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Manique Talaia-Murray ’12 and Travis Tomaselli '11
Manique Talaia-Murray ’12 and Travis Tomaselli '11

Students Collect Sediments to Get to the Bottom of Oneida Lake Erosion

By Allison Eck '12  |  Contact Holly Foster 315-859-4068
Posted June 16, 2009
Tags Student Research
"I like rocks," said Manique Talaia-Murray '12 with a bashful grin. It might sound like a dull pursuit, but to Talaia-Murray and her research partner, Travis Tomaselli '11, rocks can uncover the past in interesting ways. They say that the chemical contents of a rock reveal a lot about its previous whereabouts, and their collaborative research project is a perfect example. 

This summer, they are conducting a bathymetric study of Oneida Lake with J. W. Johnson Family Professor of Geosciences Eugene Domack. Underwater bathymetry is a technique that uses a SONAR machine to create a grid of a topographical profile. In this case, the students will continue this project, which has been the basis for past summer research and multiple senior theses, by measuring the properties of the southeastern shore of the lake. 

Part of their assignment includes climbing aboard Hamilton's own pontoon boat, the RV Continental Drifter. They will retrieve sediments from the bottom of the lake by lowering cups down into the water from the boat. Their surface samples will be vast and varied – to get data that is as interesting as possible, they will have to collect many kinds of sediments. 

From here on, the researchers will prepare the samples and determine the ratio of sediment sizes using an instrument called the Malvern Master-E. What is interesting about sediment sizes, the students say, is that they can provide clues as to where the sand or slit or clay came from. Talaia-Murray and Tomaselli might be able to see the progression of the particles' movement, and thus evaluate what erosion patterns might be at work. 

Another segment of their project involves calculating the isotopic ratios of carbon that they find in the samples. The different isotopes of carbon come from different settings; for example, one might be oriented toward farmland and organic production, and another might be common in forest environments. The dominant form of carbon will help them understand the role of two creeks – Fish and Oneida – that run into the lake. 

Much is known about the erosion patterns in Oneida Lake, an affect that has recently caused the water to become quite shallow. Geologists speculate that the erosion of the Sylvan Beach sand bank is due to the way that the Barge Canal merges with Fish Creek. When the still water from the canal flows into the creek, it prevents the creek's water from moving as steadily as it had before. Most of the sediments from this point on simply drop to the creek floor, causing a build-up. Wind patterns further impede their journey. Talaia-Murray and Tomaselli hope to elaborate on this theory with the conclusions they obtain from their data this summer. 

Both students know that they want to continue studying geosciences after college. Talaia-Murray thinks she wants to switch gears and make geoarcheaology her major. She is a member of the Womyn's Center, an Adirondack Adventure leader, and the President of the Class of 2012. Tomaselli, who is on both the soccer and track and field teams, says that he values the opportunity to do research over the summer.
"I'm very excited to make a contribution to my field," he said. "It's a great summer job!"

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