WOOSTER, Ohio – First- and second-year students at The College of Wooster who are interested in a potential career in the geosciences have an exciting opportunity this summer, as nine will be selected for a five-week research experience that includes a one-week trip to either Alaska or Utah, courtesy of a grant from the Keck Geology Consortium.
“Our project is funded through the Consortium as a Gateway Program … (which) is specifically designed for beginning students, especially those from underrepresented groups,” explained Meagen Pollock, the grant’s principal investigator and an associate professor of geology at Wooster. “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.”
The nine students will work on one of two research teams, mentored by Pollock and fellow Wooster geology professor Greg Wiles. One group will spend a week in Utah, where they’ll work at the Black Rock Desert volcanic field, collecting samples of the low- and high-silica lava flows, preparing them for geochemical analysis, and measuring the elemental and isotopic compositions in order to determine an age of the lava flows.
The other group will visit Alaska for a week to sample yellow-cedar trees, which are in decline, at multiple sites in the mountains surrounding Juneau. Students will identify the tree-ring data along various elevations and compare them to previous meteorological studies, while interacting with professional climatologists, ecologists, and foresters.
In addition to learning and utilizing modern analytical techniques to date trees and lava flows, the results of this work will provide the students “insights on issues like climate change, hazards, and renewable energy sources,” according to Pollock, who is on-leave this academic year advancing her research on subglacial volcanoes.
Pollock also noted that this grant is possible due to Wooster’s own state-of-the-art tree ring and X-ray labs, which allow the students, and researchers from across the nation, to do further data collection and analysis.
The Keck Geology Consortium is a collaboration of 18 liberal arts colleges “focused on enriching undergraduate education through development of high-quality research experiences.”