Newsletters

Chair’s Note

Chair’s Note

Greetings from the Geology Department! As you’ll read in the following pages, it has been an eventful and productive year for the Department and for our students. In fact, this past year was anything but routine. Nevertheless, if there’s any merit to the adage all’s well that ends well, we’ve had a very good year indeed! On June 14, we graduated 15 majors, just short of the previous year’s all time record of 17. Of the graduating seniors, about one third enrolled directly into graduate programs, which include some of the top national programs in chosen subfields. As of this writing, we have...

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Holli Frey

Holli Frey

This past year was busy on the research front with multiple trips to Dominica and two geochronology labs. In May, 2015 I attended a workshop and eruption simulation exercise in Dominica sponsored by VUELCO (Volcanic unrest in Europe and Latin America: Phenomenology, eruption precursors, hazard forecast, and risk mitigation), a consortium of European and Latin American scientists seeking a better understanding of the processes behind volcanic unrest and the ability to forecast outcomes. In 2011, VUELCO named Morne aux Diables (MAD), the northernmost volcanic center in Dominica, one of its six...

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John Garver

John Garver

It has been another exciting and productive year of teaching, research, and community service. I have continued to work on issues in the Mohawk Watershed and we hosted the 7th annual Mohawk Watershed Symposium at College Park Hall in March. My research efforts have branched in two directions. One is aimed at understanding Alaskan tectonics and the other is aimed at understanding environmental radioactivity and geologic processes that affect uranium. Our Alaska work continues and we concluded the 2014-15 NSF/Keck field project with six students in eastern Prince William Sound in southern...

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David Gillikin

David Gillikin

I am very pleased to have started my first year as an Associate Professor this September. Last year I passed my tenure review – a major milestone in any academic’s career. Working in such a great department with supportive faculty and amazing facilities certainly made this an easier process! Last year I taught my Stable Isotope course in the Fall. Students can now use the new NSF funded Stable Isotope Lab to conduct mini-independent research projects. Projects ranged from pollution in the Hans Groot Kill to studies on food and drink. Students showed that carbon in beef from local...

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Kurt Hollocher

Kurt Hollocher

For me, this was another year without too much excitement, except excitement our Olin building provided for us (more below). I spent a good part of the year writing, and got one manuscript on Norway out to coauthors. That paper is on Ordovician arc plutonic rocks in coastal Norway. They are a bit metamorphosed, but at first glance are typical of arc plutons, ranging in composition from ultramafic rocks to granites. One of the surprises during research was that these rocks are about 50% adakites, a sort of igneous rock only classified in the 1990’s. Adakites, named after Adak Island in the...

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Matt Manon

Matt Manon

Greetings alumni and friends, Another year has sped by and once again here in Schenectady the leaves are getting ready to drop. Life as always is busy but rewarding, and our family is starting to grow up. Natalie will turn five at the end of December and Zoe will be three in March. Holli and I really ramped up our research efforts in Dominica this year, with three excellent research students, Sarah Brehm, Emily Crampe and Tara Metzger. We pursued two new exciting areas of research, focusing on zircon dating/characterization, apatite fingerprinting and also trace elements and isotopes of...

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Don Rodbell

Don Rodbell

This past summer was the culmination of nearly 20 years of project development work, with the simple goal to core to bedrock the sediment in the bottom of one of the oldest lakes in South America. Lake Junin is located at about 4100 m above sea level in an intermontane basin between the eastern and western cordillera of Peru. My first work on Lake Junín was in 1996, when Jeremy Newman ’97 and I joined two colleagues to core the lake by hand. We did not have suitable equipment to core the middle of the lake, so we paddled out to the edge of a floating reed island near the lake’s western shore...

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Anouk Verheyden-Gillikin

Anouk Verheyden-Gillikin

I am very pleased to start this year as a Lecturer! My time will continue to be split between teaching and managing the stable isotope laboratory. Last year I taught two sections of ENS 100 – Introduction to Environmental Studies. This class focuses on today’s big environmental problems, their causes, and possible solutions, as well as the policies involved. We typically visit the Albany landfill and the water and waste water treatment plants in Niskayuna and discuss engineering solutions to environmental problems. We also visit the Pine Bush preserve and discuss how the geologic history...

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George Shaw

George Shaw

George is enjoying his retirement. He completed the 365 mile Erie canal bike trail this past September but before he headed off to Buffalo he finished his recent book Earth’s Early Atmosphere and Oceans, and The Origin of Life. Here’s what Amazon says about the book “a comprehensive treatment of the chemical nature of the Earth’s early surface environment and how that led to the origin of life. This includes a detailed discussion of the likely process by which life emerged using as much quantitative information as possible. The emergence of life and the prior surface conditions of the Earth...

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Colby Howland’s Summer Keck Fellowship

Colby Howland’s Summer Keck Fellowship

This summer I went to northeastern Nevada for the Keck Exhumation and Tectonic significance of the Wood Hill-East Humbolt Range Metamorphic Core Complex project. We collected samples in the Wood hill, East Humbolt range and Pequop Mountains in order to better understand the kinematic and thermal evolution of the middle and lower crustal levels rocks exposed during exhumation. My project focuses on the placing thermal gradient constraints on metamorphic rocks from the Pequop Mountains using RSCM thermometry and calcite-dolomite thermometry.

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Karyn DeFranco’s Summer Research

Karyn DeFranco’s Summer Research

My name is Karyn DeFranco and I am a senior Geology major. Over the summer I spent approximately two weeks in Dominica with Professor Frey and two other Union students, collecting 83 meteoric and hydrothermal water samples. Upon returning to the US, I spent four weeks analyzing the water samples in the Geochemistry Lab at Union College. Once my samples were analyzed, I began an internship at the USGS in Troy, NY working with the Watershed Program. The Watershed Program aims to collect information on fish abundance, species, habitat and water samples in streams and rivers in the Adirondacks....

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Caitlin McManimon’s Summer Keck Fellowship

Caitlin McManimon’s Summer Keck Fellowship

This summer I was at the University of Connecticut for the Keck New England Holocene project, where we looked at sediments and land forms to understand the regional history of floods, climate change, and human impact. We took sediment cores from wetlands in eastern and western Connecticut in areas that were previously subjected to multiple types of intense land use change during the 17th – early 20th century. My project focuses on carbon and nitrogen isotopes in organic matter within the sediment cores, and what the isotopic signatures indicate about the history of the New England...

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Elise Farrington’s Summer Experience

Elise Farrington’s Summer Experience

This summer, I worked at the Cumberland Gulf Group as their Environmental & Regulatory Affairs Intern. In the Environmental Department of the company, I learned about the measures they took to prevent gasoline releases into nature, and the methods they used to remediate petroleum spills when they did occur. Through this experience I met geologists working in the environmental consulting industry at companies like Kleinfelder, Groundwater & Environmental Services, and AECOM. In the field, I had the opportunity to participate in bedrock drilling and coring, groundwater sampling, and...

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Sarah Kittross’ Summer Research

Sarah Kittross’ Summer Research

This summer I was fortunate enough to experience and explore two very different aspects of geology. My summer began with a two week research trip to Dominica with Professor Holli Frey, Karyn Defranco (’16) and Rebecca Babiak (’16) to collect samples for my thesis. We collected rock samples from the northernmost part of the island, near the lava dome Morne aux Diables, which is the location of the oldest deposits on the island. My thesis will consist of analyzing the geochronology U-Pb dates of the mineral Zircon from rocks of ~4 locations in order to interpret their possible...

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Olivia Thurston’s Summer Research

Olivia Thurston’s Summer Research

Research: Radioactivity of the Lucerne Pluton, Maine: evidence for post‐intrusive uranium redistribution This summer I traveled to Steuben, ME to study uranium distribution in the radioactive Lucerne granite in Maine, which has elevated radon and uranium, and thus poses a health threat to local residents. The objective of my summer research was to make measurements and gather rock samples from the Lucerne Granite in Maine to process and compare to previous work (Worthington, 2015) in regards to the source of high Radon gas levels in the homes and business located on the Lucerne pluton and...

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Rebecca Babiak’s Summer Research

Rebecca Babiak’s Summer Research

This summer I traveled to Dominica to continue researching the young (>100 ka) ignimbrite deposits found throughout this volcanically active island. Our research team (Prof. Holli Frey, Sarah Kittross, Karyn DeFranco, and I) spent ten days out in the field collecting over 430 pounds of rock and water samples from over eighty of the island’s streams and hydrothermal areas. My research will be focusing on geochemical analysis of trace elements of the ignimbrite deposits and U/Th disequilibrium dating of zircon crystals in order to reconstruct the eruptive history of Dominica. This data may...

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Brandt Scott’s Summer Experience

Brandt Scott’s Summer Experience

This summer, I was fortunate enough to obtain an internship conducting geology research for RESESS, UNACO in Boulder, Colorado. I worked very closely with Professors Becky Flowers and James Metcalf at CU Boulder, contributing towards their efforts at better understanding the dynamics of U-Th/He dating apatites. My project specifically focused on the effect that varying apatite chemistries had on helium retention using U-Th/He dating. As a result of my project, I obtained a myriad of geologic research skills including: grain selection and mounting, laser ablation-ICPMS and electron...

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Ceramics / Geology Project by Emily Crampe

Ceramics / Geology Project by Emily Crampe

As a geologist with interests in the visual arts, I wanted to see how these two disciplines could intersect. Throughout my time at Union I enrolled in three ceramics practicums and learned some basic glaze chemistry. In the courses we made our own glazes but the ingredients were powders purchased directly from a supplier. The components of glazes are derived from natural sources (rocks, minerals, and sediments); therefore, I decided to investigate how mineralogy influences glazes and create an independent project to produce my own glazes. All glazes have four basic components: silica,...

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Nick Weidhaas’ Summer Keck Fellowship

Nick Weidhaas’ Summer Keck Fellowship

This summer I had the great opportunity to spend three weeks in the Peruvian Andes as part of a Keck Geology Consortium fellowship. While there, we collected water and surface sediment samples and took direct measurements of water chemistry from glacially-fed lakes in two valleys of the Cordillera Blanca. Our field research team consisted of myself, Prof. Rodbell and Gillikin, Prof. Stansell from Northern Illinois University, Prof. Licciardi from UNH, and three students. The goal of my research is to understand the biogeochemistry and sediment transport through the paternoster lakes of...

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Eileen Alejos’s Summer Keck Fellowship

Eileen Alejos’s Summer Keck Fellowship

This summer I went to southeastern Alaska to study the flysch of the Prince William – Chugach terrene with a group of 6 students led by professors John Garver and Cameron Davidson. Keck Geology Consortium and the National Science Foundation funded this fieldwork and research. Conducting fieldwork in Alaska for my senior thesis was an incredible experience that has changed my life and confirmed my passion for geology. Alaska is an remarkable place. Not only was I amazed by the abundance and variety of wildlife but the unparalleled scenery also intrigued me. Our main study areas included...

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James Barrett’s Summer Experience

James Barrett’s Summer Experience

This summer I worked for in the environmental sector of Kleinfelder. Kleinfelder works with Exxon Mobil and Cumberland Farms in efforts to help clean up their oil/gas spills. This job required me to work in the field and in the office. When I was working in the field I would sample soil and groundwater to test for any concentrations of pollutants or other specific chemicals. When I was working in the office I would organize and produce data to get a better understanding of how bad the contamination was at a specific site. Overall it was an amazing experience and the skill set and people that...

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Emily Crampe’s Summer Research

Emily Crampe’s Summer Research

This summer I was able to explore two different aspects of geology: Dominician petrology and paleoclimate reconstruction through oxygen isotopes in trees. The summer started with a ten-day trip to Dominica with professors Holli Frey and Matt Manon and students Sarah Brehm (’15) and Tara Metzger (’15). In preparation for my thesis, we collected rock samples from the Northernmost section of the island near the lava dome Morne aux Diables. When we came back to Union, I cut thin sections and powdered the rocks for later analysis in the fall. For the second half of the summer, I started working...

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Robert Queirolo’s Summer Research

Robert Queirolo’s Summer Research

To accurately predict future climate change, a greater knowledge of paleoclimate and influences controlling climate variations must be obtained. There exists an increasing demand for precisely dated high-resolution records of past environments. Speleothems, secondary calcite formations, are considered to be one the most powerful multi-proxy paleoclimate archives that exists. Speleothems are mineral deposits consistent of calcite and aragonite, which are produced by the calcification of minerals dissolved in karstified host rock settings. Speleothem deposit formation is controlled not only by...

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Chris Kelly’s Summer Research

Chris Kelly’s Summer Research

My research conducted this past summer as part of a four-week Davenport Undergraduate Research Grant involved the preparation and geochemical analysis of a speleothem collected in 1828 from the Gage Caverns in Schoharie, New York. Laser ablation Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) was to collect trace element signatures within the calcite that forms the sample. Trace element data can be used to directly reconstruct paleoclimates through Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca, and Na/Ca ratios. This data will be compared to isotope values in the same speleothem, as well as an additional sample...

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Tara Metzger’s Summer Research

Tara Metzger’s Summer  Research

This summer I worked both in the field and at Union College collecting samples and data for my senior thesis under the Mellon Foundation Grant. Professor Frey, Professor Manon, Emily Crampe, Sarah Brehm, and I spent 10 days traveling to the volcanic island of Dominica, which is located in the Lesser Antilles island arc. The focus of my research involved the collection of water samples from 71 various streams and hydrothermal pools in Dominica to categorize water types, determine the influence of magmatic water, and to determine magma outgassing on the island. The water samples were analyzed...

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George Shaw

George Shaw

I continue to enjoy “retirement”, spending a good part of each weekday in my office in the basement of Olin. Last year about this time I received a call from a former student asking if I still had the high pressure equipment I had moved to Union from Minnesota when I arrived in 1988. Naturally I still had it. He wanted to know if he could use it to make some measurements on various salt solutions at high pressure and temperature in order to get very precise thermodynamic data for geochemical modeling important to understanding the deep interiors of the satellites of the outer planets (which...

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Don Rodbell

Don Rodbell

For three weeks in June and July, a group of eight students and faculty joined me for a tropical, high-altitude field season in the Peruvian Andes. The Project is funded by the Keck Foundation, an NSF research grant, and by the Geology Department’s field fund. Union College senior Nick Weidhaas along with students Alia Payne (Macalaster College), Julie Daniels (Northern Illinois University), and faculty Nathan Stansell (Northern Illinois), Joe Licciardi (University of New Hampshire), Dave Gillikin (Union) and I camped for two weeks in the Queshque Valley and one week in the Quilcayhuanca...

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Matt Manon

Matt Manon

Hello alumni! Once again it has been a great year. I’ve had the fortune to be occupied by many different teaching and research projects. Our second annual structure trip to the Taconic slate belt was a big success. In addition to the ever stunning axial cleavage in the West Castleton syncline, we successfully found the great unconformity along the Appalachian Trail in the woods near Pittsfield, MA. Although the Potsdam sandstone sitting on Grenville aged gneisses is a familiar sight in New York, it was a treat to see it deformed into a stretched pebble conglomerate sitting on vertically...

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Kurt Hollocher

Kurt Hollocher

This year was one mostly of teaching and writing for me, without too much excitement. I went to the NEGSA meeting in Lancaster, PA, with my student Kirk Seaman. Kirk presented a poster on his work on gneissic rocks in west-central Norway, that correlate in age and lithology, but not location, with the Taconic arc in western New England. That’s the arc, mind you, not the Taconic mountains which are made of the Taconian accretionary wedge. The arc is about 90 km farther east. The poster was large, colorful, contained a lot of data, and drew a lot of interested people. The conclusions are still...

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David Gillikin

David Gillikin

I had my first ever sabbatical this past year, but it was anything but restful. I taught my Biogeochemistry course in the Fall term and took the class of 18 students to San Salvador Island in the Bahamas for field research. Students paired up into groups of two and investigated nine different biogeochemistry projects on the island. This is always a lot of fun and students walk away with valuable field experience. With my teaching load being light this past year, I focused more on the isotope ratio mass spec (IRMS) and my research. We have now run thousands of samples through the lab...

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John Garver

John Garver

This has been another productive year of teaching, research, and community service. I have continued to work on issues in the Mohawk Watershed and we hosted the Sixth Annual Mohawk Watershed Symposium at College Park Hall in March. Plans are coming together for a basin-wide watershed management plan, and work continues to build resilient flood-smart communities. My primary research effort continues with Cam Davidson at Carleton College toward deciphering tectonics of the southern Alaskan margin. Lab studies are also directed to better understanding the systematics of zircon as a...

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Anouk Verheyden-Gillikin

Anouk Verheyden-Gillikin

Last year was another great year at Union. I taught Introduction to Oceanography and Earth and Life Through Time. I took over these courses from David Gillikin, who was on sabbatical. I truly enjoyed teaching both of these courses, but slightly favor Earth and Life Through Time because the many fieldtrips allow us to visit some of the geological gems New York has to offer. I also really enjoyed participating in another trip to the Island of San Salvador, Bahamas, with the biogeochemistry class. The trip is a wonderful opportunity for students to get experience with the difficulty of doing...

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Holli Frey

Holli Frey

This past year in my post-tenure sabbatical, I’ve been working on several research projects in Dominica. Dominica has the most volcanic hazard potential of any island in the Caribbean, with nine potentially active volcanic centers that are Pleistocene or younger in age and voluminous explosive deposits. The young volcanism, shallow seismicity, and fumerolic activity in Dominica suggest an active magma reservoir and potential for future eruptions. In order to better understand the magma plumbing system beneath Dominica and where magma is more prone to erupt, we have been examining the...

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2014 Chair’s Note by Don Rodbell

2014 Chair’s Note by Don Rodbell

Greetings from the Geology Department! It has been another eventful year since our last newsletter. In the pages that follow, you’ll read the details of a year of active scholarship on the part of faculty and students, field excursions both near and far, and active and generous alumni. This past June, we celebrated the graduation of 17 senior geology majors, a record for the department. As of this writing, we count 37 Geology majors, who include 6 declared first-year students. Both of these numbers are records for the Department and both will surely increase as they do over the course of...

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Sarah Brehm’s Summer Research Summary 2014

Sarah Brehm’s Summer Research Summary 2014

This summer I continued research on the Pleistocene ignimbrite deposits in Layou and Roseau as well as various other volcanic deposits throughout the island of Dominica. During the 2012-13 school year we traveled to Dominica and collected pumice samples from the Layou and Roseau river valleys. Previous work had hypothesized that the deposits may have come from the same volcanic center in Micotrin. My summer research and senior thesis are focused on using geochemical analysis of trace elements, whole rock chemistry, and phenocryst composition as well as U/Th dating of zircon to determine the...

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Kaitlyn Suarez’s Summer Research

Kaitlyn Suarez’s Summer Research

This summer, I spent three weeks in Alaska on the Keck Geology Consortium internship. The group consisted of six students from around the country led by Professor John Garver and Professor Cam Davidson. It was the experience of a lifetime! We were stationed out of Seward and Cordova, Alaska in the Prince William Sound where we used zodiac boats to conduct fieldwork in isolated locations. A typical day included loading the boats, driving to the targeted location, collecting samples, and writing observations about the rocks. We were always kept company by the bald eagles, whales, bears,...

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Action at the Arc: A departmental trip to the Lesser Antilles

Action at the Arc: A departmental trip to the Lesser Antilles

During Union’s winter term break, fifteen geology majors traveled the to the Caribbean for a 10 day field trip to Barbados and Dominica, accompanied by Profs. Holli Frey, John Garver, and Matt Manon. The trip afforded the students an opportunity to study different aspects of a subduction zone, from the forearc sediments in the accretionary wedge in Barbados to the explosive volcanic deposits blanketing Dominica. Barbados is dominated by a Pleistocene coral reef limestone cap, but Tertiary sedimentary rocks of marine origin are exposed in the northeastern part of the island. Known as the...

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Don Rodbell

Don Rodbell

My research activities this year involved our continuing project to document Holocene climatic change as recorded in glacial deposits and lake sediments in the Andes of Peru. This project is a collaborative effort, funded by the NSF, with colleagues from the University of New Hampshire. This year we returned to the Huaguruncho Massif in east-central Peru. Two Union students, Grace Delgado ’14 and Dane O’Neil ’14, joined me and Joe Licciardi and his team from UNH for 3 weeks of field work. The Huaguruncho Massif is important to our work because it is a presently glaciated region in the upper...

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Matt Manon

Matt Manon

Our second daughter, Zoe was born in early March, and she has kept us quite busy, mostly by being incredibly cute. Another obvious highlight of this year was the winter trip to Barbados and Dominica. It is always a treat to get students into the field, looking at a subduction zone up close. It’s a gift to take them to see the two types of rocks I’m most interested in, deformed accretionary sediments and arc volcanics! We had a great group of very motivated and interesting students, which makes any trip more exciting. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time assisting students on many different...

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Gregg Brenn’s Summer 2013 Keck Fellowship Summary

Gregg Brenn’s Summer 2013 Keck Fellowship Summary

I participated in a Keck Geology Consortium project to the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, where I was characterizing the aftershock seismicity above the rupture zone of the September 5, 2012 Mw= 7.6 Nicoya Earthquake.  The Keck group consisted of a geophysics team and a geomorphology team, and I was part of the the 4-student geophysics team, along with Costa Rican seismologist Dr. Marino Protti, in which we deployed a local, 5-station seismic array and GPS network.  Our goal was to monitor for earthquakes, and with the data collected, we will locate the epicenters and depths to understand...

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