David Wheatley, March Grants-in-Aid Spotlight

David Wheatley, a second year M.S. student at the University of Utah, received the 2013 Allan and Eleanor Martini Named Grant. This grant helps to support David’s research in Southern Utah on soft sediment deformation and injectites in the Jurassic Carmel Formation.

Hundreds to thousands of injectites weather out in positive relief throughout the many desert washes and cliff faces. The main objectives of the project are to map and describe the pipes, understand their formation processes and controls, and reveal their complex diagenetic history. This increased understanding will be applied to further our knowledge of injectites as fluid pathways, especially pertaining to petroleum systems, and to geomorphic features on Mars where similar processes may have occurred.

The large number of pipes in extreme densities allows this project to go further in its investigation than previous studies. Measurements of the injectites location, size, and other characteristics will reveal any patterns in their internal spacing or size hierarchies. Additionally, the large dataset allows David to test previous models and build upon previous injectite studies to provide a more comprehensive model for injectite formation.

The desert of southern Utah has a unique splendor and invokes a sense of wonder. Petroglyphs and pieces of painted pottery tell us that we are not the first people to be enchanted by the beauty of the region. As David and his field assistants wandered the vast landscape, the desert would reveal some of its hidden secrets. Whether it be an intricate slot canyon, a small desert wildflower, or the animals that silently thrive in the unforgiving landscape, it is hard to enter the desert without being changed by it. The quiet and the stillness provide a much needed respite from the busyness of the outside world.

The daily routine of fieldwork involves long, grueling, yet rewarding, days exploring, measuring sections, describing pipe characteristics, collecting samples, and making differential GPS measurements. A long day’s work finds its reward in a hot meal at the campsite, good conversations, and the magnificence of the stars with the Milky Way painted across the sky.

David feels fortunate to be able to do such exciting work in such a beautiful place. Without the support of the Allan and Eleanor Martini Named Grant this research would not be possible. Because of this grant, David was able to bring along two undergraduate field assistants. They provided essential help required to complete the field season goals. This grant allowed David to investigate important geologic questions and reach his project goals. Thus, he is truly grateful to have received the Allan and Eleanor Martini Named Grant.