Pillows, and Dikes, and Bears. Oh My!

June 28th, 2014

Guest Bloggers: Mary Reinthal, Julia Franceschi, and Liz Plascencia

Greetings from Smithers, British Columbia! It is day three on the road and we are less then 2 days away from arriving at our field site – Pillow Ridge here we come! So far we have seen an array of fascinating geological features, including massive walls of pillow lavas, dikes, glacial deposits, and water falls all at Wells Gray Provincial park. The stunning landscape and picturesque views have impressed all of us.

20140627-234355-85435269.jpg Roadside geology where the crew is looking at a dike that intrudes tuff-breccia at Second Canyon in Wells Gray Provincial Park. Photo credit: Liz Placenscia

20140627-235010-85810903.jpgHere’s an example of a pillow lava with a fractured glass rind, like the ones we’ll see in Pillow Ridge.

20140627-235333-86013931.jpg We also got to see a few of the 39 named Wells Gray waterfalls, like this one, Spahats Falls, with its fantastic columnar-jointed lava flows.

20140628-000004-4876.jpg Three bears have been sighted on the trip thus far. Here’s one that we saw along the side of the road, munching on some grass. Photo credit: Liz Placenscia

B.C. Bound Part II: Here’s to Not Getting Eaten by Bears

June 25th, 2014

Guest Bloggers: Julia Franceschi and Mary Reinthal

A little over a week ago at Spoon market in downtown Wooster, we met our research collaborators from Dickinson College. Although it was the first time we met rising junior Liz Plascencia and Dr. Ben Edwards, after a little talking and a lot of food, it seemed like we had known them for years.

It turns out Liz is just like us: she loves the outdoors, she doesn’t want to get eaten by a bear in the field (*potentially*) and, of course, she loves rocks. It was a good sign for the weeks to come, because together, we prepared mentally and physically for the impending two-week trip to British Columbia, Canada (maybe not mentally, but we definitely went to the gym together).

PREP WORK/ WHY WE ARE GOING:

Pillow Ridge in British Columbia has exceptional pillow lava exposure. These pillows were created by subglacial volcanic features, and were subsequently sheared by a retreating glacier, thus making for an excellent work site to study these lavas. It is our hope to observe, characterize, and model the pillow-dominated area for reconstruction of the stratigraphy, and study a variety of pillow samples for geochemical analysis.

So in the weeks preceding the trip to Pillow Ridge, Wooster students Adam Silverstein, Mary Reinthal, Julia Franceschi (and of course Liz) did a lot of preparation from previously collected samples from the area. We made pressed pellets, fused glass beads, picked glass chips for volatile analysis. It wasn’t all physical work. Sometimes we read papers on pillow lavas for three hours in Broken Rocks over coffee with Dr. Pollock. Sometimes we did equipment checks and learned how to use a Brunton compass. It was a very “independent minds working together”-type atmosphere, but everyday was a lot of fun. See below for an exciting array of pictures portraying the lab work. 

This is the much talked about Liz Plascencia (with 9/10 of Adam Silverstein). They are in the process of weighing samples.

This is the much talked about Liz Plascencia (with 9/10 of Adam Silverstein). They are in the process of weighing samples.

This is a happy teaching moment at the XRD. Pictured is the one and only Dr. Pollock, and one of the tree-ring-lab students, rising sophomore Sarah McGrath.

This is a happy teaching moment at the XRD. Pictured is the one and only Dr. Pollock, and one of the tree-ring-lab students, rising sophomore Sarah McGrath.

This is rising Junior Mary Reinthal doing major and trace element graphs on Excel. Doesn’t she look happy? Because she loves geology, that’s why.

This is rising Junior Mary Reinthal doing major and trace element graphs on Excel. Doesn’t she look happy? Because she loves geology, that’s why.

Julia Franceschi of the class of 2016 is packing equipment with incredible skill. This girl knows camping.

Julia Franceschi of the class of 2016 is packing equipment with incredible skill. This girl knows camping.

T-MINUS 24 HOURS:

Having accomplished a lot in the past couple of weeks together, we are now preparing in the last hours to fly out to Vancouver. Together we make an interesting team. We range in field experience from beginner to advanced. We have put in a lot of work, and are now ready for “roughing it” in the field. We have our tents packed and our ugly sweaters prepared. Ready or not, British Columbia, the Wooster and Dickinson crew are coming. And we are prepared to make memories and come back more knowledgeable than when we left (or at least with better thigh muscles/definition). Here’s to a new adventure!

Almost ready for British Columbia

June 24th, 2014

Guest Blogger: Liz Plascencia
 

It’s safe to say that time truly does fly. Seemingly having know Mary and Julia for years, I am reminded that my arrival to The College of Wooster was a little over a week ago.

 
As a rising junior, Earth Sciences major from Dickinson College I will be accompanying, Ben Edwards, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at Dickinson College, Meagen Pollock, Assistant Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster, and undergraduate students Mary Reinthal (Wooster ’16), Julia Franceschi (Wooster ’16), and Will Kotchtitsky (Dickinson ’16) to Northern British Columbia. Through our investigation of pillow lava last year at two quarries in southwest Iceland we are now going to spend a couple of weeks collecting similar data and samples from northern British Columbia, Canada. Though pillow lava is one of the most abundant volcanic units in the world, there is still much to be done in terms of quantitatively and qualitatively categorizing them. Thus that will be one of our main tasks this summer. 

IMG_6085

Under the guidance of Doctor Pollock, Mary, Julia, and I spent a couple of prep weeks preparing pressed pellets and glass beads from past Pillow Ridge, Canada samples.

 

Mary preparing a pressed pellet (Wooster ’16)

Mary preparing a pressed pellet (Wooster ’16)

We're all packed up. Our flight departs from Cleveland Airport around noon tomorrow and so the adventure begins.

We’re all packed up. Our flight departs from Cleveland Airport around noon tomorrow and so the adventure begins.

Beginning our journey from Vancouver all the way up to Pillow Ridge, Mt. Edziza. 
 
4 planes, 2 SUV’s, and 2 helicopters —  this surely is going to be a geological journey to remember.

Wooster Geologists Present at AGU 2013

December 12th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today was a big day for Wooster Geologists Alex Hiatt (’14) and Mary Reinthal (’16). They presented their work on subglacial volcanic ridges, along with Ellie Was (’14, Dickinson College).

Ellie (left), Mary (center, and Alex (right) presented their posters in a physical volcanology session at AGU 2013.

Ellie (left), Mary (center), and Alex (right) presented their posters in a physical volcanology session at AGU 2013.

You may remember these fantastic undergraduate researchers from last summer’s field season. They’ve been hard at work since then, processing the images and samples that we collected. Ellie was lead author on a poster titled, “Along-axis variations in volcanology and geochemistry of a pillow-dominated tindar: Comparison of exposures in Undirhlithar and Vatnsskarth quarries, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland.” She carefully traced individual pillow lavas on Gigapan images and constructed the first ever (we think) pillow-size distribution. Her work can help us understand permeability and fluid flow in pillow-dominated crust.

Alex was lead author on a  poster titled, “Estimated hydrostatic/cryostatic pressures during emplacement of pillow lavas at Undirhlithar quarry, Reykjanes Peninsula, southwest Iceland.” He is conducting a high-resolution FTIR study of volatiles in the quenched glass rims of basaltic pillow lavas. His ultimate goal is to estimate quench pressures and, by extension, ice thickness. Thanks to all of those who visited his poster this morning and offered excellent suggestions for next steps!

The last four days have been packed with science, far too much to cover here. Here are some final highlights from this year’s meeting:

  • SolEx: SolEx is a model that we’ll be able to use to calculate CO2 and H2O solubility in basaltic melts at low pressures. Thanks to Dr. Jacqueline Dixon for pointing us to it!
  • Northeast National Ion Microprobe Facility (NENIMF): Since SolEx takes into account melt composition and total volatiles, like S and Cl, we might be interested in using the SIMS at NENIMF to analyze our glasses in the future. Thanks to Dr. Adam Soule for sending us to the NENIMF booth in the exhibit hall.
  • 3-D Photogrammetry: Some researchers have used 3-D photogrammetry of oblique photos taken from aircraft to trace inaccessible lava flows near the tops of mountains in eastern Iceland. Our solution in the quarries has been to combine Gigapan with high-precision GPS and laser range finder. Perhaps the 3-D photogrammetry approach could be useful.

Wooster’s Team Utah completes its presentations at the 2013 GSA meeting in Denver

October 29th, 2013

Tricia102913DENVER, COLORADO–Tricia Hall (’14) stands before her 2013 Geological Society of America poster: “Petrologic and kinematic analysis of deformation bands in the Late Cretaceous Sixmile Canyon Formation, central Utah“. She worked hard this summer with Dr. Shelley Judge pounding away at deformation bands to use them as keys to sorting through complex structural events. Kyle Burden (’14) is below with his collaborative poster: “Reconstruction of eruption conditions based on crater rim stratigraphy at Miter Crater, Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Black Rock Desert, Utah“. Michael Williams (’16), Candy Thornton (’14) and Cam Matesich (’14) are also co-authors on this presentation of summer work in the Black Rock Desert with Dr. Judge and Dr. Pollock, along with students and faculty from Albion College.

Kyle102913Team Utah closed out the 2013 Wooster student presentations at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver. The faculty is very pleased … and not a little exhausted!

Team Utah’s first presentation at GSA 2013

October 28th, 2013

Michael102813DENVER, COLORADO–Michael Williams (who chose a particularly impressive shirt and tie today) and Dr. Shelley Judge presented a poster at the Geological Society of America meeting entitled: “Evidence for inflation and deflation in lavas flows west of Miter Crater, Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Black Rock Desert, Utah.” This was the first offering from this year’s Team Utah. Michael proved to be an effective and animated communicator — and possibly the only sophomore presenting at the meeting!

Volcanoes! Volcanoes! Volcanoes!

July 20th, 2013

KAGOSHIMA, JAPAN – The 2013 Scientific Assembly of IAVCEI, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, has officially started in Kagoshima, Japan.

IAVCEI leaders and local welcome delegates from ~60 countries in today's opening ceremony.

IAVCEI leaders and local elected officials welcome delegates from ~60 countries in today’s opening ceremony.

The conference is a volcanologist’s dream, with sessions focused on every aspect of volcanology and a mid-conference field trip to Kagoshima’s own volcano, Sakurajima (currently at alert level 3). Day #1 didn’t disappoint. I’ve already co-chaired a session on Lava Flows with a fantastic group of international scientists and gave a talk on the dynamics of pillow-dominated subglacial eruptions recorded in Undirhlithar quarry on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland. You may remember that Lindsey Bowman (’12) and Becky Alcorn (’11) completed I.S. theses in Undirhlithar. Here are some highlights from our presentation:

Slide05

Undirhlithar quarry is a unique exposure that  provides insights into the internal architecture of a glaciovolcanic pillow ridge.

We've identified and mapped  pillow lavas, intrusions, and dikes.

Most of the quarry is made of pillow lavas, which are emplaced during effusive subaqueous eruption. We’ve also identified intrusions and dikes that feed the overlying pillow lava flows.

We've also identified tuff and tuff-breccia in the quarry.

There are also fragmental units in the quarry. The tuff, or fine ashy layers, probably represent periods of quiescence between eruptive events. The tuff-breccia, which has larger clasts, are formed during explosive activity and as a result of gravitational collapse along steep slopes.

Combined with geochemical and petrological variations, we've generated a model for how the units exposed in Undirhlithar were emplaced.

Combined with geochemical and petrological variations, we’ve generated a model for how the units exposed in Undirhlithar were emplaced that involves a complex sequence of multiple eruptive events.

The model involves a complex sequence of eruptive events under changing magmatic and eruptive conditions.

The sequence of events occurred under changing magmatic and eruptive conditions, which suggests that even small glaciovolcanic ridges can be constructed in a complicated manner.

Congratulations Team Utah!

June 20th, 2013

UTAH – Congratulations to Team Utah on completing a successful field season!

Team Utah 2013 at the end of their last day in the field. From left to right: (front) Dr. Thom Wilch (Albion), Michael Williams ('16, COW), Ellen Redner ('14, Albion), Cam Matesich ('14, COW), Adam Silverstein ('16, COW); (back) Kyle Burden ('14, COW), Dr. Meagen Pollock (COW), Ben Hinks ('14, Albion), Candy Thornton ('14, COW), Tricia Hall ('14, COW), and Dr. Shelley Judge (COW).

Team Utah 2013 at the end of their last day in the field. From left to right: (front) Dr. Thom Wilch (Albion), Michael Williams (’16, COW), Ellen Redner (’14, Albion), Cam Matesich (’14, COW), Adam Silverstein (’16, COW); (back) Kyle Burden (’14, COW), Dr. Meagen Pollock (COW), Ben Hinks (’14, Albion), Candy Thornton (’14, COW), Tricia Hall (’14, COW), and Dr. Shelley Judge (COW). Credit: T. Wilch

Although we’re parting ways, the students will be working on the research. They have plenty of data to analyze and lab work to do, so continue following the blog to stay updated on their progress.

Return to Mount Etna

June 16th, 2013

1.Etna2001flowview061613CATANIA, SICILY, ITALY–The very last field trip stop — and final event — of the International Bryozoology Association Conference was a trip to the south side of Mount Etna. We drove to a spot that had significant activity in 2000 and 2001. Several lateral craters appeared on the side of the mountain, and the lava flows buried parts of a restaurant and shop complex. They threatened to destroy the base of a cable car system, but firefighters with hoses managed to divert the flow by cooling it with water.
2.LateralCrater061613My Belgian friend Hans De Blauwe and I decided to choose one of these smaller craters and hike to it within our allotted visit time. We picked this one in the center because of its symmetry and the flows that streamed from it. All of these features in and around this cone formed in 2001.
3.LateralConesRow061613We soon saw that our cone was the first of at least three cones descending in a row down the slope. The lava flow shows very distinct levees on its sides where the lava lapped over its banks and cooled, creating a walled channel.
4.BouldersEtna061613There are many car- and house-sized boulders of non-vesicular basalt scattered about. I assume these were thrown from the throats of explosive craters.
5.LavaTube061613We found this very cool lava tube, indicated first by a long walled channel that apparently represents a collapsed portion of the tunnel. A lava tube is formed when the periphery of a flow cools into hard rock and the still-fluid interior empties. We explore a beautiful ancient example on our Mojave Desert field trips.
6.HansLavaTube061613Our lava tube is open at both ends. Here Hans is crouching in the larger of the entrances.
7.LavaTubeInterior061613I took a flash image of the interior. You can see small “lavasicles” (cooled drips of lava) on the ceiling, along with a white crust of some sulfurous minerals.
8.HansAA061613Here Hans is picking his way through the aa flow. In the lower right is another lava tube that extends back about three meters.
9.FlowerMounds061613The flowers on this volcanic slopes are very interesting. Hardy pioneers, they are. There are numerous clusters of these mounds of greenery. It appears that the plants settled on a bit of ash and then grew centripetally. The surrounding ash was eroded away, but the roots of these plants held onto their patches, eventually producing mounds as the surrounding sediment was removed.
10.SpinyFlowers061613The mounds are made mostly of this spiny flowering plant. Maybe Hans will provide me with names later.
11.PurpleFlowers061613These purple flowers often form in rings around the bases of the mounds.
12.LavaFlowersWhite061613Nice white flowers on the 2001 ash layers.
13.LavaDaisies061613Somehow there are always daisies around, even in the most surprising places.
14.ViewCatania061613Finally, here is a view from our craters toward Catania and the coast. A 2001 lava flow is directly below us. In the middle distance you can see a series of small cones, many of which were active in historical times. Catania is certainly in a volcanic hazard zone. The geologists, though, worry far more about earthquakes here than eruptions. An eruption, after all, gives you much more warning than a sudden and devastating ‘quake. Considering all this, and despite the occasional tornado and blizzard, Ohio looks like one of the safest places on Earth.

And to beautiful and much wetter Ohio I now return.

EtnaAshClose[A late addition to this post (June 23, 2013). Above is a close-up of ash erupted from Mount Etna in April 2013.]

Sandstone Appreciation Day

June 16th, 2013

Zion National Park, Utah – Team Utah took a break from the volcanic field to explore some of Utah’s (more famous) sedimentary rocks. We visited Zion, Utah’s first National Park.

Zion is a geological wonderland, featuring striking sheer cliffs and narrow slot canyons.

Zion is a geological wonderland, featuring striking sheer cliffs and narrow slot canyons.

The students took the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools.

The students hiked the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools. Credit: T. Hall

This is the Court of the Patriarch, so named for figures from the Old Testament by Frederick Vining Fisher in 1916. Abraham Peak is on the far left. Isaac Peak is in the center. Jacob Peak is the white peak that can be viewed just beyond Mount Moroni.

This is the Court of the Patriarchs, so named for figures from the Old Testament by Frederick Vining Fisher in 1916. Abraham Peak is on the far left. Isaac Peak is in the center. Jacob Peak is the white peak that can be viewed just beyond Mount Moroni on the right.

View of The Narrows, a trail that winds through the slot canyons carved by water through the Navajo Sandstone.

View of The Narrows, a trail that winds through slot canyons in the famously cross-bedded Navajo Sandstone.

The Wooster crew cools off in the Virgin River at the end of an awesome day in Zion. Credit: T. Wilch

The Wooster crew cools off in the Virgin River at the end of an awesome day in Zion. Credit: T. Wilch

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