Exploring volcanoes: Mount Lassen, Lava Beds & Crater Lake

TULELAKE, CA – Students from the Geology of California (GEOS 61) course explored some of the most striking geologic features of northern California and southern Oregon on a late-September four-day field trip led by Dr. Kurtis Burmeister. The group started by learning about the formation and significance of Table Mountain near Oroville, then headed up the Feather River Valley to investigate the exposed metamorphic rocks and granodiorite plutons. During the second half of the day, the group examined how high-viscosity felsic lavas create stratovolcanoes that violently erupt into pyroclastic debris flows at Lassen Volcanic National Park, where the group camped for the night. On the second day, the caravan proceeded to Lava Beds National Monument to explore how the low-viscosity mafic lavas erupted from the Medicine Lake volcanic field to create not only broad shield volcanoes, but also lava tubes (into several of which the class intrepidly descended) and cinder cone volcanoes (one of which about half the class awoke before daybreak to ascend and watch the sunrise). The group camped at Lava Beds on the second and third nights of the trip, and, in between, paid a visit to Crater Lake National Park for a vivid look at just how catastrophic a high-viscosity felsic eruption can be. Jaw dropping in its beauty, Crater Lake is the remains of Mount Mazama, a stratovocano that completely obliterated itself in a cataclysmic eruption about 7,700 years ago. On the final day of the trip, the group was afforded spectacular views of Mount Shasta en route back to Stockton.

For the past five years, Dr. Burmeister has been accompanied on the trip by Dr. Ty Raterman (Department of Philosophy). This year, Drs. Burmeister and Raterman worked together to incorporate multidisciplinary exercises in which the students used their time in the field as a springboard for reflecting on the concept of nature and in turn on the relationship between naturalness and morality. The trip was further enhanced by the presence of Juan Contreras and Andrew Ostendorf, economic geologists fromNewmont Mining Corporation. In addition to talking with students about some of the significant professional opportunities available to recent graduates with a B.S. in Geology, Juan and Andrew shared their knowledge about how the same igneous processes that lead to volcanic eruptions can lead to the concentration of economically considerable deposits of gold, silver, and copper ores. Teaching assistants Nikki Mainwaring,Brittany Klemm, and Christina Colburn were an immense help with driving and campsite logistics. With gorgeous weather, gourmet meals including Japanese curried vegetables over rice and berry cobblers cooked in a dutch oven for dessert, a warm campfire each night, and not a single wrong turn by the caravan’s lead vehicle, the trip could hardly have gone better!

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