Strong Women Make Waves
November 15th, 2019, by Analeah Vaughn, geology major
Summer 2018 I had the opportunity to travel to Peru for a month with Elizabeth Balgord, Earth and Environmental Sciences faculty, and Carmen Longo, a recent graduate. We mapped several rock units, newly exposed by glacial retreat, and analyzed potential causes of water contamination in the Cordillera Blanca, a mountain range that is part of the larger Andes range.
I had never been away from home for an extended period of time, let alone in an environment that required me to hike several hours each day. So I had to prepare myself mentally to be out of reach and physically to climb high elevations ranging from 12-16,000 ft! It was draining and took me a week or two to acclimate. I had more run-ins with cows during my nightly bathroom break than I ever could have anticipated, saw so many stray dogs that I wanted to take home, and went to sleep looking at some of the most amazing views. Each valley was a new and unique experience ranging from sudden bad weather, water quality differences, unique rock outcrops, and hiking almost every day.
Being away from home was not too difficult (besides missing my dog and my boyfriend, but REALLY my dog) because we were so busy. We mapped areas that were previously glaciated and gathered rock samples from various elevations. We worked with a group from Western Washington University who were involved in their own research determining how high alpine environments are being affected as the global climate warms. In addition to research, I had an experience of a lifetime trekking the Andes. We met with an incredible woman making an impact on the local community at the Lazy Dog Inn and explored old ruins near Huaraz, Peru.The days were never boring! My motto of the summer was “Strong women make waves”, and this experience not only showed me that I am a strong woman, but I am capable of making waves. I even got a tattoo to commemorate the experience.
This research experience has allowed me to present at several conferences including The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) Symposium, the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR), the Sustainability Summit at Weber State University, and the Geological Society of America (GSA) Conference in Phoenix, AZ. My biggest takeaway is that I CAN DO HARD THINGS and I know I want to continue to be involved with fieldwork and research in the future.