The College of Wooster geology department has been awarded a grant from the Keck Geology Consortium that will fund a five-week long research trip this summer. Nine students will be selected to take part in this research trip that will travel to Alaska and Utah.
Along with the nine students, associate professor of geology Meagen Pollock and geology professor Greg Wiles will be present on the trip as mentors. Pollock was the grant’s principal investigator.
“Our project is funded through the Consortium as a Gateway Program […] [which] is specifically designed for beginning students, especially those from underrepresented groups,” said Pollock. The research trip is specifically offered to first and second year students at the College, due to the project’s focus on students starting out in the geology field.
“The program engages students in authentic research as an introduction to the geosciences, allowing students to explore the discipline, develop their scientific identity and deepen their understanding of the intersections between the geosciences and societally relevant issues,” said Pollock.
The selected nine students will be divided into two research teams, with one team spending one week in Utah, and the other team spending one week in Alaska. In Utah, one research team will work at the Black Rock Desert volcanic field collecting samples of the low and high-silica lava flows. The research team will prepare the samples for geochemical analysis and will measure the elemental and isotopic compositions to determine the age of the lava flows.
In Alaska, the other research team will visit multiple sites in the mountains surrounding Juneau. At these sites, the students will sample yellow-cedar trees that are in a state of decline. With their samples, students will identify tree-ring data and various elevations, comparing them to previous meteorological studies. The students will complete all this work alongside professional climatologists, ecologists and foresters.
While learning and utilizing modern analytical techniques to date trees and lava flows, according to Pollock, these students will gain “insights on issues like climate change, hazards and renewable energy sources” while working with professionals.
The research teams will be able to continue their analysis when they come back to campus thanks to the College’s state of the art tree ring and X-ray labs. Pollock also adds that this grant was only possible due to the College’s advanced equipment.
The Keck Geology Consortium uses the educational philosophies of its member colleges as a foundation for its own program. The values they emphasize, quite similar to those promoted at The Colleg of Wooster, include the following: “dedication to excellence in undergraduate education, offering students comprehensive and rigorous educational opportunities that promote intellectual growth, integrity, responsibility and a sense of both individuality and membership in community” (from keckgeology.org).
For more information about this summer research trip, email GWiles@wooster.edu and MPollock@wooster.edu.