Daily Blog Update
Monday 3/12- Today was my first day interning at Trautner Geotech. I had a great day. In the morning, my mentor and I started talking about how I am going to complete my project, a map of soil swells in the area. We started looking at different maps of La Plata County and different programs that I could make the map in. I also answered a few phone calls. Then, about midday, I migrated back to the lab to work with the lab manager, Greg. We sifted clay samples from a site that Trautner Geotech is analyzing. We used different sized sieves to granulate the clay samples. Once we sieved the samples we ran a few tests on them to measure things like moisture content and consolidation capacity. I left with a sample in the oven that must be heated at a constant temperature of 230 degrees for sixteen hours. This will give us the official moisture content, and we will work with that soil tomorrow. I was surprised at how complicated soil can be. You think dirt is just dirt, but there are many characteristics that must be taken into account when dealing with certain types of soils. My goal for tomorrow is to complete a consolidation test with out any messing it up. The test involves dropping a ten pound hammer on soil in a mold, and you have to be very precise with how the hammer is dropped, where it is dropped, and how it bounces. It will take some practice to get good at this test, but I am excited to improve my hammer dropping skills.
Tuesday 3/13- Today at Trautner, my mentor and I started the day by heading out into the field. We went to a location where a housing complex is located below a steep sloping mountain. Previous rockfall has been a problem at this location, so the owner is looking to mitigate the problem. We hiked up and down the mountain mapping large boulders with potential to be displaced and roll into the houses. We used GPS coordinates to map each problematic rock, along with taking notes on size, shape, and rock type. This took up the majority of the day. When we got back to the office I worked a little on finding a map for my internship project. I learned a lot about what causes rocks to be moved from their natural location. I learned about the process of freeze-thaw and how it effects the soil surrounding rocks, causing them to move. I also learned a little bit about different ways to mitigate a rock problem and the mechanisms used to stop rocks when they actually do move. There are a few fences and other stopping mechanisms used to protect structures and areas from rock fall. I learned about these and other fences that do not work to stop rockfall. I am very excited for tomorrow because it will hopefully be my first day out on a drilling site. I am excited to see forty pound augers drive fifty feet into the ground.
Wednesday 3/14- My mentor was gone today, so I spent the whole day in the lab working on measuring soil swells. I spent a good part of the morning learning how to load soil samples in the soil swell machine. The machine is a sort of level that has a gauge that measures the pressure of the soil. You have to record the reading on the gauge about every hour and add more weight to the level. I learned a lot about the math conversions that are used to convert grams to pounds. These conversions are used to asses the volume of the soil and the swell of the soil. The pressure that is measured doing this test is very important when building a house. These forces can be enough to crack a house right in half. I also got to use a machine that uses sheer force to test the cracking points of cylinders of concrete. The machine has a metal plate that pushes straight down on a concrete sample until it cracks in half. The machine measures the amount of force it takes to fail a concrete mix. There are many different mixes that need to meet certain standards in concrete depending on the use of the concrete. Each mix needs to be tested on this machine to make sure that it meets a certain failing pressure. I am disappointed that I did not get to go out to a drill rig today, but I will most likely go to one tomorrow.
Thursday 3/15- Today was a lot of fun. I spent my first day on a drill rig. I got to observe the machine operators in action. It was amazing to watch. Not only was it amazing to watch a twenty foot tall rig put a hole fifteen feet in the ground, I was impressed at how many things the drill operators had to do in the process of drilling. There was one guy working the controls of the drill, then there was another guy running back and forth collecting soil samples and adding augers to the drill as it went further into the ground. The drill operators were quite savvy about what they were drilling into and predicting what would come next. Before we drilled, one operator predicted that we would hit hard rocks left from river deposits at about fifteen feet. To my surprise, we hit rock at just over fifteen feet. After we drilled, I headed back to Trautner and worked with my mentor in the lab. I spent a little more time loading soil into the soil swell machines. Then I learned how to prep two more tests, called the sieve test and the Atterberg test. We had to take a specific amount of soil for each test and place it in a pan and then in the oven to dry for about sixteen hours. We will be completing these tests on Monday once the soil is completely dry.
Monday 3/19- I was a little disappointed, I must say, that we woke up to snow this morning. I was disappointed because, one, I am ready for summer, and, two, it means that everyone is pretty much stuck in the office all day. Field work is only permissible if the weather permits. Today was not one of those weather permitting days. I spent most of the day working on my project at a computer. I have had a bit of a struggle trying to find a map to use for my soil swelling delineation. However, I think that I finally found one today. I have decided to split La Plata county into four main sections: the City of Durango, the mesa, Bayfield, and Hesperus. I think I will be doing a map for each section; that way there will be a little more clarity of each map, and I will be able to fit more data into each section. While I was working on the computer, I learned the two rules of Trautner Geotech conveyed by Dave Trautner himself. First, Dave is always right. Two, if Dave is wrong refer back to rule one. Today I also interviewed my mentor, Andy Gleason. I learned quite a few things about the guy. I learned that he has done more than most of us will ever do. He has traveled to every space on the earth, he biked around Turkey for a total of about 10,000 miles, and he has lived in an igloo. I was quite impressed about all of the interesting things he has done, and I actually took a theme away from the interview, if you have a chance to speak at a prestigious conference or emporium, do it because you will most likely end up with a multitude of super cool jobs.
Tuesday 3/20- I spent today in the lab working on a few different tests. I prepped three Atterbergs and helped prep one direct sheer test. The Atterbergs are extremely tedious and time consuming to prep. You have to pulverize a tray full of hard clay until it can fit through a very small sieve screen. You use a mortar and pestle to grind all of the large particles into a fine dust. What is hard about it is some of the balls of clay, when dry, can be as hard as rocks. I was sitting at the counter hammering little balls of clay into little pieces of clay for about two hours. Once all of the clay is very fine, you moisture condition it. You essentially spray it with water and mix it together until it has a consistency of Jiff peanut butter. Each prep took me about forty five minutes, so it took up a good part of the day. The other test I helped prep was the direct sheer test. This test measures the internal friction and cohesion of a soil sample. It is done in a big machine that pushes two plates of soil against each other and that tells you the friction and cohesion. To prep the test you pack soil into a metal ring and you let it soak in water for 24 hours. One of the technicians and I will go back tomorrow and actually run the test.
Wednesday 3/21- Today was another day spent in the lab working on Atterbergs. I prepped one more sample to be tested. Then a little later in the morning, a group of employees came in from the Forest Service to work on a few certifications. The group was going through a sort of class, familiarizing themselves with soil types and the different tests done on soil samples. I worked with the group and sort of shadowed them. We spent about an hour in the conference room listening to Dave Trautner talk about soil and road specifications. The group from the Forest Service was there because they want to be more knowledgable about the roads they build and how they build them. Then we moved back to the lab, where Dave talked for about another hour on soils. Yes, soil is quite a hot topic at Trautner Geotech. I learned quite a bit about the different types of soil and their classifications and characteristics. After we took a break for lunch, we came back to the lab and worked on some tests. The instructors taught the group about some different tests and how they are executed. Then we all practiced the tests. I already knew about most of the tests because I have been doing them the last week and a half. However, I did get to actually do the Atterberg test, instead of just prep soil for it. The actual test is a lot more fun to do than prepping for the test.
Thursday 3/22- Today I came in to Trautner and was surprised by Steve. He is making his way to all of the internships and today he got to mine. I showed Steve the work I have done on my project, which is just a few maps. Then I showed him around Trautner a little bit. I took him back to the lab and showed him some of the machines that I have been working on. I tried to explain a few things about the machines and why they are important to soil testing. After Steve left, Andy and I headed up to the job site we were working at last Tuesday. We met up with Mr. Franklin from Franklin Drilling and Blasting. Which is a company that deals with problematic boulders and things of that nature. We went back up on a mountain and started mapping more potentially dangerous boulders. We collected a few more rocks that needed to be dealt with so they do not get displaced and roll into a house. After we had found all of the potentially dangerous boulders, Andy and I headed back to Trautner to pick up a nuclear density gauge. We needed to take the density of some soils at a residential building site, but before we did that we went over to the mall and checked out a big concrete pour that is going on to build a bridge on a new section of the river trail. I watched a huge pipe connected to a crane pump concrete all over the deck of this new bridge. As the concrete is pouring, a few guys from Trautner were testing it to make sure that it meets all of the specifications. We were just their to observe for a little while. After the pour, we headed to the residential job site. To use the nuclear density gauge, you have to pound a hole in the ground and center the gauge over it. Then a probe comes down from the gauge and goes into the ground. This gives you the density and moisture of the soil. These tests are fairly easy, so it did not take us long. After that we just headed back to Trautner and the day was almost over.
Friday 3/23- I spent today working with the Greg, the lab manager, in the lab. I did a multitude of tasks throughout the day. I started by separating rocks from some buckets of dirt and moving them around Trautner. I used a sieve to do this and it was a lot of shaking and raking. I then started to work with Greg on splitting a large amount of soil from a sample site. We used a large mechanical splitter to do so. The splitter works by dropping the sample through a chute into a catch with different sized openings that split the soil into two buckets. We used this to mix the sample and reduce the size of the sample. We prepped seven 5500 gram samples using the splitter to measure out each sample. This was quite a long, tedious process. After lunch, I moisture conditioned the seven samples I had prepped before. This really just means I added a certain amount of water to get a desired moisture content. This is also a long, tedious process. Then I split up some rocks by their size using sieves. Today was a pretty simple day and it seems like we did not do a lot, but I learned that prepping for lab work takes up most of ones time in a lab.
Monday 3/26- Seeing that the internships are winding down, I have been spending a lot of time trying to finish up my project. Today I went in and got straight to work on my maps. I have found that it takes a lot of time to find actual data that is in the right location to be plotted on my maps. When I have actually found a certain report that fits the criteria, it is not that hard to put on the map and enter in the spreadsheet. It just takes a lot of time scrolling through the computer drive and looking through reports to see if the location is on my map. However, I did make some good progress today. I am about half way done finding points for a few of my maps, but I still have a lot of work to do. I spent all morning working on my project, and I will probably do the same tomorrow. Today, after lunch, Andy showed me a few of the programs he uses to simulate geological hazards. He uses three programs to do so. One simulates rockfall, another simulates avalanches, and the last simulates full-on landslides. Each program is very expensive and complicated to use, and they all can do some amazing things. The rockfall program, for example, simulates one hundred boulders of a specific weight, height, and composition falling down a certain slope. It averages the velocity, the bouncing height, and the force produced by each rock. I also learned a little bit about what can be done to mitigate some of these problems. One solution is soil nails, which are twenty foot nails that are literally nailed into the earth. Andy and I even went to a sight were some soil nails are in use and examined how they work and what they look like.
Tuesday 3/27- I am still working on pounding out my project before it is too late. I two and a half hours this morning working on finding data points and putting them on my map. I am almost done with a few sections of the map, but I think I might have to get rid of one section. I have not found enough data to suffice for a legitimate map. I only have two data points, when I need about twenty. I might have to delete this section. After I had worked on my project for a few hours, Andy and I went up to a site to do a geohazard review. When doing a geohazard you are looking for all of the geological features that could potentially be hazardous to a building. We looked for rockfall, landslide, debris flow, and avalanche danger. Andy takes all of these things into consideration when doing a geohaz review. To asses all of these things we hiked pretty much straight up a 36 degree mountain observing everything we saw. It was a little challenging getting up the mountain because it was steep and there was snow in some places and I was wearing shorts. Plus, my legs got pretty scratched up from all of the scrub oak at ground level. I learned my lesson not to wear shorts out in the field. We found that the particular area we were in was pretty nonhazardous. The biggest hazard was a small avalanche path, but it was minuscule and Andy was not too worried about it.
Wednesday 3/28- I spent all of today working on my project. I am working hard to finish up my project. I have finished two out of the four maps, and I am almost done with the other sections. I have been having trouble finding data for Bayfield, and yesterday I was having trouble finding data for Hesperus. The tables have turned, and I have almost found enough data to complete the Hesperus map. I did not do much today besides worked on my project, so I do not have too much to report. I am almost finished, but I needed today to get the majority of the project done.