NSF Funding Allows Geology Chair Arlo Weil and Students to Study Andes Mountains

Posted April 30th, 2014 at 2:36 pm.


Professor Arlo Weil, chair of the Geology department, and long-time colleague Adolph Yonkee of Weber State University have received approximately $325,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation that will allow them to study the tectonic and deformation history of the portion of the Andes mountains found in Argentina.

Much of the funding from the three-year grant will go toward allowing Bryn Mawr students to work with Weil on the research both in the field and in the lab.

Approximately two students a year will travel to the Mendoza region of Argentina with Weil to collect oriented samples and make field measurements that will be brought back to the Bryn Mawr campus for analysis.  Students will learn advanced field techniques, collect and analyze multiple data sets, integrate their data with larger objectives, engage in international collaborative efforts, and communicate results at scientific meetings and through publications, thus learning a number of fundamental skills.

“This type of international field work will enhance the skills and learning of the involved Bryn Mawr student through the sharing of diverse geologic experiences and exposure to different cultural backgrounds,” says Weil

Geology major Christine Newville ’15 will accompany Weil and Yonkee in the field for three weeks in August of this summer.  Upon her return, Newville will processes and analyze the collected samples in the Bryn Mawr paleomagnetism lab.  This preliminary sampling trip will ultimately become the focus of her senior thesis project.

Weil and Yonkee have done similar research involving the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming.

The pair hopes their research will help improve the understanding of the seismic risks in the area.

Though the main focus of Weil’s research is to better understand the dynamic link between tectonic subduction and mountain building, some of the collected data will be used to enhance public awareness of the regional seismic hazards.

For example, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurred in 1861 on the La Cal fault, which destroyed the old city of Mendoza, Argentina and resulted in more than 6000 deaths, half the city’s population. Today more than a million people inhabit the new Mendoza, which was rebuilt over the still active La Cal fault.

Bryn Mawr’s Geology Department combines physics and biology, chemistry and math in the interdisciplinary study of the Earth and the environment. Emphasis is placed on the importance of field work in learning to understand and manage our physical environment. The department’s faculty members and several affiliates teach courses and conduct research in areas that include invertebrate paleontology, sedimentology, mineralogy and petrology, structural geology, tectonics, and geophysics.

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