Geologist Abroad: Tungurahua, Ecuador

After nearly a week, the unrest of “Mama” Tungurahua has become evident in the city of Quito, in the form a a thin film of volcanic ash. It’s most visible on cars, not unlike the road salt that covers cars back in Ohio. But this accumulation come comes from the thick haze across the valleys of the Inter Andean region of Ecuador.

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In the Field at Mineral King

(From left) Dr. Greene, Cory, and Conner after summiting the 11,947 ft. Vandever Mountain at Mineral King, with Mt. Whitney in the distance.

After nineteen days in sunny California, Dr. Greene, Cory, and I have returned to Ohio. Our field session was a great success, giving us scores of samples to begin analyzing in the coming weeks.

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Zircon Fever: How Gold Mining Helps Us Study Zircon

Though we aren’t searching for gold, some of here in the Geo department do “rush” to California, but in search of a different mineral. Zircon is the keystone to much of the petrographic and volcanological research going on this summer. As Liz wrote earlier, there are different ways to get from a chunk of outcrop to the tiny zircon crystals that we can date.

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Teeny Tiny Zircon

Zircon, or zirconium silicate, is a hardy mineral that typically forms in igneous systems like volcanoes. It is hardy because it is not easily broken down by weathering processes but can remain intact for billions of years. In fact, the oldest mineral so far discovered on Earth is a zircon mineral that is 4.4 billion years old.

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Zircon Sighting

At last we have gotten to the zircon! This last step requires mad-scientist lab gear and some heavy liquids. They’re called heavy liquids because they are relatively dense- and this is what we are using for the final type of separation to get to the teeny tiny zircon. Zircon is a dense mineral (about 4.6 g/cm3) and will sink to the bottom of the slightly less dense heavy liquid, methylene iodine (3.3 g/cm3), while the majority of the other grains will float.

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Mr. Frantz

We tried to put it off but we could not avoid it- it is time to tackle the Frantz. The Frantz is a rather noisy machine that separates the magnetic and nonmagnetic components of our sample by running the grains between two electrically charged magnets. The point of all this is to further isolate the zircon minerals that we will be analyzing.

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Summer Crushing

Hello all! This summer I am back at Denison working on a project with Professor Erik Klemetti involving the magmatic evolution of the Lassen volcanic system in Northern California. Lassen is the southernmost volcano in the Cascades Range and has had eruptions as recently as 1915. Our goal is to analyze the zircon minerals that we extract from various samples representing different eruptions and phases of the system.

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Summer Research Students Show Off Their Work

The 2012-13 school year has begun here at Denison, and tradition dictates that all the hardworking research students get to show off the science they’ve done. This year three Geoscience majors presented their summer research at the annual Summer Research Symposium. Check them out:

Mariann Bostic, presenting on stratigraphy of the earliest stages of the Kungurian Stage in the Pequop Mountains, Nevada(advisor: Kate Tierney)

April Strid presenting on models for carbon cycling in soils due to land use (advisor: Tod Frolking)

Amy Williamson presenting on pressure and temperature determinations for the Eagle Lake Pluton, California (advisor: Erik Klemetti)

Job well done … and now onto their senior year!

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GEOS-240: El Niño’s React to Global Warming (II)

Even though several groups of scientists hold different opinions on the prediction of the ENSO’s frequency in the future, they all agree that the predictions depend on many other complicated processes such as cloud feedback, etc. Therefore, so far no one can give a comprehensive answer to the future ENSO’s frequency. In this post, I will explain two extreme theories of the prediction.

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