Posted by: magmatist | April 7, 2013

MBVRC awards research grants for 2013

Three graduate students will receive research funding in 2013 from Mount Baker Volcano Research Center’s grant funds.

The students are Mai Sas and Ricardo Escobar at Western Washington University’s Geology Department, and Ian Delaney of the Department of Geoscience at Central Washington University. Ian’s study will focus on the role of atmospheric dust (including soot) on rates of glacier melt at Mount Baker- this project could serve as a baseline study for possible environmental impacts of the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal facility. Mai and Ricardo will each investigate different aspects of andesite lava flow geochemistry with the goal of better explaining the evolution and source for the erupted magma. Each student will receive $667. Funds come from your generous donations, T-shirt sales, and fees paid to attend MBVRC’s geology field trips. Please support our research program with your donations. Watch for reports from each student as research continues.

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Ian Delaney

Ian Delaney. Click to enlarge any image on this page.

Ian Delaney is a graduate student at Central Washington University; his thesis advisor is Professor Susan Kaspari. His thesis research focuses on light absorbing impurities (LAI) in snow in the Pacific Northwest, with particular interest in black carbon (soot). These particles result from the incomplete combustion of fossil and bio-fuels. When deposited on the snow surface, these particulates absorb solar radiation and accelerate snowmelt, which contribute to glacial retreat in the region. During summer 2013, Ian will collect snow samples at Mount Baker to be analyzed for dust and soot content. These data will determine the seasonal variability and spatial distribution of LAI on the mountain, and help assess the contribution of LAI to glacial retreat. The study has particular relevance to residents of northwest Washington. Construction of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point could produce large amounts of dark coal dust and lies proximal to and upwind of Mount Baker. Collecting baseline data before the facility is put to use could help determine the potential environmental impacts of the facility; the associated dust not only could influence air quality and health in the region, but also affect regional hydrology and hasten glacial retreat by increasing LAI, and accelerating snowmelt.

Photo courtesy I. Delaney.

Footprints made 24 hours prior to the photo are raised roughly 3 cm, showing preferential melt on the dust-covered snow due to albedo reduction. Mount Rainier, September 2012. Photo: Delaney

Ian plans to collect dust samples from glacier surfaces all around Mount Baker, as well as a vertical transect up the length of the  Easton, from terminus to the summit. The composition of the dust will be analysed using the Single Particle Soot Photometer at CWU. This will help determine the proportion of soot from air pollution on the glacier.

Ian graduated from Whitman College in 2010 with a B. A. in  Geology. He has participated in numerous projects determining mass balance on Cascade glaciers and the effect of glacial retreat on Mount Rainier river systems. Read Ian’s plan of study here: Delaney proposal

Ricardo Escobar

Ricardo Escobar

Ricardo Escobar will conduct a geochemical study of Mount Baker’s most voluminous eruptive products, the intermediate (andesitic) lava flows, in an attempt to determine the origins of these  magmas. His thesis advisor is Professor Sue DeBari at WWU. Ricardo will collect at least 30 rock samples from four separate lavas flows in the Baker volcanic field. Previous students at WWU have investigated the evolution of mafic (basaltic) and silicic (dacitic) lavas at Mount Baker. Ricardo will have to locate and then sample lava flow exposures at Dobbs Creek, Dobbs Cleaver, Swift Creek and Coleman Pinnacle (Hildreth and others, 2003; see references below). Some of these will require considerable cross-country travel. Ricardo’s results will bear on the larger global question of andesite genesis in arcs. Do andesites represent an intermediate liquid step along a fractionation sequence from basalt to dacite, or do they represent mixtures of crystals and liquid from distinct sources? Can andesite further fractionate to produce more felsic compositions?

Ricardo will samle the circled lava units. Map from Hildreth, 2003.

Ricardo will sample the circled lava units. Map from Hildreth, 2003.

Ricardo has a B.S. in Geology from California State University, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate he traveled to Ecuador to participate in the collection and analyses of volcano lavas to better understand their petrogenetic history. He says that his undergraduate advisor, Jennifer Garrison, “took me under her wing and taught me the steps needed to analyze the geochemistry of rocks and from then on I was hooked. I didn’t know at first if petrology was what I was interested in. After taking igneous petrology and volcanology as an undergraduate I found myself itching to know more in the field of petrology.”

Read Ricardo’s grant proposal here: Escobar proposal

Mai Sas

Mai Sas

Mai Sas is also a student of Dr. DeBari at WWU. Mai will undertake a geochemical study of high-magnesium andesite rocks from both Mount Baker and Glacier Peak in an effort to strengthen hypotheses on the origin of these peculiar rocks. The origin of high-Mg andesites (HMAs) poses a fundamental geochemical paradox given their unusually high Mg# (the ratio of Mg to (Mg+Fe)), indicating chemical equilibrium with olivine in the mantle, and their overall andesitic SiO2 content, which is typical of crust-differentiated magmas. Does the magma that gives rise to these lavas originate in the mantle or in the crust? If a mantle origin is borne out, is the ultimate source of these magmas due to subduction temperatures high enough to melt the subducting ocean slab?

Andesite lava at Lightning Creek, south of Glacier Peak.

Andesite lava at Lightning Creek, south of Glacier Peak.

She will study the chemistry of phenocrysts (large mineral crystals) in rocks collected from Tarn Plateau and Glacier Creek at Mount Baker, and Lightning Creek south of Glacier Peak. Geochemical analyses obtained by electron microprobe at University of Washington, and computer modeling, will provide the basis of Mai’s research.

Mai was born and raised in Israel and moved to the US was she 14. She earned her B.S. in Geology and a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2012. She says that “igneous petrology intrigued me as an undergraduate. I enjoyed all aspects of it (physical and geochemical, especially concerning volcanic rocks), so I decided to strive for a M.S. in volcanology. I also really enjoy economic geology, and deposits that are tied with magmatic activity.” Read Mai’s full research proposal here: Sas proposal


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