A glimpse into my home away from home, the Cascadia Meteorite Lab.

A couple months ago a student in PSU’s film department, Emily Yurek, decided to do a short documentary on the meteorite lab. In the documentary she interviews Dick Pugh, our awesome out-reach coordinator, where he talks about the lab and why we study meteorites. Don’t tell him I said this, but I have a lot of respect for Dick. He knows a lot about meteorites and is enthusiastic in sharing his knowledge. I was also interviewed and got to talk a bit about the work that I’ve been involved in.

I think the documentary turned out well and I’m grateful to Emily for making the lab a little more visible to the public. My hope is that this video will generate more publicity for our lab, and hopefully, donations. We have over 700 samples to study and not enough monetary resources to do the work. All the work is voluntary and done out of a love for the science of meteoritics. And since we are a publicly funded lab, we’re here to answer the public’s questions about meteorites and even look at rocks if you suspect you might have a meteorite.

Anyways, watch the documentary and, if you feel like chipping in even $5, click here. Every donation goes towards a lab that makes possible original research for undergraduates (such as myself) and graduates alike.

The Cascadia Meteorite Lab Fund Raiser 2012

I talk a lot about my work in the meteorite lab. My time here has taken what could have been a cookie cutter geology undergrad experience and turned into something far more educational and worth while. It would be one the biggest understatements of my life if I said I didn’t feel some sort of connection and debt to the lab.

And it’s for this reason I want to get the word out about our annual fund-raiser. Every year for the past six years, CML has had a get together and fund raiser. The purpose of this event is two-fold: to give donors a chance to see how we utilize their money and to further raise funds for our operations. CML is part of the Portland State geology department, but we are financially independent of the school. We are given space and office equipment, but any funds for thin section production and analytic work (SEM,EMP, etc..) comes out of CML’s own funds. We do have an endowment of sorts, but we’re only able to access the interest generated. It’s enough for a project or two, but not much else. For all other work we have to raise money or apply for grants.

The fund raiser serves as a meet and greet where space science and meteorite enthusiasts can talk with one another and tour our lab. There’s a potluck for food and we also have a silent auction on meteorites. Or if you prefer to not bid on a space rock, you can buy one outright from a couple of the dealers that normally come to the fundraiser. All purchases, regardless if it’s from the silent auction or bought from a dealer, benefit the lab either directly or indirectly.

This year is going to be a little different. Brother Guy Consolmagno, also known as the Vatican Astronomer, will be speaking about the Vatican’s meteorite collection. Some might scratch their heads at the idea of someone being a scientist and working for the Catholic church, but Brother Guy is legitimate. Check out this interview to see what he’s all about.

Brother Guy Consolmagno posing in front of a rather handsome collection of meteorites. (Picture from Wikipedia. Courtesy of Kevin Nickerson)

Here are the details for the event:

  • When- September 15th from 2-6 P.M. Brother Guy’s talk starts around 3 P.M.
  • Where- Cramer Hall at Portland State University. The pot luck will probably occur in the Geology Office in room 17. Look for the trail of space nerds and you’ll be set.
  • Who- Everyone is invited. It doesn’t matter if you’ve donated to the Lab or not.

Something I greatly want to emphasize is that this is a fund-raiser. Even if you can only chip in five or ten bucks to the general CML fund, please do so. Every little bit helps and we’re not looking to get hundreds of dollars out of individuals. Although we certainly won’t say no if someone is feeling extra generous. And if you can’t make it to the event, but would like to donate, this link will take you to this years newsletter. It not only talks about all the awesome work we do, but also has a form with instructions on how to donate to the lab.  You can donate to either the E.F. Lange Endowment or the Cascadia Meteorite Lab Fund. If you do decide to donate, please consider giving to the CML fund as we’ll be able to use all of the donation instead of just the interest generated from it.

For more information about the event visit our website.

One project down…

Ladies, gentlemen and the undecided, I present to you my labor of love: the finished meteorite case for the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory. Here’s the before shot:

It's not very representative of the cool stuff that goes on in the meteorite lab

And now:

Much better! We'll have a more visible presence in the geology department now.

I’m rather proud of it. The poster on the upper left part of the case was put together by Alex and I. The shelf right below the poster has a couple of tektites and a shatter cone (subjects of a future meteorite monday). The next shelf down contains a piece of weathered basalt and weathered limestone that were mistaken for meteorites until they were cut open. The very bottom shelf contains the larger “meteorwrongs” the lab has received over the years. Starting on the bottom and going from left to right, we have slag, terrestrial basalts, sandstones and then iron oxides/hydroxides.

It was a fun project, but I’m happy to have it out of the way. I can now get back to my studies and continue research on my current meteorite.

A late-night addendum: There are a lot of meteorwrongs in this case and I didn’t even put all of our faux-meteor samples on display. This is quite fitting since it accurately portrays the hard realities of meteorite hunting: they’re not easy to find, and if you think you found one, you’re probably wrong. Sorry, but that’s how it goes.