What: How old is that volcano? How old is that tree? This Keck Gateway Project will explore how geologists date Earth materials, focusing on young lava flows and trees that are on the decline. Our geochronological study will supplement ongoing volcanological and climate change research in Utah and Alaska. Team Utah (led by Dr. Pollock) will be investigating the age of young basaltic lava flows in Utah’s Ice Springs Volcanic Field. Team Alaska (led by Dr. Wiles) will be reconstructing the growth history and recent climate response of yellow-cedar in Juneau, Alaska. Both of these projects are important to society. Ice Springs Volcanic field presents a potential volcanic hazard and is a region of geothermal interest. Alaska’s yellow-cedar has economic and cultural value, and has been on the decline in the past few decades.
When: June 19-July 21, 2017
Where: 4 weeks in Wooster, OH; 1 week in Alaska or Utah
Who: 9 students and two mentors, Dr. Meagen Pollock and Dr. Greg Wiles (College of Wooster)
Project Overview: Students will work on one of two research teams led by Dr. Meagen Pollock and Dr. Greg Wiles. During this 5-week summer experience, both teams will be based at The College of Wooster in Ohio. Each team will visit their respective field sites and will learn cutting-edge analytical techniques in geochronology: dendrochronology and cosmogenic dating. The teams will have the opportunity to interact with geoscience professionals from state geological surveys, the forest service, and the energy and GIS industries. Teams will share their findings with the scientific community next October through a poster presentation at the 2017 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Seattle, WA.
Team Utah Goals and Student Projects: Ice Springs Volcanic Field (ISVF) is a young, 20 km2 monogenetic basalt field in Utah’s Black Rock Desert (BRD), composed of four nested cinder cones and three distinct lava lobes. The lava flows can be separated into two compositional groups that are referred to as “high silica” and “low silica” lava flows (Sims, 2013; Thompson, 2009). The complex compositional variations and eruptive history make the ISVF an ideal case to test the applicability of the monogenetic eruption classification scheme proposed by Németh and Kereszturi (2015). According to their classification, the ISVF as a polymagmatic compound monogenetic field (Williams, 2016). The only aspect of this classification that is poorly constrained is the timing.
The relative timing for ISVF was first proposed by Condie and Barsky (1972), who placed placed the age of ISVF at ~4000 years. Hoover (1974) suggested that the ISVF may be as young as ~1000 years because it is well preserved. Only one age of 660 +/- 170 years has been published for the ISVF, estimated by radiocarbon dating of a tree root fragment found beneath a lava flow (Valastro et al., 1972). In an effort to address the uncertainty in the emplacement history of the Miter flows, Schantz (2016) recently used cosmogenic 36Cl methods to date the low silica lava flows in an area west of Miter cone and found a preliminary age of 8.7 +/- 1.1 kyr.
The goal of the Team Utah project is to use cosmogenic 36Cl methods to date the low- and high-silica lava flows in the ISVF. Students will collect samples from the low- and high-silica lava flows, prepare the samples for geochemical analysis, measure the elemental and isotopic compositions of the samples, and process the results with the CRONUS Web Earth Calculator to determine an age for the lava flows. An age estimate will allow us to (1) constrain the timing of ISVF volcanism relative to the development of the BRD, (2) answer questions about the emplacement of lava flows, and (3) test the classification of the ISVF as a polymagmatic compound monogenetic field.
Team Alaska Goals and Student Projects: The decline of Alaska yellow-cedar (Callitropis nootkatensis (D. Don) Örsted ex D.P. Little) is a fascinating and ongoing case study of how a changing climate impacts the coastal temperate forests in British Columbia and Alaska. Yellow-cedar has a high cold tolerance and is well adapted to cool climates (Schaberg et al. 2005, 2008). Its shallow root systems require a deep snowpack to insulate the roots from hard frosts that can damage roots and potentially lead to the death of the tree (Schaberg et al. 2008). Yellow-cedar is extremely durable, economically valuable (Kelsey et al. 2005), and long-lived, with reports of trees with as many as 1824 annual rings (Pojar and MacKinnon 1994). In addition, it is widely used by the native Tlingit with most stands utilized and their bark sustainably stripped over the past 300 years and into the present.
The start of the decline, ca. 1880–1900 (Hennon et al. 2007), coincides with a period of warming starting at the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA) (Schaberg et al. 2008; Kelsey et al. 2005; Beier et al. 2008). This similarity in timing between the decline and the end of the LIA has led to the development of the leading hypothesis that reduced insulating snowpack has caused premature root dehardening and frost damage (Hennon et al. 2005; Beier et al. 2008; Schaberg et al. 2008; Lamb and Wurtz 2009).
To test the link between snowpack and yellow-cedar health, The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab (WTRL) has undertaken dendroclimatic studies (Wiles et al., 2012; Jarvis et al., 2012; McGrath et al., 2014, 2016) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. In all of these studies we have compared annual tree growth using ring-widths with meteorological data to determine how yellow-cedar has responded to climate over the last 180 years. We have now developed three sets of tree-ring time series at three yellow-cedar sites. The chronologies consist of the traditional ring-width records and new novel measurements using blue intensity (BI) measurements (Rydval et al., 2014; Wilson et al., 2015) . This relatively new parameter is now measured at the WTRL. The BI series for our three cedar sites in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and Juneau, the results are remarkable (McGrath, et al., 2016) and new data we aim to generate in this project can be used to further test the leading hypothesis for yellow-cedar decline.
The goal of the proposed work is to sample tree-ring sites along elevational transects in the Juneau region and develop chronologies (ring-width and BI records) and to compare these records with meteorological records from stations along the Gulf of Alaska and with gridded data from the North Pacific. These comparisons will allow us to ask new questions about the forest decline in the region. Students will sample at multiple sites in the mountains surrounding Juneau, interact with climatologist, ecologists and foresters at the University of Alaska and the NFS, and then travel to the WTRL for intensive data collection and analyses.
Logistics and Field Conditions: The 5-week summer experience is based at The College of Wooster. Most of the work will occur in the Wooster Tree Ring and X-ray labs with opportunities to visit external labs, such as the PRIME lab at Purdue University. Approximately one week is designated for off-campus field work. Field work in Utah will be hot and sunny while field work in Alaska may be wet and cool. The terrain in both field sites can be rugged. Portions of field work in Alaska may be remote and may require transport over water. Note that no outdoor experience is required. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the logistics and field conditions.
Recommended Courses/Prerequisites: Enthusiasm, willingness to try something new, and a commitment to work with others! An introductory geoscience course is recommended but is not required.
Contact Information: Questions? Contact either or both of us:
Dr. Meagen Pollock, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Greg Wiles, email@example.com
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