Sample Science at Stockton

One of the main goals of this project is to investigate the depositional history of the earth mounds found across the Rat Islands group of the western Aleutian Islands, Alaska. We collected approximately 60 samples from earth mounds across Kiska and Amchitka during the 2019 field season in pursuit of this goal. The samples included rocks, soils containing charcoal, soils containing vegetation, entire probe-extracted soil cores, and entire hand-collected soil columns.

The samples were transported to the Unified Science Center at Stockton University in New Jersey where a team of undergraduate students and alumni worked together in the process of sorting and prepping samples for chemical analyses. They completed a series of visual examinations and sketches of the probe-extracted soil cores and also cleaned some of the rock samples.

The Stockton University Lab Team. From left to right: Joseph Ross '19, Jennifer Rios, Bobbi Hornbeck '08, Anne LoDico, Carly Hammarstrom. Photo Credit: Susan Allen/Stockton University; 2019.

There were five goals outlined for the post-field laboratory session:
1) Collect materials for radiocarbon dating and package/ship to the W.M. Keck-Carbon Cycle AMS facility (University of California, Irvine).
2) Investigate soil samples for cultural materials.
3) Map texture/color changes within soil cores.
4) Clean and photograph rock samples.
5) Submit soil columns to the Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory (Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey) for chemical analyses.

LoDico, Ross, and Hornbeck discuss the samples. Photo Credit: Susan Allen/Stockton University; 2019.

Charcoal must be removed from its matrix prior to being sent to the W.M. Keck-Carbon Cycle AMS facility for radiocarbon dating. The soil samples we collected consist of a dense wet peat making it virtually impossible to remove the charcoal flakes as-is. The students needed to set the samples out to air dry in a climate controlled setting which allowed them to accurately separate the charcoal flakes from the peat.

Part of an Aristotle's lantern found while examining the soil cores. Photo Credit: Susan Allen/Stockton University; 2019.

Investigations of the soil samples revealed tephra, two pieces from an Aristotle's lantern (the complex mouth apparatus of sea urchins), and a vibrant sky-blue fleck of unknown material. The unknown material is being analyzed (pictures and results forthcoming).

Hammarstrom cleaning rock samples. Photo Credit: Susan Allen/Stockton University; 2019.
Unknown material, analysis pending. B. Hornbeck, 2019.




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