Changes, rapid and slow, at the Learning Center

Does Justin go around mumbling about amphibians? Brandi about mycorrhizal fungi? Martine about the medicinal uses of Oregon grape?
Natural history projects are the last big curricular piece of the residency portion of the graduate program. I wonder how Cohort 9’s projects may be pervading their everyday life, since I know my research has seeped into mine. This is clearly shown in the following:
While cleaning the fridge last week I caught myself exclaiming “Ugh – catastrophic!” after opening a container that had clearly been inside too long. Even though the growth upon the leftovers had taken place in a uniformitarian fashion, the visual and nasal effect of this growth was clearly catastrophic on my senses.
You see, my natural history project has been on the geologic doctrines of catastrophism and uniformitarianism. The development of geology as a discipline is greatly comprised of these contrary fields of thought. Both are based upon observations of phenomena in the natural world and are   interpretations of those observations. Catastrophism is based upon sudden and often violent change; uniformitarianism is based upon change as a slow and gradual process.
The two creeks that bookend the Environmental Learning Center campus are wonderful examples of each of these two doctrines.

Sourdough Creek, fed by snowmelt, undergoes a wide array of flow through the year, ranging from being bone dry in late August to potentially torrential spring floods. Notice the lack of moss growth on the boulders and the boulders themselves as evidence of voluminous and rapid flow – smaller substrate particles have been flushed away.  Even the “Texas dip” bridge crossing the creek is proof of the creek’s potential for change.

Catastrophic episodes in Sourdough Creek’s past have made this bridge necessary as a reasonable assurance of safety for visitors, program participants and even graduate students.
Deer Creek, on the other hand, presents a wonderful example of consistency.

Spring-fed, this creek flows fairly uniformly throughout the year. It sees some seasonal fluctuation, but the moss on the boulders, as well as the sizeable trees nearby, belie a much more regular flow. The shady quality of the creek area also proves that this creek has been consistent enough to allow large trees to grow alongside the gently flowing waters.

This brings us to the predilection of the human brain for pattern recognition. Research of these doctrines has sunk into my psyche so that much of life can be interpreted according to them:
Fracturing my shoulder blade during the cross-country ski leg of the Ski-to-Sea relay? Catastrophic.
Twice-daily sessions of shoulder stretching as physical therapy for this injury? Uniformitarian.
Lightning-caused fire near Stehekin and Rainbow Bridge affecting the planned Cohort 10 backpack route? Catastrophic.
Dedication of Professor John Miles and Cohort 10 grad students toward still planning a successful trip? Uniformitarian.
And so forth, which brings us to you: How is your day/month/year going?


  1. Aneka

    Teaching two months of successful CCC programing? Uniformitarian
    Breaking my ankle last day of second session? Catastrophic

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