Team Belize after SCUBA certification and ready to begin work on the local reefs.
The Belize project was an overwhelming success thanks to our 9-student team of rising sophomores and our dedicated peer mentor, a rising senior. We spent the first week at Washington and Lee learning about coral reefs, exploring analytical equipment and techniques, and in the pool learning how to SCUBA dive. We spent the next two weeks in the field where each student passed the check-out dives (with the reef sharks) with grace and enthusiasm. In Belize and back at Washington and Lee for another two weeks, we developed three areas of focus for research. Catie Caterham (Franklin and Marshall), Nick An (Oxford College of Emory), Sydney Walters (Colgate), and AJ Mabaka (Washington and Lee) assessed whether declining coral cover over the last few years has resulted in the kind of phase shift to algal dominance that has been so widely recorded across the Caribbean. This group assessed the percent live coral and algae, as well as urchin and farmer fish densities in comparison with previous years. Petra Zuñiga (Amherst), Will Riley (Vassar), and Riley Waters (Macalester) characterized the impacts of massive Sargassum blooms washing across the Caribbean and accumulating on shorelines. This group measured dissolved oxygen and pH levels and mapped the extent of the ‘brown tides’ associated with decaying Sargassum, with an eye towards thinking about what kind of mitigation efforts should be considered. Matti Horne (Pomona), Jolie Villegas (Wesleyan), and Sydney Walters (Colgate) assessed whether the ‘new’ hybrid coral species Acropora prolifera that is increasingly recognized on Caribbean reefs is a ‘true’ replacement for its declining parent species. This group paired urchin, fish, and non-acroporid coral abundance with 3D photogrammetry techniques to quantify surface area to volume and morphology of ‘spaces’ to compare the kind of habitats these different species might provide for the reef. Our outstanding peer mentor, Ginny Johnson (Washington and Lee) collaborated on all three projects. By the end our 5 weeks together (and some very late nights) we had 3 abstracts submitted to the Fall AGU meeting. We look forward to seeing all of our outstanding students present their work in San Francisco in December!
Keck Montana measuring section along the Missouri River.
Keck Montana conquered the muddy Cretaceous in exquisite fashion. The Macalester crew consisted of Ray Rogers, Kristi Curry Rogers, Jeff Thole, and sophomore Chloe Kahn (peer mentor), along with first-year students Sun Tun and Katherine Irving. Student crew members from other institutions included Asha Lang (Smith College), Abby Roat (Colorado College), Peter Zimmermann (Oberlin College), Sadie Gomez (Amherst College), Nolan Clark (Pomona College), and Kaylee Velasquez (Union College). The work began in the labs at Macalester, where this diligent Keck crew learned how to recover (via wet sieving), sort, and identify the tiny fossilized bones and teeth of animals that lived in the Late Cretaceous of Montana (the faunal lists they compiled include dinosaurs, mammals, turtles, amphibians, and lots of fish). After tuning up on the scopes, identifying thousands of fossils, working through image analysis protocols and data analysis, and writing two GSA abstracts, we flew to Montana to begin the field adventure. Our first stop was the famous Hell Creek Formation near Jordan Montana (T. rex country), where we focused on two of the sites that we first encountered in the lab. The Hell Creek camp along the shores of Fort Peck Reservoir proved to be the perfect setting to hone field skills and learn how to prospect for fossils and measure section. Our hosts, University of Washington grad students Luke Weaver and Brody Hovatter, gave us the grand tour of classic Hell Creek sites – we even collected samples of the K-Pg boundary! After a few days in the Hell Creek we moved on to the small town of Malta, Montana, where the crew attended the “Judith River Formation Symposium,” which was hosted by the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum. Attendees included famous dinosaur paleontologists Jack Horner and Phil Currie (both of whom joined us for dinner), among others. After a few focused days of talks on Judith River rocks and dinosaurs, we continued on to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, and the heart of Judith River country. After provisioning up, we hit the rocks and got to work on our final fossil site, which was located in badlands along the Missouri River. In addition to collecting vertebrate microfossils on the surface, we also excavated the site and discovered several cool dinosaur bones, including vertebrae, toe bones, and one large chunk of a limb bone – all of which came from hadrosaur (duckbill) dinosaurs. After a few days in camp, and after surviving a few particularly memorable thunderstorms, we launched our canoes down river to explore a few more localities. After a few glorious days floating the river, we wrapped up our Montana adventure with a visit to the Museum of the Rockies, where we were treated to a behind the scenes tour from curator John Scanella. Two posters featuring the results of our work will be presented in September in Phoenix at GSA.
The Utah Advanced Program team on the oxidized Navajo Sandstone, south-central Utah.
Submitted by Ben Surpless (Trinity University)
Ben Surpless (Trinity) and four Advanced Program students (Charley Hankla, College of Wooster; Madison Woodley, Mt. Holyoke College; Caroline McKeighan, Trinity; and Curtis Segarra, Trinity) used structural field mapping and video captured by a quad-copter drone to investigate rock deformation within a major normal fault transfer zone, south-central Utah. Our team used these field data to establish patterns of deformation between fault segments, revealing significant variations in both horizontal and vertical networks of fractures and deformation bands in the spectacular Jurassic-age Navajo Sandstone. This summer and fall, our research team has begun computer numerical modeling to test the evolution of the fault-related stress field, assessing how strain produced in modeling compares to strain documented in the field. These results have implications for groundwater flow, oil and gas exploration, and earthquake slip propagation at fault-segment boundaries. Our team will attend a Geological Society of America meeting in spring 2019.
Thirty-seven students and ten faculty directors have embarked on six different projects to investigate wide ranging questions about the earth, from soils, to paleoclimate, and tectonics. Two Gateway Projects for rising sophomores will conduct field studies in Glacier National Park, MT and Santa Catalina Island, CA. Four Advanced Research Projects for rising seniors are located in Prince William Sound, AK; the Mojave Desert, NV; along the Sevier Fault, UT; and in the Hanna Basin, WY. Watch the website for updates. See the Gateway and Advanced Research pages for additional information about the projects.
Directors of 2018-19 Keck Projects gathered at Macalester College in early May to review Keck Consortium history and goals, to share experiences about previous Keck projects and to discuss best practices in undergraduate research. Pictured above (clockwise, beginning at left) are: Cam Davidson (Carleton College; Keck Co-Director and Alaska Project), Ellen Currano (University of Wyoming; Hanna Basin Project), Meagen Pollock (Wooster; 2017-18 Gateway Project), Amy Myrbo (University of Minnesota and LacCORE; Glacier National Park Project), Frederick Page (Oberlin; Catalina Project), Brady Foreman (Western Washington; Hanna Basin Project), Ben Surpless (Trinity; Sevier Fault Project), Colin Robins (Claremont-McKenna; Mojave Project), and Kelly MacGregor (Macalester; Glacier National Park Project). Not shown are Marga Miller (Macalester, Keck Program Manager) and Karl Wirth (Keck Co-Director). Thanks to all who made this first “free-standing” director workshop a great success.