Showing posts from July, 2015

For the love of lava: Adventures on Tolbachik volcano


Last month I had the amazing opportunity to do field work on Tolbachik volcano in Kamchatka, Russia. I spent a week on one of the lava flows produced during the 2012-2013 eruption and was blown away by the formations and textures that the flowing rock can create. Here are some of the features that caught my eye while I was coming to the realization of just how awesome basalt can be. I'm sure you can imagine the molten rock flowing and fracturing, then oozing out when the opportunity presents itself.

Quick tour of the urban geology of Rome

I just returned from two, very warm, weeks in Italy. The group wanted to go somewhere with volcanoes and good food, so Italy was a natural choice. While Italian geology is fascinating in its own right, that will have to be saved for a different post. Today's post is a bit of urban geology.  I found that I spent most of my time in Rome looking at the building stone, and took mostly pictures of rocks and stone. The Romans collected the most beautiful stone from their empire and then used to make buildings and show off their wealth. These stones were then scavenged from Roman sites to build the next round of impressive buildings by the Catholic Church. So when you tour buildings in Rome it includes a geologic tour of the whole Mediterranean.
One of the classic stone types used to impress visitors is this deep red porphyry from Egypt. Porphyry is a crystal-rich igneous rock and is where we get the term porphyritic (for rocks with some large and some small crystals).
The stone that i…

The Ant Hill Advantage


So for the last two weeks both Janine and I have been off on separate field adventures. This is not uncommon for geologists in the summer. School ends and we dash off for locations with rocks we cannot get at home. I plan on doing a longer post on the cool things I observed about the insides of old eroded volcanoes soon, but not just yet as the travels are not done!

I did want to share a fun factoid about how ants help geologists when searching for specific rock types by using some examples from my recent field work. Whether or not you had an ant farm as a kid, its pretty easy to imagine the process involved in building an ant colony. The ants excavate tunnels underground and move the material from their tunnels to the surface. This material, moved grain by grain, adds up and can form a hill. As the ant colony gets larger, they bring up material from deeper underground. This helps geologists because it brings minerals to the surface that may be just out of sight. Because we…