Your studies in geology will integrate the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics in the study of Earth processes and history.

Undergraduate Research in Geology

Doing research at the undergraduate level is incredibly beneficial. Students gain field and lab experience while working closely with a faculty mentor. These opportunities help prepare students for graduate school and careers in geology. Take a look below to see what some of our current and upcoming student projects are!

Current Research Students:


Shannon Fasola '14

Title: Studying Aftershocks from the Mw=7.6 September 5, 2012 Nicoya Earthquake, Costa Rica

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nelson Ham

Description of Project: Shannon is in the process of participating in a Keck Geology Consortium project. She spent four weeks last summer on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. During this time, she installed a small array of seismometers and GPS stations (see photo above) for the purpose of locating aftershocks ten months after the Mw 7.6 Nicoya Earthquake. Once a week, her team of students traveled to the stations to service them and to collect data. Her project utilizes the program SEISAN to locate the smaller aftershocks of the five largest aftershocks of the 2012 Nicoya Earthquake. Shannon will be comparing these earthquakes to the main earthquake to determine the location of stress release on the Nicoya Seismic Gap and seeing if these earthquakes can predict future potential rupture. 

Outcome of Project: Shannon will present her work at the Keck Annual Research Symposium at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in April.


Zach Osborne '14

Title: Magnetic and Geochemical Characterization of In Situ Obsidian, New Mexico

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Flood

Description of Project: Zach spent four weeks last summer doing field work in New Mexico as part of a Keck Geology Consortium research project studying the chemical and magnetic properties of obsidian. His field work involved collecting and geo-referencing obsidian samples (see photo above, Zach is on the far left) at three sites around New Mexico, including Mule Creek, Mount Taylor, and Valles Caldera. Since his summer field work, Zach has done laboratory research on his samples at the Institute for Rock Magnetism at the University of Minnesota, using a Vibrating Sample Magnetometer and an AC Susceptibility Bridge. He will use his results to determine how to distinguish obsidians according to a number of magnetic properties.

Outcome of Project: Zach will present his work at the Keck Annual Research Symposium at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in April.


Allison Shackelton '14

Title: Pteranodon Preservation in the Late Cretaceous Niobrara Chalk of Western Kansas

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca McKean

Description of Project: For her project, Allison traveled to the University of Kansas Natural History Museum over the summer, where she examined over 80 specimens of Pteranodon (see photo above). She closely examined their preservation (degrees of completeness, abrasion, fracturing, etc.) and used this information to draw conclusions about the depositional environment they were preserved in. Her work was funded by a Kresge Summer Research Grant.

Outcome of Project: Allison presented a poster on her work at last fall's national Geological Society of America conference in Denver (see photo below).


Upcoming Projects:

Cody Heinze '14

Project Description: Cody will be conducting a sedimentologic and stratigraphic study of Cretaceous conglomerate deposits that occur sporadically throughout the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. His work will involve field work to collect samples and measure section, and lab work to analyze his samples.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca McKean

Trevor Osorno '14

Project Description: Trevor will be constructing a conceptual flow model for the Spring Green flooding event.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nelson Ham

Chaz Topacio '14

Project Description: Chaz will catalog the geochemistry of Holocene basalts from Four Craters Lava Field in eastern Oregon. This data will aid in the interpretation of the eruptive histories of the four cinder cones found at the lava field.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Flood