Topographic Threshold: New Geoarchaeology Research Paper

Along with a former student (Dr. Travis Conley), we recently published a research paper investigating the impact of landscape topography on the preservation and distribution of soils that date from the Late Pleistocene and into the Late Holocene. The paper was published in the open access MDPI journal Geoscience. It is a free download for anybody interested.

Conley, T., Hurst, S., Johnson, E., 2020. Topographic Thresholds and Soil Preservation along the Southern High Plains Eastern Escarpment, Northwest Texas, USA. Geosciences 10.

The research took place at our research area near Post, Texas along the edge of the Southern High Plains. We have previously published a paper on this researcher in 2014, compliments of Dr. Laura Murphy. It is exciting to get some more of this Geoarchaeology research out there in the world.

A Better Zwift Indoor Cycling Ride?

Assessing Wahoo’s Kickr Axis Action Feet

Unpacking the Wahoo Kickr Axis Action Feet
Unpacking the Wahoo Kickr Axis Action Feet

Quarantine and lockdowns are a lot more palatable as a cyclist with Zwift indoor riding. I am not alone, Cycling Tips reported on the record number of indoor mile grinders flocking to Zwift and other riding platforms as the pandemic hit last Spring.

For two years, my Zwift setup has been my trusty Specialized Diverge gravel bike attached to the 2018 Wahoo Kickr Indoor trainer. I have logged over 6,000 miles, most of my rides averaging 15-20 miles, and my longest stopping just short of 63 miles. Longer rides on indoor trainers are more difficult for me than riding outside due to being locked into one position causing more muscle cramping and saddle soreness.

I was therefore excited when Wahoo announced their 2020 Wahoo Kickr model last year with the addition of Axis Action Feet.

Wahoo states that the Axis Feet:

Enhance the ride feel of the KICKR Smart Trainer by mimicking the side-to-side movement experienced riding outdoors. These feet allow up to 5 degrees of movement and so the KICKR can respond more naturally to the rider tempo and body position changes.


By allowing you to move more naturally with the forces applied during long hard training sessions, KICKR AXIS reduces your fatigue, so you can go harder, longer.

Wahoo made the Axis Action Feet available as a separate upgrade for older Wahoo Kickr models at $79.99 — I was eager to purchase.

After several months, I finally could find the Axis Feet in-stock at the Wahoo store. Indoor trainers from all manufacturers have been in short supply for months due to high demand and supply constraints.

Each of the four Action Feet in comparison to the original Wahoo Kickr feet’s plastic bottoms have the addition of a high density foam material. Following the instructions it was a quick and simple process to upgrade the feet in under 10 minutes.

The Wahoo Axis Action outrigger foot upgrade with foam bottom in comparison to the original Kickr's plastic foot.
The Wahoo Axis Action outrigger foot upgrade with foam bottom in comparison to the original Kickr’s plastic foot.

The only decision to make was the size of the plastic cap to insert over the foam of the two outrigger feet, and this was based on weight. Since I am definitely over 181 lbs, I needed to use the largest diameter cap.

After several rides, I do like the Axis Action Feet upgrade. The addition of the foam on the bottom provides a nice and subtle lateral motion that is closer to riding outdoors. I still have more muscle cramping and saddle soreness than I typically have riding outdoors, however, this has been reduced and is a nice addition for indoor riding on older Wahoo Kickr trainers.

I think the Axis feet are a nice upgrade for indoor cyclists riding on hard surfaces — I ride on concrete in my garage on a thin mat. If you ride on carpet, then you may not notice the subtle motion of the Axis Action Feet and reap their benefits.

📚 Want to Read More Books in 2021 — Try 2X Speed

As an academic, I rarely have time to read “for fun books” and instead devote my reading time to keeping up with new discoveries and theories divulged in esoteric journal articles. This changed when I stumbled upon a YouTube video by Ali Abdaal espousing the merits of listening at 2X speed and faster. Wow, a typical non-fiction audiobook between 8-10 hours now only requires 4-10 hours to complete, and even 30 hour epic fantasy novels are manageable at 15 hours. After finding this superpower in September 2020, I have now completed 19 books over the last four months.

  1. Educated, Tara Westover
  2. The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
  3. Hidden Figures, Margot Shetterly
  4. The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
  5. Andromeda Strain Evolution, Michael Crichton
  6. How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan
  7. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
  8. The End of Everything, Katie Mack
  9. The Gathering Storm, Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan
  10. Towers of Midnight, Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan
  11. White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
  12. Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker
  13. A Memory of the Light, Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan
  14. Brain on Fire, Susannah Cahalan
  15. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
  16. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
  17. Hidden Reality, Brian Greene
  18. Armada, Ernest Cline
  19. Storm Front, Jim Butcher

Adjusting to 2X speed took me only a few minutes, and I enjoy listening to books more at double speed. I could finally finish the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that I started as a teenager in the 1990s. I also read many non-fiction books that I found interesting, but was never going to read without listening to the audiobook version at 2X speed.

I used the Libby app and my local library card to access these great books for free. The Libby app is much improved, very user-friendly to find new audiobooks, and even works in my vehicle via CarPlay. Most of my listening takes place while working out on my bike. I feel like my life has greatly improved as new words enter my ears and my legs grind out the miles each morning.

Create 3D Terrain Models from Real World Locations

3D model of Ngornogo Conservation Area — World Heritage Site
3D model of Ngornogo Conservation Area — World Heritage Site

Software Needed:

QGIS: Geographical Information Software

Adobe Photoshop

Atlas 3D Map Generator (Photoshop plug-in)

I have been creating 3D models of terrain for uploading to SketchFab and also generating 3D models for use in my World Heritage sites class. With GIS, it is possible to add any additional information to the 3D models as needed. I like this approach because it is straightforward to create whatever 3D content you need with just a few clicks. It did take me a while to figure out this workflow, so hopefully this post will save somebody some time and effort.

My General Workflow:


  1. Capture with screenshots digital elevation models (DEMs) and aerial imagery within QGIS. The advantage of this approach is that any other GIS layers can be added on top of the DEM models in the final 3D modeling rendering.
    a. Navigate to a real world of interest within QGIS.
    b. I typically use the QGIS SRTM plug-in for automatically downloading the DEMs that cover the current extent. If there are more than one DEM, I merge them together.

Raster ⇨Miscellaneous ⇨ Merge. Then add the recently downloaded SRTM files and click merge.

To use this SRTM plug-in, create a free profile at https//

c. Take screenshots of both the DEM and aerial imagery for the overlaying 3D model’s texture. Make sure the screenshots cover the same area of the screen so that they overlay each other.


  1. Open the DEM raster layer in Photoshop.
  2. Create a new layer in Photoshop and embed the texture layer (aerial imagery or other GIS layers), and label this new layer as texture.
  3. Create New Terrain using the Atlas plug-in
  4. Modify the terrain settings and export the 3D model from Photoshop.

I normally export the 3D model with 600 cm width dimensions which seems to work well with uploading to SketchFab. I also save the texture files as JPEGS which SketchFab can process.

Upload to Sketchfab

  1. Compress the exported .obj and other supporting files. On a Mac highlight all the files, right-click and then select compress. Upload the .zip file to SketchFab.

Keeping Track of New Academic Journal Articles

Generate new ideas and stay ahead in your research

Reading the latest articles from journals in your field of study is vital for staying ahead of information that impacts your work, and for generating new research ideas. Today, this is a difficult task with the proliferation of new journals, and an increase in the number of articles released each day. The publication industry over the last two decades has largely switched from paper-based to digital (Chen, 2019), and as a result researchers now have more options than ever to find a journal to publish their work. The National Science Foundation documented that the number of journal articles published in scientific and engineering journals grew by 4% over the last decade.

Although keeping up with and reading new publications often feels like drinking water from a fire hose, using the best tools that works for you can save time, prevent burnout, and keep you focused on what matters most — your research and having a life.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Readers

Most journals in your field will offer an RSS subscription link. Navigate to the journal’s website and copy and paste the RSS feed link into your RSS reader of choice. RSS readers are apps that conglomerate the RSS feeds that you follow and present them in a magazine style for easy navigation. Interesting blogs or websites that share their research with an RSS feed can also be added to your RSS reader.

Many RSS apps are free to use, however, some like Feedly or Unread offer more features that are worth a subscription or download cost.

The Researcher App is a new academically focused RSS reader and free to use. For scholars that only want to keep up with academic journals than the Researcher App is the best choice. The key benefit of Researcher is that journal RSS feeds are added within the app, and a user simply follows their journals. If a journal is missing, email the Researcher App developers and have the journal added. Another unique feature is that you can integrate a Zotero or Mendeley account. Zotero and Mendeley are reference management apps that keep track of citations, associated PDFs, and offer Cite While You Write capabilities. When connected, flagged articles within the Researcher App are automatically populated within your Zotero or Mendeley database.

Email Notifications

Journals and academic databases, such as Google Scholar and Web of Science, offer users email notifications as new papers are published. To receive updates navigate to the journal’s website and sign up to receive a table of contents when issues are published.

Another method is to create a free account associated with an academic database. With an account, you can receive notifications from specific journals, or notifications related to a custom keyword. The advantage of the keyword approach is that all journals within the academic database are searched, not just the ones you subscribe too.

My Keyword Alerts Used in Web of Science.
My Keyword Alerts Used in Web of Science.

Reference Management Apps

Many reference management apps, now owned by the major academic publishers (e.g., Elsevier — Mendeley, Wiley — Papers Readcube), suggest new papers to read based on your PDF library. This integration will further improve as the recommendation algorithms advance within these apps.

For Mac or iPad users another potential solution is Devonthink. Devonthink is more of an information management database and unlike reference management apps it does not organize or create reference citations. Researchers use Devonthink, however, to maintain and organize their PDF library and to take advantage of its superior search capabilities. A bonus of Devonthink is its integrated RSS feeds. You can use Devonthink as an RSS reader, and conduct literature searches that span both your PDFs and new publications from your RSS feed results.

Keeping up with the latest discoveries and theories in your field can have profound results in your research. Choose which method works best for you. Are you an email master and like receiving emails in your inbox? Then sign up for email notifications. If your inbox is a source of anxiety, then try an RSS reader or a reference management app. Although staying on top of the academic literature may feel overwhelming, if you develop a system, you can live a more productive and less stressful life.

Grammarly Keyboard Update — Works Well with Ulysses App on iPad

The Grammarly App for iOS was recently updated, and it now includes access to the Grammarly editor on iPad rather than having to upload text to their website. This is a nice new feature, however, I am impressed by the updated Grammarly keyboard and how it integrates with Ulysses. I think this integration now solves the issue of having an advanced grammar checker available to check your text on Ulysses.

Using the Grammarly keyboard with the Ulysses App on my iPad.

I have tried the Grammarly keyboard with Apple’s Pages and Microsoft Word, and it does not work very well with these word processors. Maybe, the Grammarly keyboard works better with plain text and markdown rather than rich text?

Cite While You Write on the iPad

For academics, inserting citations from a popular citation manager, such as Endnote, Mendeley, Readcube, etc., is an integral part of their writing workflow. Researchers use citation managers to save time and the hassle of properly formatting citations that different journals require. The sandbox security of iPadOS, however, has limited the ability of these citation managers to integrate with word processors.

Recently, I have come across two solutions that work on iPadOS.

1. In Microsoft Word, use the Mendeley add-on within Word on the iPad.

Using the Mendeley Add-On within Microsoft Word on iPad.
  1. For Google docs, Paperpile now works as an add-on if writing within the Safari browser. Paperpile works via Safari since Safari is now a full-fledged desktop-class web browser on mobile. Chrome will not work.
Using Paperpile with Google Docs on iPad via Safari.

I hope to see other citation managers such as Zotero, Endnote, Bookends, and Readcube offer an iPadOS solution. I particularly hope that they can also integrate with Ulysses or Apple’s Pages.

Stepping Back in Time — 3D modeling Aerial Images shot in the aftermath of the devastating 1970 Lubbock Tornadoes.

I am currently working on creating a 3D model of the tornado damage paths and surrounding destruction left behind by the May 11, 1970 tornadoes in Lubbock, Texas. These tornadoes were extremely powerful, and it lead to Tetsuya Theodore (Ted) Fujita developing the F-Scale. The Lubbock tornado was rated as an F-5.

Click here for the 3D modeling story from the Museum of Texas Tech University.

Click here for more information about the 1970 Lubbock tornadoes from the National Weather Service.