An Interesting Twist or is that Tweet? How a Geosciences Undergrad is tweeting her summer fieldwork.
Christine Chen ’13 standing before Lake Bonneville, Utah.
Christine Chen ’13, a 4th-year Undergraduate from the Geosciences department, has decided to use one interesting tool to document her senior thesis fieldwork this summer. Via Twitter, Chen is tweeting her way through Utah while preparing for her senior thesis. Tweeting not only gives Chen a way to outline her thoughts for a later time; she is also engaging her fellow students back at Princeton University.
A textbook definition of Twitter is that it is an Internet social networking service, where members are confided to 140 characters to produce what is known as a "tweet." Comically, as stated by its creators, to tweet means to “chirp like a bird.” Twitter can take on new meaning when you consider it has 500 million active international members who tweet 340+ million times per day. Its best-known impact is the toppling of tweeted-at-governments by Arab Spring activists during the revolutions in 2011. It also has the ability to reach a wide audience with a little bit of effort. The choice to use a Twitter account brings new definition to keeping a fieldwork journal as well. Unique moments can be captured in one little chirp.
Starting with her first tweets on July 6, Chen’s begins a series of dilemma tweets that show how many obstacles you can run into while out in the field. She comes in contact with a rattlesnake on her second day; two flat tires by the four days; and a drive through desolate ghost towns on her fifth day searching for an auto repair shop. On that same day, she witnessed a threatening lightening storm, which also included hail! The following day she witnessed intense heat and electric storms that culminated into a smoked-filled wildfire. That is a lot of catastrophe in one week.
Tweet about two flat tires in four days including photo.
The remarkable thing is that all this haphazardness could be described within 140 characters accompanied with a photo taken on her cell phone. Yes, this is true! Twitter not only gives you the ability to post your comments, it also gives you the ability to upload photos. Capturing the moments on a cell phone gives Chen the ability to keep an electronic journal without the need of heavy equipment. Chen is documenting her trip in more scientific ways, however, this method allows her to relax and have some fun while communicating with her colleagues back home. Chen’s ‘in the moment’ tweets also show the excitement of her discoveries to her devoted fan base. So far, Chen has 12 unique Twitter followers, mostly made up of fellow Geosciences GEO majors. Everyone is welcome to follow. All in good fun, tweeting could be a stress releaser for such an isolated undergraduate out in the field. According to one tweet, Prof. Adam Maloof and a field assistant Ballard Metcalfe ’14 were the only two people accompanying Chen.
Chen specifically went to Utah to research the deformation of the ancient shorelines of Lake Bonneville, as some of her tweets convey: “This summer, I am measuring more accurate shoreline elevations with differential GPS to better quantify the deformation”…. “What's interesting about these shorelines is that they aren't found at the same elevation everywhere. In fact, they're tilted!” … “Using my data, I will build a model of the isostatic rebound from LB, nearby ice caps, and the Laurentide ice sheet”…. “By comparing my model with my field observations, I may help determine the precise timing of glacial retreat in Western U.S.”… Each tweets focuses the topic to one complete thought and pinpoints her exact location when uploaded. By reading her tweets, the follower sees that Chen is now on Pavant (Pahvant) Butte in the Black Rock Desert, yet the photograph was uploaded with Chen was back in Salt Lake City. This outlines Chen’s entire experience via her twitter wall. The truly amazing thing is how much science can be packed into one little 140-character tweet accompanied with a few photographs. Having a “Where’s Waldo” effect, you are intrigued by all the places that Chen has traveled.
Her lastest tweet indicates that Prof. Maloof has left for Australia, leaving Chen and Balllard to complete the rest of the field season, which will conclude in 4-5 more weeks. You can look forward to more tweets to come! Chen’s tweets show that she is enjoying her adventure by bring this fresh, new view to her fieldwork journal. You can follow Chen’s tweets @ https://twitter.com/lakebonneville.
Only bit of shade for miles found under a large boulder.