5/21/2018 Peter Durantine

Experiencing Earth’s Geoscience History in America’s Southwest

Some Franklin & Marshall students from the Department of Earth and Environment studied the fields of volcanology, impact cratering and geological history in the American Southwest.

During spring semester, Professor of Geosciences Andrew de Wet and the department’s research lab manager and technician Emily Wilson took 16 students to New Mexico and Arizona to visit numerous geological sites including the mile-wide Meteor Crater and the Grand Canyon.

“To me, the Grand Canyon is the Holy Grail of geology,” de Wet said. “You go there and your mind just opens up because 2 billion years of geologic history is laid out in front of you.”

With the Eagles’ “Take it Easy” as their driving song (yes, they stopped in Winslow, Ariz.), the group traveled in two vans from Albuquerque westward. The trip’s overall theme was based on the professor’s planetary geology class that he broke into three parts.

“We talked about impacts as major geological forces when we went to Meteor Crater; water processes and deposition of sediments at the Grand Canyon; and volcanic processes, which was evident at many stops along the way,” de Wet said. “Water and the human occupation of the American Southwest was a recurring theme we discussed as well.”

View a brief photo essay of their geological journey:

  • Students break for a snack on the 4,000-year-old McCarty’s Lava Flow in New Mexico's El Malpais National Monument. They mapped and examined an inflated lava flow, similar to some lava flows on Mars. Students break for a snack on the 4,000-year-old McCarty’s Lava Flow in New Mexico's El Malpais National Monument. They mapped and examined an inflated lava flow, similar to some lava flows on Mars. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • “On the corner” in Winslow, Ariz., provided students historical and cultural significance. “On the corner” in Winslow, Ariz., provided students historical and cultural significance. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • View of Meteor Crater near Winslow, the result of an asteroid impact 40,000 years ago. It is the best-preserved impact crater on the earth, according to de Wet. It was used to train Apollo astronauts, and is studied to understand impact processes on Earth and other planets. View of Meteor Crater near Winslow, the result of an asteroid impact 40,000 years ago. It is the best-preserved impact crater on the earth, according to de Wet. It was used to train Apollo astronauts, and is studied to understand impact processes on Earth and other planets. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • The Citadel at Wupatki National Monument in Arizona, one of the many settlement sites built by the ancient Pueblo People sometime after 500 A.D. The population of the area was heavily influenced by the eruption of Sunset Crater in the 11th century. The Citadel at Wupatki National Monument in Arizona, one of the many settlement sites built by the ancient Pueblo People sometime after 500 A.D. The population of the area was heavily influenced by the eruption of Sunset Crater in the 11th century. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • Students at the summit of S P Crater in the San Francisco volcanic field just north of Flagstaff, Ariz. Notice the agglutinated rim that protects the structure. Seated from left: seniors Shelby Sawyer and Morgan Torstenson. Behind them: seniors Jared Brush and Grace Ni. In the background: seniors Ryan Ulrich and Kevin Cerna. Students at the summit of S P Crater in the San Francisco volcanic field just north of Flagstaff, Ariz. Notice the agglutinated rim that protects the structure. Seated from left: seniors Shelby Sawyer and Morgan Torstenson. Behind them: seniors Jared Brush and Grace Ni. In the background: seniors Ryan Ulrich and Kevin Cerna. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • At the Desert View overlook of the Grand Canyon National Park. At the Desert View overlook of the Grand Canyon National Park. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • View of the Grand Canyon from the park’s Navajo Point. Left to right: Morgan Torstenson, Shelby Sawyer and Emily Wilson, research lab manager and technician in F&M’s Department of Earth & Environment, who was the trip’s co-leader. View of the Grand Canyon from the park’s Navajo Point. Left to right: Morgan Torstenson, Shelby Sawyer and Emily Wilson, research lab manager and technician in F&M’s Department of Earth & Environment, who was the trip’s co-leader. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • Northward view of the Grand Canyon from near Mather Point. The Bright Angel Canyon and Phantom Ranch extend farther north in the background. Northward view of the Grand Canyon from near Mather Point. The Bright Angel Canyon and Phantom Ranch extend farther north in the background. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
  • De Wet at the top of the canyon’s South Kaibab Trail. All the students hiked part of the trail from the canyon rim. Two students hiked down to the Colorado River that snakes along the floor of the canyon, a five-hour round trip with an elevation change of 4,860 feet. Distance from rim to river is 6.3 miles. De Wet at the top of the canyon’s South Kaibab Trail. All the students hiked part of the trail from the canyon rim. Two students hiked down to the Colorado River that snakes along the floor of the canyon, a five-hour round trip with an elevation change of 4,860 feet. Distance from rim to river is 6.3 miles. Image Credit: Emily Wilson
  • Mule train on the South Kaibab trail. Mule train on the South Kaibab trail. Image Credit: Andrew de Wet
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