Geologist’s Grant Offers Bryn Mawr Students Several Research Opportunities, Including a Trip to the Arctic

Posted November 17th, 2011 at 1:10 pm.

elkinsTwo Bryn Mawr students will have the chance to join Geology Lecturer Lynne Elkins on a trip to the waters north of Iceland next summer as Elkins and her fellow researchers try to better understand volcanic activity in the area. The researchers plan to explore the mechanisms driving the production of new ocean crust occurring at volcanic mid-ocean ridges like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, and also to help explain anomalous volcanic activity occurring in the region.

The trip is funded by a National Science Foundation grant Elkins and colleagues from the University of Wyoming received this summer to explore volcanic activity in a segment of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge known as the Eggvin Bank.

Those who go on the trip will spend three weeks at sea in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Iceland with researchers from Germany’s University of Mainz Institute of Geosciences, who are also working on the project.

“Going to sea is a great experience for students. You end up involved in everyone else’s projects because there are only so many hands on board so everybody helps out with everything,” Elkins says.

While on the ship, the researchers will be mapping bathymetry with a new, high-resolution automated underwater vehicle (AUV) and collecting samples by dredging the seafloor from the research vessel.

“We’ll be using the AUV to do better resolution mapping of the area than has ever been done in the past,” says Elkins. “The existing maps are pretty low-resolution, which makes it difficult to accurately sample lava flows.”

Elkins already has samples from the adjacent Mohns Ridge to the north, and nearby Jan Mayen Island, which she’s currently analyzing.

“All of these areas are a little bit strange in terms of their geochemistry, so we want to compare them to each other as well as the surrounding ridge system,” says Elkins.

Elkins’ research builds upon previous work that was recently published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, the journal of the Geochemical Society and the Meteoritical Society.

While some of the analysis of the current samples from Mohns Ridge and and Jan Mayen Island and the samples being collected next summer will take place in Bryn Mawr’s new geochemistry suite and clean lab research facility, parts of the research will be done with Elkins’  colleague and co-principal investigator Ken Sims at the University of Wyoming. Elkins plans to involve Bryn Mawr students in that part of the project as well.

“This project provides several opportunities for students interested in doing geologic and geochemical research as part of an independent study, a senior thesis, or summer research project. Depending on how soon a student gets involved and how the research goes, we could even take a trip to Wyoming early next summer before the trip to Iceland,” says Elkins. “There will be several trips to Wyoming, so there’s a lot of room for student projects of varying length and involvement.”

Students interested in conducting research with Elkins can contact her via email.

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