August 4, 2012
Build your own jake staff!
A Jacob’s staff is a meter stick used for field surveying. They vary in size and shape. Formal ones are often a meter and a half and accomodate a compass mounted on top. I prefer an informal jake staff design. I like mine to be about a meter and round, with jaunty red stripes. This size is excellent for pretending to be leading a parade or marching band or circus while trudging through the field with a pack on and one field assistant with, hopefully, a good sense of humor.
This is my first international expedition, and the first time I’m flying to my field site. My office mate Lydia made an amazing travel jake staff that screws together like a pool cue. It’s the envy of the paleolab and she lent it to Liz, who’s off adventuring, before I could ask. Drat! So I had to make my own simple last minute version.
A jake staff is especially handy for “measuring a section”. We approach a pile of rocks as a series of layers laid down through time. To get an idea of how much time, and in what conditions the material accumulated, the first step is just to measure and descibe the rocks themselves. Then we look closer and closer – until we’re looking through a microscope – at clues in the rock. So a handy jake staff is marked off in 10 centimeter stripes.
I got some 3/4 pvc and a male/female screw end adaptors. The clerk at Home Depot was kind enough to cut it for me. Next, a t-square to mark off the intervals, some red electrical tape, and little rubber nubs for the ends. My labmate Scott sold me on the rubber nubs – it’s fun to toss the stick and watch it bounce away from you when you’re frustrated. Plus the rubber nubs are easy to replace and prevent wear on the staff itself. The finished staff, with my dog Giligan for scale:
And of course it comes apart, so it can slide into my carry on luggage:
Well that’s it for the night. More work tomorrow! Microscope time in the morning! I’m guessing I’ll dream about field work tonight.