Day 306. Reaching out

In June 2013 on June 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

reaching out

Scientists tend to have a reputation as being insular, single-minded researchers with not much interest in communicating with the outside world.

I enjoy the opportunity to refute this stereotype, and I’m happy to report this week has provided me with a great example.

So, last weekend I photographed and wrote about beautiful and unusual layers of rock. Curious about these structures, I did a bit of searching for academic papers and found:

Genesis of Blackened Limestone Clasts At Late Cenozoic Subaerial Exposure Surfaces, Southern Australia, by Cody R. Miller, Noel P. James and T. Kurtis Kyser

Not exactly easy reading.

On a whim, I decided to email author Cody Miller.

Hello Cody,

I found your paper in Journal of Sedimentary Research, and thought you might be able to help me with a geological question.

The photos shown here were taken just adjacent to Innes National Park, South Australia over the past weekend.

Can you tell me how they formed? I’d love to tell my blog readers.

Best wishes,


A few days later, lo and behold a response! Here’s an edited version of it:

Hello Sarah,

Thank you for reaching out to me.

In short, yes I can tell you how those “weird” rock formations formed. The most confusing and intriguing part of those pictures (to me anyways) was the formation of blackened limestone clasts. The paper of mine you reference explains how we think they form, via a complex biological system of plants roots calcifying and trapping organic compounds into their crystal structure.

Again thank you for reaching out. I have long been fascinated by these rocks and I am glad they caught someone else’s eye as well.

All the best


I’m totally thrilled that Cody devoted some of his precious research and grant-writing time to respond to me. I think it’s a good case study showing that if you reach out to scientists and show an interest in their field of expertise, show them that you see that their knowledge is valuable, they are only too happy to help.

I was also delighted to note that Cody’s research on limestone clasts was performed at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It’s where my Mum and Dad both did postgraduate research as newly weds, and where I was born.

[image thanks to Identity Photography on flickr]

  1. […] I addressed another one this past week: ‘scientists don’t want to talk to people about their work‘. […]

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