“I don’t think you have to be a geologist to walk up to Crater Lake and have your jaw drop,” says geology professor Alan Chapman. Over fall break, Chapman and Geology Department colleague Jeff Thole led a group of 11 students from his first-year course “Dynamic Earth, Global Change” on a research camping trip in the Klamath Mountains in Oregon. Chapman says they started at Crater for “the wow factor” and were lucky enough to catch it on a perfect day.

The expedition was the first supported by Chapman’s recent National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant. His research focuses on the recycling of the continental crust at convergent margins. Chapman and student teams are exploring the process of shallow subduction—places where a descending tectonic plate goes down at a shallow (rather than a deep) angle, and the potential relationship to volcanic activity.

Far out of cell-phone service, students camped, hiked, took a brisk swim, and honed their skills at developing the scientific method, what Chapman describes as “starting with the basics—what minerals are in this rock, what textures, and then gathering this evidence and clues like a detective rather than jumping to a scientific conclusion.”

They also extracted a lot of hard data. Each student flew home with a gallon-size bag of rocks that they will examine and, using a machine called the Jaw Crusher, eventually pulverize, so the rocks can be dated. Over the grant’s five-year period, Chapman will lead future student teams to Big Sur and islands on the Pacific Ocean-side of Baja California in Mexico to conduct more research.


January 2 2020

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