My area is the Totalp unit situated in the eastern Swiss part. To go to the field (over 2500m above the see level) I take the ‘Panoramaweg’ from the nearby village.
I woke up early in the morning and take a good breakfast. The first Panoramaweg is at 8.15am, so I need to be prepared and be on the station at least 5 minutes before.
The trip takes about 30min. Once arrived at the top station, I have to walk for some time to my first outcrop.
Once on the field, the very first thing is to start writing and describe what you see, you try to understand the processes and take samples. The samples would be taken usually with hammer and/or the helps of a special carrot sampling drill. My samples as special samples taken for organic geochemistry analysis, will be then wrapped in aluminium foil (put in oven at 400C to kill all the organic matter and the oil presented in it) and then put in denoted plastic bag.
The last train to go back down to the town is at 5.15pm so whatever I do I need to get the last train. This means that the terrain morphology, sample weight and your personal tiredness should be taken in account to calculate the time needed to go back to the station. An appropriate marge should also be considered.
When you study Earth science you will have the chance to go at least once on the field. And contrary of what the other people think, you are not there for hiking or to admire the beauty of the nature. The most of the time this fieldwork is a go-alone thing – there are no colleagues or teachers. At the beginning of your PhD your supervisors may come once or twice to introduce you to the field and share with you their experience and knowledge about this type of work.
The fieldwork is all about providing a direct view of the process, studying geological features and identifying outcrop. The fieldwork serve to collect the right samples tagged with a location, direction and photo, then produce local geological map, and photographs/drawing representing geological features and the observed processes.
The day on the field is very dependent on the weather conditions in the given moment. Every favorable forecast should be considered as a chance to take and the day normally starts at sun rise. Of course this may also depends on transportation schedules, if any is involved.
Here there are some advices for the field:
- First thing - always eat your breakfast. The most of hostel/hotel propose the breakfast for free. The days on the field are long and a breakfast is an important part of the day meals.
- Know how to say “I’m a geologist/geographer/etc. working in this area” in the local language
- Have a good comfortable field backpack and fill it with all the things you need. These things depend on what you doing on the field:
- Take water, food and the cutlery you will need for your food.
- Any appropriate safety equipment, first aid equipment or clothing. In the mountain the weather is changeable so you need hat for sun and winter, sunglasses, sun cream but also raincoat.
My thesis is entitled “Mantle serpentinization, carbon and life?” and is related to mantle serpentinization, the deep biosphere and the geological evolution of the slow spreading ridges. This project is a part of a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and the University of Strasbourg relative to the study of rifted margin and mantle exhumation.
Evidence based on an ocean ridge drilling support the hypothesis that mantle serpentinization, a process create from the interaction of mantle rock and water, occurs at slow-spreading ocean ridges and magma-poor rifted continental margins. Observations at hydrothermal systems suggest that methane produced by serpentinization can support methanotrophic bio-systems, a system supported by living bacterias which use methane as their only source of carbon.
Methanotropic bacteria have been identified at active hydrothermal vents at slow spreading ocean ridges methane produced by serpentinization as a carbon source.