kurobokudo--Volcanic ash soils and Anshokudo--Dark colored soils. Do is soil in Japanese.

Those little nuggets aside, it really has been a trial of my limited organizational skills. For those of you who are not soil scientists, mapping soil and completing in inventory is like filing all the same papers in different ways until everything seems to fit. It's one of those "scientific" things that I love. Today, for example, I made a binder with all the soil pedons with lab analysis for the survey area I'm working on. This dull little binder now holds all the characterization data for the several benchmark soils out on Kruzof. Except, of course, for the stupid andisol in the alpine.

Why would an andisol be stupid? You may ask because you know that andisols are soils derived from volcanic tephra and are therefore really neat. Because there is not one described on my forest and so we will have to do A LOT of work to come up with a new soil series. There is a silver lining, though, we would get to name the soil. It will likely have some name like Edgecumbe or Kruzof. Boring and acceptable. Just for once I would like to name a soil after something other than geography. Like McGillacutty. Or SoreFoot. Possibly Cranky.

The lab data always throws me because I don't work with it too often. Trying to figure out if a pssc is medial always has me squinting at all the dang 15 bar water figures--I can't tell oven dry from field moist because all the lab test numbers are from the old version of the soil survey lab manual. It's ok, though, it's way better than production NEPA or meetings.

I love my little dirt nerd world. There is an end, of sorts, in sight because we have to meet with the dirt nerd overlords in Palmer in early March. A whole week with other soil scientists sends me into such a tizzy. Well, that and the alpine field work this summer to describe that dirty old andisol. (I personally am hoping it's an Alic Haplocryand, but that's just me. It could just as easily be a Spodic Haplocryand.)

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