Counting Sand

Tommy Fellowes, Allison Phillips and I spent much of our time this semester staring down a microscope in a basement laboratory on the hunt for foraminifera. We have spent hours and days meticulously counting individual grains within our sediment samples.

We counted hundreds of thousands of particles over a few weeks. At one point, a few thousand particles into our day, Allison, still hunched over her microscope, said, “have you ever tried to explain to other people what we’re doing in here? Because the easiest explanation is that we’re counting sand.

Allison and Tommy looking into the microscopes searching for foraminifera

Allison and Tommy on the hunt and glued to their microscopes.

It was a funny realization, that our precious project likely seemed absurd to anyone unfamiliar with forams. But there we were, counting sand.

We have surficial and down-core sediment samples from One Tree Reef field campaigns in 2010 and 2012, and our quest is to examine the composition and density of these samples, as well as apply a taphonomic grade to the foraminifera.

The data we collect will be used to determine the source of these foraminifera and sediment dynamics of sand aprons. Stay tuned to hear more as the project develops.

In the mean time, we’ll be counting sand…for science.

-Molly Hart

Molly Hart has studied the master’s of Marine Science and Management and has been volunteering with the Geocoastal Research Group during this semester.

Petri dish showing carbonate sand.

Our precious sediment.

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