Monday, July 10, 2017

Students travel to Death Valley and Owen's Valley for EGGS field course


EGGS 330 is a field course for students interested in geologic and environmental sciences. This summer, myself and 12 other students led by faculty Dr. Jennifer Whisner, Dr. Cynthia Venna and Dr. Brett McLaurin traveled to Death Valley and Owens Valley, Califormia. Here we were able to apply in-class knowledge to make thoughtful observations, interpretations and develop filed skills. Specifically we learned firsthand about the tectonic, glacial, volcanic and sedimentary processes affecting southern California and the western United States.

Tufa towers at Mono Lake, these limestone formations are exposed due to heavy withdrawal of water that is being diverted to Los Angeles

The course began with four days of class on campus, where we each researched two topics that we would visit on the West coast. We then created a poster and short write-up to be used as teaching tools in the field. As a group we flew to Las Vegas, Nevada and then drove to Death Valley, California.



Our time in California included iconic locations in Death Valley:
Artists Palette, Devils Gold Course, Badwater Basin(282 feet BELOW sea level), Tacopa Lake beds, Charlie Brown Fault, Zabriskie Point - Badlands, Dante's View, Mesquite Sand Dunes, and Ubehebe Crater

Owen's Valley locations included:
 Mono Lake, Mono-Inyo Crater Chain, Devil's Punch Bowl, Obsidian Dome, Long Valley Caldera, Hot Creek, Convict Lake, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, LA Aqueduct, Owen's Valley Earthquake Fault, Scarp Fossil Falls, and  Alabama Hills


Students enjoy making food and relaxing at Lone Pine Campsite near the base of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental US

We learned about the events leading to the formation of each landscape, observed how processes have shaped and morphed the geology, and made interpretations at both local and regional scales about the lands surrounding us. In addition to bserving hard-rock geology we also learned about human activities in the desert like minigng and water resource misuse. We discussed the LA Aquedult and observed low water levels in lakes or lakes completely dried up in the Valleys. At Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge we observed endangered Pupfish found only in this location in Death Valley.

Students take time to sketch landscape at Ubehebe Crater. The crater the result of a powerful and explosive eruption produced when subsurface magma heats groundwater, which flash steams and creates tremendous pressure

In addition to learning in the field, we also lived in the field for the entirety of the trip. Sleeping in tents, cooking on a camp stove or over the fire, keeping any scented objects or food in bear boxes, roughing it with only one shower and one day of laundry. Although we were challenged physically and mentally throughout the trip, we learned valuable skills, developed great friends, and all the while had tons of FUN outdoors.

~Autumn Helfrich, EGGS major

Students stand in front of an ancient bristlecone pine, these trees are as old as ~4000-5000 years old.
Observing Tecopa Lake beds near Shoshone, California


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