An REU Project on the Precambrian Rocks of Yellowstone National Park: Some lessons learned

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Darrell Henry, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, United States, David W Mogk, Montana State Univ, Bozeman, MT, United States, Paul A Mueller, Univ Florida-Geology Dept, Gainesville, FL, United States and David A Foster, UF, Geology, Gainesville, FL, United States
An NSF-funded REU project (2011-2013), based in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), was designed to characterize the geology, geochemistry and geochronology of Precambrian rocks in northern YNP. Over two field seasons two cadres of 12 students (12 women and 12 men) were chosen from small-to-large state universities and private colleges. REU students participated in three major activities constituting a complete research experience: Field studies involved geologic mapping and sampling of Precambrian basement; formulation of testable research questions by smaller working groups; and mapping and sampling projects to address research questions; Analytical studies, sample preparation immediately followed field work with petrographic analysis at students' home institutions and a week-long visit to analytical laboratories to conduct follow-up studies by small research groups during the academic year (Univ. Florida - geochemistry and geochronology; Univ. Minnesota - EMPA analysis); Communicating results, each working group submitted an abstract and collectively presented 13 posters at the 2011 and 2012 GSA Rocky Mountain sectional meetings. We used directed discovery to engage students in a community of practice in the field and found that a long apprenticeship (2-3 weeks) is optimal for novice-master interactions in exploring natural setting. Initial group hikes were used to normalize methods and language of the discipline. Students developed a sense of ownership of the overall project and assumed personal responsibility for directed research projects. Training was provided to: guide students in selection and appropriate use of tools; develop sampling strategies; discuss communal ethics, values, and expectations; develop efficient work habits; stimulate independent thinking; and engage decision-making. It was important to scaffold the field experience to students’ level of development to lead to mastery. Analytical activities were designed from rock to analysis so that each group mastered all preparation steps and instrumental techniques under supervision of graduate mentors and lab managers leading to a clearer understanding of data interpretation. Students were communally engaged in abstract and poster preparation to ensure proper focus, scientific breadth, and style of presentation.