Monday, November 25, 2013

PhD student Jorden Hayes and geophysical imaging

As a child, Jorden Hayes, a doctoral student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, enjoyed science and geology, but she did not realize the depth of her passion until she was an undergraduate studying Television Communications with the goal of becoming a meteorologist. Soon, she realized how much she enjoyed math and geology, and eventually switched her major to geophysics.

Today, Jorden’s passion has led her to WyCEHG at the University of Wyoming to pursue her PhD under the advisement of Dr. SteveHolbrook. Her research revolves around creating geophysical images of subsurface environments. Creating these images will help researchers estimate how much water is stored in the subsurface and help them better understand the processes happening underground.

Jorden Hayes
“These images help scientists interpret geological processes such as weathering, water storage, and flow,” says Jorden. “Understanding these processes is critical to improving water management and predicting how climate change will impact our future water resources.”

The first step to create a seismic image involves hitting a metal plate with a sledgehammer. The energy from this action is then sent into the earth and picked up by a line of geophones, which are instruments used to measure ground motion.

“That gives you seismic traces,” says Jorden. “The next step is to take it to the lab and do an initial analysis of the data. Finally, you take and model that data, which, in my case, involves using the Yellowstone Supercomputer.”

After data in the field is collected, the final data analysis and modeling can take up to weeks or months.

Jorden’s research is an integral part of WyCEHG and its mission.

“One of the goals of WyCEHG is to advance innovations in near-surface geophysical methodology,” she says. Jorden’s work will allow WyCEHG to better reach their goal of understanding subsurface environments.

Jorden has learned a lot about her chosen field through her experience with WyCEHG, but that isn’t all she’s gained.

“How to integrate science across disciplines would probably be the biggest thing I’ve gained,” she says. “The fact that I’ve been sitting down with hydrologists, ecologists, and people that study isotopes, I’ve learned a lot about how to interact, how to ask questions, and how to learn.”

Jorden enjoys her research, and views science in a way many non-scientists don’t.

 “Science is way more creative than some realize,” she says. “From designing experiments and surveys to making interpretations, creativity abounds. Also, scientific discovery is incredibility motivating and rewarding.”

For other students in STEM fields, Jorden offers helpful advice.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, never stop learning and get your hands dirty,” she says. “Start there and find people and mentors who are going to encourage you along the way.”

By Robin Rasmussen
Photo courtesy of Jorden Hayes

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