The pursuit of mud

I am fortunate to have been let out of the office and into the sunshine this week to pursue a small piece of data collection I have wanted to do for ages as part of my NERC grant.  It involves standing knee deep in mud!

I have been working for a while on the control of substrate on footprint typology and believe firmly in working in natural depositional environments to do so when I can.  In recent years the team has done a lot of work on various beaches looking at the control of moisture content and walking speed on print form and linking this to plantar pressure data taken in the lab.  We have also done some really cool work in Namibia on footprint morphology and substrate properties, which one of my colleagues recently reported at the Annual American Physical Anthropology conference in Portland.  But testing the limits of print preservation needs some real mud!

Plotting BU’s research strategy and REF submission is no match in terms of fun when one could be wading bare foot and knee deep in mud, although the two feel quite similar at times!  This week I am collecting data from a range of estuarine muds – different grains sizes, moisture contents to explore the limits of footprint formation and typological variance.  Visiting different sites we make a trail of prints and then photograph each print, perhaps 30 or 40 times, from different angles and perspectives to provide the data to build three dimensional models using photogrammetry.  We will then combine these models to create an average print and compare this to the sedimentological data we are also collecting at each site.  In the past I have used an optical laser scanner to analyse foot prints, but no one in their right mind would let me loose with one of those in this mud!  So it’s a week of mud for me and I will see you all back in the office next week.