From my student days onward, the aspects of nature that interested me most were the apparent anomalies--the things that were uncertain and unpredicted; that weren't like they were supposed to be. Nature contains both regular, ordered, predictable aspects, and irregular, disordered and unpredictable facets. As scientists we are taught to focus on the former and eliminate, ignore, or circumvent the latter.  But anyone who spends much time in the field knows that our planet is a source of infinite variety and ever-increasing uncertainty (because the more you learn, the more you realize that you don't know). But what always fascinated me was not that (for instance) the soils or streams or eastern North Carolina or central Kentucky fit, and can be predicted by, some broad pattern. It was the fact that you can often auger the ground at two spots less than a meter apart and find completely different soils, or walk or canoe a stream channel and easily find features not explained or predicted by the conventional scientific wisdom.


Axiomatic approaches to science and mathematics depend on an underlying set of statements, principles, or propositions that apply to all situations within the domain of study. The axioms run the gamut from undisputed universal laws to widely or even universally accepted but unproved or unprovable generalizations, to propositional stipulations adopted for analytical convenience or because they raise interesting questions.

Examples abound in mathematics and formal logic, and in science, engineering and technological applications of math and logic. Although it is only occasionally referred to as such, the laws of stratigraphy (details in any geology textbook) form an axiomatic approach to sedimentology, sedimentary geology, and related palaeoenvironmental studies. The laws of original horizontality, lateral continuity, superposition, and cross-cutting relationships are assumed in this approach to apply to all sedimentary deposits, and therefore form an axiomatic system for interpretation.

Geomorphic Response to Storms

The online-first version of an article I co-authored with Chris Van Dyke is now available from Earth Surface Processes and Landforms: Principles of geomorphic disturbance and recovery in response to storms.

The abstract:

Reenchantment Revisited

25 years ago, Vic Baker and Rowl Twidale published an article in Geomorphology called “The Reenchantment of Geomorphology.”  At the time, I found their essay interesting and provocative, but annoying, and I disagreed with much of their message and with their overall tone.  Over the years, however, I have come to have a much different perspective—overall, I have largely come around to Baker and Twidale’s view.

Here’s the abstract of their paper:

Geoscientific Storytelling

In 2012, I published an article in Earth-Science Reviews called Storytelling in Earth sciences: the eight basic plots.  Just for background, the abstract reads thus:

Climate Change Effects on Karst: It Depends

Karst development is strongly influenced by climate, both directly (via the moisture balance and temperature regime) and indirectly. The indirect effects include biogeomorphic impacts of biota, and base level changes associated with sea-level and river incision or aggradation. The literature on cave and karst landscape evolution has plenty on the general influence of climate on karstification, the role of base-level changes, and speleothems as proxy records of climate change.  There is little on how (or whether) direct effects of climate change influence the rate or nature of karst development.

Rast-Holbrook Seminar Series

" Deep crustal structure, processes, and properties from xenoliths and seismic observations in the Rocky Mountains "

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
303 Slone Research Building

Rast-Holbrook Seminar Series

“Dissolved Trace Elements in Rivers: Problems and Perspectives”

Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
303 Slone Research Building

Rast-Holbrook Seminar Series

“Invasive species, mass extinction, and speciation: How biogeography impacts the history of life”

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
303 Slone Research Building


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