Keck Geology Consortium Lava Project: Undergraduate Research Linking Natural and Experimental Basaltic Lava Flows

Friday, 19 December 2014
Jeffrey Alan Karson1, Richard W Hazlett2, Robert Wysocki1, Mary E Bromfield1, Nicholas C Browne2, Nell C Davis3, Christopher G Pelland4, Willa L Rowan5 and Kelsa A Warner6, (1)Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, United States, (2)Pomona College, Claremont, CA, United States, (3)Williams College, Williamstown, MA, United States, (4)Lafayette College, Easton, PA, United States, (5)Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, United States, (6)Sewanee The University of the South, Sewanee, TN, United States
Undergraduate students in the Keck Geology Consortium Lava Project participated in a month-long investigation of features of basaltic lava flows from two very different perspectives. The first half of the project focused on field relations in basaltic lava flows from the 1984 Krafla Fires eruption in northern Iceland. Students gained valuable experience in the collection of observations and samples in the field leading to hypotheses for the formation of selected features related to lava flow dynamics. Studies focused on a wide range of features including: morphology and heat loss in lava tubes (pyroducts), growth and collapse of lava ponds and overflow deposits, textural changes of lava falls (flow over steep steps), spaced spatter cones from flows over wet ground, and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility related to flow kinematics. In the second half of the program students designed, helped execute, documented, and analyzed features similar to those they studied in the field with large-scale (50-250 kg) basaltic lava flows created in the Syracuse University Lava Project (http://lavaproject.syr.edu). Data collected included video from multiple perspectives, infrared thermal (FLIR) images, still images, detailed measurements of flow dimensions and rates, and samples for textural and magnetic analyses. Experimental lava flow features provided critical tests of hypotheses generated in the field and a refined understanding of the behavior and final morphology of basaltic lava flows. The linked field and experimental studies formed the basis for year-long independent research projects under the supervision of their faculty mentors, leading to senior theses at the students’ respective institutions.