Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Surviving the Piceance Basin

I have been out several days this month with a local environmental consulting firm walking seismic lines in the Piceance Basin, which is north of Rifle and southwest of Meeker, Colorado. We are walking these lines in search of any fossils that may be present before the official seismic work begins, in which (I assume) they are looking for gas. I have never seen so many bright orange and pink flags in my entire life! Basically imagine the map below with lines going all the way across it from the northeast to southwest, about 1/4 of a mile apart from one another. My job is to follow orange flags planted along those lines, and look for fossils while I walk those lines. We do this (as far as I can tell and have been told) to try and show where significant sites are that should be avoided and to help protect any fossils that are already present on the surface. A story about the area in the Denver Post states "The Piceance could end up being the biggest natural gas field in North America," said Fred Julander, owner of Denver-based Julander Energy and a long-time observer of Colorado's natural-gas sector. Julander estimates the basin's total gas accumulation could be as much as 100 tcf -- enough to supply Colorado's needs for 280 years at current consumption rates."

The terrain is quite interesting. It is mostly covered in pinion, juniper and sage, but every now and then there are open spots. You sometimes get relatively flatter sections, but often it is up and down, and up and down, and up and get the idea. Below is a picture of the terrain. Yes, I realize, it could be worse. But the last thing I love to do first thing in the morning is scale the side of a steep cliff ;)

View Larger Map

So far the only fossils I have found have been fossil plants, mostly from the Green River Formation, although I did find a awesome leaf today that looks like it is from the Uinta Formation.

I have had many furry animal encounters, as I seem to have a gift for stirring up Elk out of the brush. Chipmunks, squirrels, deer, lizards, horny toads, more flies and gnats than I can count and one random horse have been the majority of my sightings.

Today I had the luck to be caught out in a thunder storm with lightning and to get to chance a truck tire. Always fun. The truck got a flat as I was being dropped off to start my line, so we had to get that changed really fast. Then, after walking for 45 min or so, the rain started to move in. It would not have been such a big deal if it had not had quite a bit of lightening in it. And since I have that important thing coming up in a few weeks (just a little over 2 weeks!), I found a nice ledge to hunker down under, which was what everyone else on the job was doing. I waited there for about an hour for it to clear out, then continued on my way, only to have another storm come up behind me and force me out of the field for the day. In true field fashion, as soon as I reached the vehicle, the weather cleared.

(above) My "cave" I hid in during the storm. (below) Hiding from the rain, rocking out my orange vest.

It has been nice to get out and walk some, and getting to look for fossils is a plus. Unfortunatly I have so many irons in the fire and other projects that need attention that I am home bound Friday. This is also a good thing though, since I just spent the last 6 months away from John and the cats and do not want to make this a regular occurrence.

More pictures...

So that is the update from here. I know I need to return multiple emails and get back to some of you on may different things. Sorry for the delay! And a quick tip of the hat to Bryan for the title idea.


Silver Fox said...

Overall, sounds like fun - without the rain and lightning, of course! Glad you survived. Good luck and best wishes in your upcoming days.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Given your day I don't think I have much to complain about in terms of "surviving" (although I'd rather be hunting for fossils rather than dodging strollers!).