Extracting a single element from a rock

May 20th, 2017

Chapel Hill, NC – As you know, Ben Kumpf (’18) and I are working in the Isotope Geochemistry lab at UNC Chapel Hill. We are measuring isotopes of strontium (Sr), lead (Pb) and neodymium (Nd) in basaltic pillow lavas from northern British Columbia. In order to measure the elements, we need to isolate them from the rest of the elements that make up our rocks. We purify individual elements using the method of column chemistry. A column is like a filter for elements; we pass our sample through the column and the column captures the element of interest, then we release and collect the element off the column to be analyzed later.

The first step to preparing our samples is to dissolve our rock powders in an acid solution. Ben Kumpf (’18) weighs small amounts of rock powder into Teflon vials. We add a series of acids to the vials and let them sit on a hotplate for a day or two until the powders are completely dissolved.

Once the samples are dissolved, we measure out a small amount of the solution into a new vial to run it through the column chemistry process. The first step to make a column “load” solution is to dry the sample solution down to a powder on a hotplate.

To the dried-down powder, we add an acid that is appropriate for the column that we’re using. For Sr, we’re adding nitric acid to the vials.

Now we’re ready to set up the columns. Dr. Ryan Mills (psychedelic lab coat) is showing Ben Kumpf (’18) how to add the resin.

This is what a column looks like up close. It’s suspended above a waste beaker. The white material that is filling the tube and neck is the resin. You can see it still settling out of solution. The resin that we use to isolate Sr was developed in response to the Chernobyl accident when it became necessary to remove radioactive Sr from milk (Vajda and Kim, 2010).

The chemical column process involves adding a series of solutions to the columns in a sequence that cleans the resin, conditions the resin for the sample load solution, introduces the sample, and rinses the sample through the resin. There’s a lot of pipetting and waiting for the solutions to move through the column during this stage.

Samples are centrifuged prior to loading. The centrifuge separates any undissolved solids from the liquid so that we only add the liquid portion to the column.

These columns are loaded with our Pb solutions.

Now that our sample has passed through the column, we release all of the Sr or Pb off of the column and collect it in our sample vial.

The last step in the process is to dry down the sample one final time. This makes a tiny bead at the bottom our vial. We will load this bead into a mass spectrometer to measure the isotope composition.

Now you can see why we need do our sample preparation in a clean lab.

References

Vajda, N. and Kim, C.-K. 2010. Determination of radiostrontium isotopes: A review of analytical methodology. Applied Radiation and Isotopes 68: 2306-2326.

What is a clean lab?

May 16th, 2017

Chapel Hill, NC – Ben Kumpf (’18) and I are at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to use their lab facilities for isotope analysis. We’re working with small amounts of sample and the instrument has a high degree of analytical precision and sensitivity, so all of our sample preparation occurs in the class-1000 clean lab. A clean lab is a room that is specifically designed to limit the amount of airborne contaminants. Special air filters and air distribution systems keep the environment clean so that we can minimize contamination while we separate and purify the isotopes.

Clean labs are classified based on the amounts of specifically sized particles allowed in a cubic meter (~35 cubic feet) of air. If we sample a cubic meter of air in the class-1000 lab and measure the amount of particles that are 5 microns in diameter, we would count no more than 293! For comparison, human hair has a diameter of about 50 to 100 microns, so we’re talking about really tiny bits of airborne dust. Class-1000 refers to Federal Standard 209E, where class-1 is the cleanest space and class-100,000 is the dirtiest (but still pretty darn clean). Federal Standard 209E has been replaced by International Organization for Standardization ISO 14644-1 standards. The new standards include one dirtier and two cleaner classifications and are numbered ISO-1 to ISO-9. Class-1000 is equivalent to ISO-6. UNC Chapel Hill also has a class-100 (ISO-5) clean lab where they process zircons for U-Pb dating.

Before we enter the clean lab, we gear up in the gowning room. The garments are designed to protect the wearer and minimize contamination from the wearer’s body. We wear standard lab safety attire, like glasses, gloves, and a lab coat. We also remove our shoes and exchange them for designated (comfy) slip-on shoes that only go in the clean lab.

Ben Kumpf (’18) models the clean lab outfit, complete with matching Carolina Blue accents. I see a theme.

Let the summer research commence!

May 15th, 2017

Chapel Hill, NC – As the College of Wooster Commencement ceremony was just finishing, our rising seniors were starting their summer research. Ben Kumpf (’18) and I are visiting the labs in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We are using their Isotope Geochemistry Lab to measure Sr-Nd-Pb isotopes of pillow lavas from our study site in northern British Columbia. The first step in the process is to dissolve our rock powders using several strong acids. Fortunately, we were able to send some of our samples in advance, and the good folks here at UNC dissolved about half of our samples for us.

Ben Kumpf (’18) went straight from his flight to the lab and is already hard at work. He measured portions of the dissolved samples into new vials so that we can prepare them for Sr isotope analysis. The dissolved samples will be made into solutions that we’ll use tomorrow.

Look for our posts in the following week to learn more about how isotopes are analyzed and what we hope to learn.

The 30th Annual Keck Symposium and the Importance of Presentation in the Undergraduate Research Experience

May 11th, 2017

Middletown, CT – Wesleyan University recently hosted the 30th annual Keck Symposium. The Keck Symposium is one of the key features that separates Keck projects from other types of undergraduate research experiences. Most other REU programs are confined to the summer, but Keck projects continue through the following academic year and culminate in the Symposium. Research groups reunite to synthesize their individual results and present their work to a broader scientific community. The Symposium is also a best practice and an essential part of the undergraduate research experience. By presenting their research, students transition from private to public discovery and contribute knowledge to the scientific discourse. They develop confidence in their abilities and advance their independence as scientists (Lopatto, 2009).

Wooster Geologists, Andrew Conaway (’17), Chloe Wallace (’17), and Meagen Pollock are happy passengers headed to the Keck Symposium.

The Keck Symposium format involves two sessions of oral presentations followed by poster presentations. With coffee and muffins in hand, the Keck Iceland group is ready for the morning session.

Each research group provides an overview of their projects. Students present their work in a brief 5 minutes. Andrew Conaway (’17) tells the audience about the history of land use around the Wisconsin lakes that he studied.

The oral sessions are followed by poster sessions, where the students can discuss their work in detail. Andrew Conaway (’17) talks about his research on magnetic susceptibility in lake cores.

Chloe Wallace (’17) discusses her research on volatile contents of pillow lavas from a subglacial ridge in southwest Iceland.

Team Iceland celebrates the end of our poster session with a final group photo. The Symposium also provides an opportunity for faculty to catch up and network. It’s an important professional development opportunity, particularly for early-career faculty.

Another important thing that happens at the Keck Symposium is the review of copy-edited short contributions. Each student writes an extended abstract of ~2500 words and 5 figures, which is compiled and published in a Symposium Volume. Team Iceland goes through their short contributions one last time at the lunch break.

It’s an intense weekend, but the smiles on our faces at the end of it all (despite the early morning flight) show that it’s worth the effort.

How thick was the ice?

November 8th, 2016

AMHERST, MA – Our Keck project studying the construction of a glaciovolcanic ridge in southwest Iceland is in full swing and our students are hard at work on their research. You may remember that we traveled to Iceland this summer to conduct field work, then returned to Wooster, where we prepared our samples for analysis. All of the time and energy devoted to sample preparation is finally paying off. This weekend, Chloe Wallace (’17, Wooster) and I met Cara Lembo (’17, Amherst) at UMass Amherst to analyze their samples by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Electron Microprobe.

Chloe and Cara are trying to determine the emplacement pressure of the samples. The emplacement pressure should reveal information about water depth (or ice thickness) at the time of the eruption. To estimate emplacement pressure, they are using the volatile contents of the quenched glass rims of pillow lavas. Volatiles are lost during an eruption as a function of pressure; the smaller the pressure, the more degassing. So, by measuring the volatiles that are trapped in the glass, we can figure out how much pressure the glass experienced when it was formed.

Prior to the visit, Chloe and Cara selected the freshest glass chips, then polished them into ~100-200 micron-thick wafers. They analyzed them for H2O using the FTIR, making sure to avoid any vesicles, crystals, and fractures. They collected nearly 300 data points on 16 samples, so they have a thorough and extensive dataset to work with.

Chloe (left) is looking for an ideal measurement location on her glass chip. Cara (right) is operating the data collection and reduction software.

Chloe (left) is looking for an ideal measurement location on her glass chip. Cara (right) is operating the data collection and reduction software.

In order to calculate water depth (or ice thickness) from H2O concentration, we use a solubility model. The model requires additional inputs, including the glass composition, which we measured by electron microprobe.

After the glass chips were analyzed by FTIR, they were mounted on a glass slide for probe analysis.

After the glass chips were analyzed by FTIR, they were mounted on a glass slide for probe analysis.

The electron microprobe allows us to measure the composition of a very small (micron-scale) spot on the glass chip.

Chloe is examining her glass chips on the microprobe.

Chloe is examining her glass chips on the microprobe.

Cara uses the map to find her way around the slide. They analyzed several points on each chip, and will use those data to determine the glass composition.

Cara uses the map to find her way around the slide. They analyzed several points on each chip, and will use those data to determine the glass composition.

It was a short and intense visit, but we accomplished all of our goals. We especially would like to recognize Dr. Sheila Seaman for generously giving her time and energy. She made it all possible.

Keck GSA Abstracts

July 25th, 2016

Wooster, OH – The summer portion of the Keck Iceland project is officially over, but our research isn’t finished. We’ll be working together throughout the academic year and will synthesize our final results at the Keck Symposium at Wesleyan University in April 2017. Along the way, we’ll be presenting at GSA in Denver, Colorado. We wrote and submitted 4(!) abstracts based on our work this summer. Here they are:

Cara Lembo ('17, Amherst) stands next to a ridge-parallel dike intruding through a tephra cone. Helgafell, a hyalocastite edifice, is in the distance.

Cara Lembo (’17, Amherst) stands next to a ridge-parallel dike intruding through a tephra cone. Helgafell, a hyalocastite edifice, is in the distance.

NEW INSIGHTS ON THE FORMATION OF GLACIOVOLCANIC TINDAR RIDGES FROM DETAILED MAPPING OF UNDIRHLIDAR RIDGE, SW ICELAND

HEINEMAN, Rachel1, LEMBO, Cara2, ENGEN, Carl-Lars3, KOCHTITZKY, William4, WALLACE, Chloe5, ORDEN, Michelle4, THOMPSON, Anna C6, KUMPF, Benjamin5, EDWARDS, Benjamin R.4 and POLLOCK, Meagen5, (1)Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 52 West Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074, (2)Department of Geology, Amherst College, 11 Barrett Hill Dr, Amherst, MA 01002, (3)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511, (4)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (5)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (6)Department of Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, rheinema@oberlin.edu

Undirhlíðar ridge on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland is a glaciovolcanic tindar formed by fissure eruptions under ice. Previous work in two quarries along the ridge shows that this specific tindar has had a complex eruption history. Here we report new results from investigations along the length of the ridge (~3 km) between the quarries. We have identified aerially significant fragmental deposits and a potential vent area on the ridge’s eastern side. The newly mapped tephra deposits are dominated by lapilli- and ash-size grains that are palagonitized to some degree (~20-60%) but locally contain up to ~75% fresh glass. Basal units are tuff breccia to volcanic breccia with basaltic and rare gabbroic lithic clasts. Upper units are finely bedded with few large clasts and some glassy bombs. Locally, lapilli-tuff units show repetitive normally graded bedding and cross bedding. Measured bedding attitudes suggest that present exposures represent a moderately eroded tephra cone that was subsequently intruded by basaltic dikes. Extending north and south of the tephra cone, the upper surface of the ridge comprises pillow rubble with outcrops of massive basalts showing radial jointing and concentric vesicle patterns. All of the outcrops appear to be similar coarse-grained, olivine- and plagioclase-bearing basalts; ongoing petrographic and geochemical analysis will determine if the bodies represent “megapillows” or if they are related to intrusions that are present in both quarries. Along the western side of the ridge, lapilli tuff and/or volcaniclastic diamictites overlie pillow lava (or volcanic breccia made of pillow fragments) that is locally intruded by dikes. In northern gullies, at least two stratigraphically distinct units of pillow lava are present. In order to communicate the implications of our detailed research to a broad audience, we are constructing two “map tours” of the ridge: one that is centered on the abandoned and accessible Undirhlíðar quarry, and another that describes features along the upper part of the ridge between the quarries. Stops along the tour include exposures of dikes, pillow lavas, and erosional alcoves within the tephra cone. The goal of these tours is to compare similar units across the ridge and quarry and to show the general anatomy of a glaciovolcanic ridge.

Rachel Heineman ('17, Oberlin) stands next to a potential "megapillow."

Rachel Heineman (’17, Oberlin) stands next to a potential “megapillow.”

Cross section of a pillow lava, with Michelle Orden's ('17, Dickinson) head for scale.

Cross section of a pillow lava, with Michelle Orden’s (’17, Dickinson) head for scale.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF GLACIOVOLCANIC PILLOW LAVAS FROM UNDIRHLIDAR, SW ICELAND

THOMPSON, Anna C1, ORDEN, Michelle2, LEMBO, Cara3, WALLACE, Chloe4, KUMPF, Benjamin4, HEINEMAN, Rachel5, ENGEN, Carl-Lars6, EDWARDS, Ben2, POLLOCK, Meagen4 and KOCHTITZKY, William2, (1)Department of Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (2)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (3)Department of Geology, Amherst College, 11 Barrett Hill Dr, Amherst, MA 01002, (4)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (5)Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 52 West Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074, (6)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511, thompsona@carleton.edu

Pillow lavas are one of the most abundant lava morphologies on Earth, but are relatively inaccessible because of their submarine or subglacial eruption environments. Our research location in a former rock quarry in southwest Iceland provides a unique opportunity to view cross-sections through well exposed pillow lavas on land. The quarry is located at the northern end of Undirhlíðar, which is a glaciovolcanic ridge on the Krisuvik fissure system, and exposes thousands of individual pillow lavas. This study uses detailed field and laboratory observations of vesicle distributions and jointing patterns to better constrain the mechanisms that control vesiculation, bubble transport, and cooling rates during emplacement of pillow lava. From detailed analysis of >40 exposed pillow cross sections, we have identified 7 fracture characteristics that make up a combination of fracture patterns within the pillow lavas. These characteristics include: short (<5 cm) fractures at the outer edge of a pillow, fractures within pillow cores, fractures between the core and the edge of a pillow, long fractures (up to 40 cm) that go through the entire pillow, ‘web’-like fractures, fractures that branch from other fractures, and curvilinear fractures that cut through bands of vesicles. The distributions of vesicles are more diverse, with at least 12 different patterns defined by characteristics including: concentric banding, moderately/highly vesicular cores, non-vesicular cores, and open cavities. We identified 6 vesicle pattern combinations in the field, and are using image analysis of nearly 50 field photographs to characterize the patterns. These characteristics will constrain physical modeling to better understand how variations in emplacement conditions (abrupt pressure changes, lava discharge rates, water infiltration along fractures) are recorded by the lavas. These pillow lavas are the only lasting record of a preexisting englacial lake presumably formed during the eruption of the lavas, so understanding the details of their textures may provide new insights into the hydrology of the enclosing ice (occurrence of syn-eruption jokulhlaups, efficiency of sub-ice drainage).
Chloe Wallace ('17, Wooster) samples glassy pillow lava rinds for geochemical analysis by XRF and FTIR.

Chloe Wallace (’17, Wooster) samples glassy pillow lava rinds for geochemical analysis by XRF and FTIR.

GEOCHEMICAL CONSTRAINTS ON THE MAGMATIC SYSTEM AND ERUPTIVE ENVIRONMENT OF A GLACIOVOLCANIC TINDAR RIDGE FROM UNDIRHLíðAR, SW ICELAND

WALLACE, Chloe1, KUMPF, Benjamin1, HEINEMAN, Rachel2, LEMBO, Cara3, ORDEN, Michelle4, THOMPSON, Anna C5, ENGEN, Carl-Lars6, KOCHTITZKY, William4, POLLOCK, Meagen1, EDWARDS, Ben4and HIATT, Alex1, (1)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (2)Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 52 West Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074, (3)Department of Geology, Amherst College, 11 Barrett Hill Drive, Amherst, MA 01002, (4)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (5)Department of Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (6)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511, cwallace17@wooster.edu

Glaciovolcanic tindar ridges are landforms created by the eruption of magma through fissure swarms into ice. The cores of many of these ridges comprise basaltic pillow lava, so they serve an accessible analogue for effusive mid-oceanic ridge volcanism. Furthermore, similar landforms have been identified on Mars, and thus they may also serve as models for planetary volcanic eruptions. To better understand pillow formation and effusive glaciovolcanic eruptions, we are investigating Undirhlíðar ridge, a pillow-dominated tindar on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland. Our detailed mapping and sampling in two rock quarries along the ridge and in the ~3 km area between the quarries show that this specific tindar ridge has had a complex eruption history. In the northern quarry (Undirhlíðar), Pollock et al. (2014) demonstrated that at least two geochemically distinct magma batches have erupted. Further trace element and isotope analyses in the southern quarry (Vatnsskarð) suggest that the ridge is fed by a heterogeneous mantle source. Isotopic Pb data show a spatially systematic linear array, which is consistent with a heterogeneous mantle mixing between depleted and enriched endmembers. The occurrence of multiple magma batches in dikes and irregular intrusions suggests that these structures are important to transporting magma within the volcanic edifice. Glassy pillow rinds were sampled for volatile analysis by FTIR in order to determine how paleo-water pressures vary along the ridge. In Undirhlíðar quarry, paleo-water pressures decrease with stratigraphic height (1.6-0.7 MPa). In Vatnsskarð quarry, paleo-water pressures show evidence of two separate eruptions, where pressure values decrease with an increase in stratigraphic height from 1.1 to 0.7 MPa over ~30 m, at which point pressure resets to 1.1 MPa and continues to decrease with elevation. When comparing the two quarries, paleo-water pressures in the upper units of Undirhlíðar and all the units in Vatnsskarð have similar values (0.7-1.1 MPa), and these are lower than the basal units of Undirhlíðar (1.2-1.6 MPa). Overall, compositional variations correlate with stratigraphy and spatial distribution along axis, suggesting that glaciovolcanic eruptions and their resulting landforms show a higher level of complexity than previously thought.

A view looking NE into Undirhlidar quarry on a moody Icelandic day. (Photo Credit: Ben Edwards)

A view looking NE into Undirhlidar quarry on a moody Icelandic day. (Photo Credit: Ben Edwards)

3-D

MAPPING OF QUARRY WALLS TO CONSTRAIN THE INTERNAL STRUCTURE OF A GLACIOVOLCANIC TINDAR, SW ICELAND

EDWARDS, Benjamin R.1, POLLOCK, Meagen2, KOCHTITZKY, William1 and ENGEN, Carl-Lars3, (1)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (2)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (3)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511, edwardsb@dickinson.edu

Documentation of the internal structures of volcanoes are critical for understanding how edifices are built over time, especially for glaciovolcanoes, which have rarely formed historically and are inaccessible during eruptions. We have been unraveling the internal structure of a complex glaciovolcanic ridge (tindar) in southwestern Iceland for the past 5 years in order to better understand the sequence of events that built the ridge. Undirhlidar ridge is ~5 km long, and has been dissected by two different aggregate mines along its axis. The northern mine (Undirhlidar quarry) is inactive and has walls up to 40 m in height that fully expose several critical stratigraphic relationships including multiple sequences of separate pillow lava flows, cross-cutting dikes that locally feed overlying pillow flows, and ridge parallel, continuous massive jointed basaltic units that may be the remnants of internal lava supply networks. The second quarry, ~3 km to the southwest (Vatnsskard quarry) is presently active and continually has new exposures. This quarry only penetrates halfway through the width of the ridge but has ~500 m of exposure along strike. It also has remnants of what appears to be the internal magma distributary system, and many components clearly show evidence that they were (and some still are) open lava tubes. While both quarries contain excellent exposures, many of the structures are difficult to safely access or are inaccessible due to mining activity. In order to overcome access issues, we have used Structure-from-Motion techniques to make 3-D maps of the quarry walls. A series of overlapping pictures were taken from points constrained with D-GPS using a Trimble GeoXH data logger and external antennae. The image locations with corrected positions were imported into Photoscan software to create a point cloud representative for each quarry and to derive a Digital Elevation Model with a reported vertical resolution of less than 1 m. Field testing of a preliminary, low resolution DEM shows that measurements of dyke widths on the DEM have errors of ~5% relative to measurements on the ground. Measurements made from the field-generated DEM will provide significantly better constraints on deposit thicknesses and volume estimates compared to traditional methods of estimating unit thicknesses on vertical faces.

Keck Iceland takes over the Wooster Lab

July 18th, 2016

Wooster, OH – Keck Iceland 2016 by the numbers:

  • Scientists in Keck Iceland: 10
  • Time in the field: 14 days
  • Pillows described in detail: >40
  • Samples collected: 71
  • Structural measurements made: 94
  • Photos taken: >2000
  • GPS data recorded: ridiculous

With a few extra charges for baggage fees, and a lot of help from the airport luggage carts, we successfully returned to Wooster to begin processing our samples and photos.

For the samples that we want to analyze for geochemistry, our first step is to powder them. Rachel Heineman ('17, Oberlin College) is cutting her samples on the rock saw.

For the samples that we want to analyze for geochemistry, our first step is to powder them. Rachel Heineman (’17, Oberlin College) is cutting her samples on the rock saw.

 

 

Cara Lembo ('17, Amherst College) is hammering her rocks into smaller pieces, preparing them for the shatterbox.

Cara Lembo (’17, Amherst College) is hammering her rocks into smaller pieces, preparing them for the shatterbox.

Every student has a project box in which they're keeping all of their materials. Rachel's is organized with thin section billets on the left, powders in the middle, and pieces to archive on the right.

Every student has a project box in which they’re keeping all of their materials. Rachel’s is organized with thin section billets on the left, powders in the middle, and pieces to archive on the right.

Some of the boxes look like this one, though. (Cara)

Some of the boxes look like this one, though. (Cara)

For samples that we want to analyze for trace elements, we prepare pressed powder pellets. Carl-Lars is showing Cara how to use the manual press to compress the powder in the die into a solid pellet.

For samples that we want to analyze for trace elements, we prepare pressed powder pellets. Carl-Lars is showing Cara how to use the manual press to compress the powder in the die into a solid pellet.

The result of all of our hard work is a desiccator full of samples ready for the XRF.

The result of all of our hard work is a desiccator full of samples ready for the XRF.

Another part of our work involves analyzing the compositions of volcanic glasses. Chloe Wallace ('17, Wooster) is picking out the freshest glass so that she can polish it for analysis by FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and Electron Microprobe. The FTIR will allow us to measure H2O contents while the microprobe will give us chemical compositions over small spatial scales.

Another part of our work involves analyzing the compositions of volcanic glasses. Chloe Wallace (’17, Wooster) is picking out the freshest glass so that she can polish it for analysis by FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and Electron Microprobe. The FTIR will allow us to measure H2O contents while the microprobe will give us chemical compositions over small spatial scales.

Lab work entails more than physical preparation of samples. Michelle Orden ('17, Dickinson College) and Anna Thompson ('17, Carleton College) are analyzing high-resolution photos of pillow lavas to understand the physical volcanology.

Lab work entails more than physical preparation of samples. Michelle Orden (’17, Dickinson College) and Anna Thompson (’17, Carleton College) are analyzing high-resolution photos of pillow lavas to understand the physical volcanology.

Michelle is identifying fracture patterns in her images.

Michelle is identifying fracture patterns in her images.

Anna and Ben Edwards (Dickinson College) are identifying vesicle patterns in pillow lavas.

Anna and Ben Edwards (Dickinson College) are identifying vesicle patterns in pillow lavas.

It's not all work, of course. We occasionally take breaks to play wiffle ball and frisbee on the quad.

It’s not all work, of course. We occasionally take breaks to play wiffle ball and frisbee on the quad.

Keck 2016 Arrives in Iceland

June 21st, 2016

Hafnafjörður, Iceland – What a fantastic day! Dr. Ben Edwards and I are leading a 6-student Keck trip to Iceland to study a glaciovolcanic ridge. It was a long travel day, but everyone (and their luggage) arrived safe and sound. No need to waste any time – soon after we set up camp, we headed to the field.

Ben Edwards (left) and the Keck students discuss their initial observations of pillow lavas and dikes.


A beautiful day welcomed us to our field site, but we couldn’t stay for too long because we had a birthday to celebrate.

Carl-Lars celebrated his birthday today during his first visit to Iceland, among his newfound Keck friends.

Today’s introduction was brief, but we’ll continue to post about our work and adventures over the next month.



A True Liberal Arts Experience

December 9th, 2015

Guest Blogger: Mary Reinthal

If you were to poll the campus about their fall break, not many would say that they spent 20 hours over 2 days in an FTIR lab analyzing glass chips for volatile content. But if you were to ask geology senior Mary Reinthal and her advisor Dr. Meagen Pollock, that’s exactly what they would say. Fly in on a Monday; analyze samples at University of Massachusetts Amherst Tuesday and Wednesday; fly out Thursday. It was a lot of work, but somebody had to do it (for their Independent Study). The time was spent looking at the volatile spectra from individual, doubly polished glass chips collected from British Columbia, Canada.

Not a lot of windows in the FTIR lab, so Mary had to look at glass chips.

Not a lot of windows in the FTIR lab, so Mary had to look at glass chips.

After all that time in the lab, a lot of data were collected (yay!). These numbers will hopefully help us understand the evolution of glaciovolcanic tindars in British Columbia. Until then, however, these data will to be sifted through and looked at more closely as the semester continues.

Mary measuring thickness of glass wafers. To understand the bigger picture of volatile effects on eruptions you have to look small. Like micron-scale small.

Mary measuring thickness of glass wafers. To understand the bigger picture of volatile effects on eruptions you have to look small. Like micron-scale small.

Of course, the visit to U-Mass. Amherst wasn’t all science and glass chips. After finishing a 9-hour stint in the lab on Wednesday, Dr. Pollock and Mary ventured to Concord, Massachusetts to visit Walden Pond. In short, a truly liberal arts education was had by all.

Mary and Thoreau pondering life and science.

Mary and Thoreau pondering life and science.

 

The Bear Post

July 25th, 2014

One of the wonderful benefits of working in the wilderness is the potential for interaction with wildlife. Sometimes, we’re entertained by energetic jackrabbits. Sometimes, camels eat our lunch. Always, we keep safety at the forefront.

The British Columbia team was fortunate to see majestic bald eagles, curious stone sheep, and many (many) marmots in their natural habitat. We also saw several bears.

Most of the bears that we saw were black bears eating the fresh grass alongside the road.

Most of the bears that we saw were black bears eating the fresh grass alongside the road.

However, the very first night in the field, we saw grizzlies.

The yellow arrow is pointing to a momma grizzly and her cub. Part of our group is standing on the edge of our campsite.

The yellow arrow is pointing to a momma grizzly and her cub. Our anxious group is standing on the edge of our campsite.

We were well prepared for a moment like this. Before going to the field, we had several long discussions about bear safety. We knew that the best strategy is to avoid a confrontation. At all times, each of us carried our own bear spray, a pepper spray with a strong propellant. We also had bear bangers, fire-cracker cartridges that are launched with a pen-like launcher. One of the first things we did when we arrived in the field was practice using the bear spray and bear bangers.

The bangers worked just as they were designed when we used them that first night. We spotted the momma grizzly and her cub walking across the ridge toward our camp. They didn’t change their course after the first bear banger, so we set off another. The second banger caused them to stop, and the third startled them into running in the opposite direction. Confrontation avoided!

As an added precaution, we set up a portable electric bear fence around our tents. The gentle tick of the fence was a comfort at night.

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