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Michigan Technological University

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building

1400 Townsend Dr., Houghton, MI  44931-1295  

phone: 906.487.2531  fax: 906.487.3371



Updated Nov 2009


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IN THE FIELD 01/09  Early this year, Luke Bowman moved to the community of Los Planes de La Laguna, El Salvador to work with the community that was partially destroyed by the 2005 eruption of Santa Ana.  As planned, he will be there for 6 months working alongside 3 different NGOs and community groups to assess people’s risk perceptions and levels of disaster preparedness.  Completing his field work by July 2009, it will form the basis for his thesis, “Integrated Study of Risk Perception in the Community of Los Planes de La Laguna on Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador”.

Luke interviews members of the Los Planes de La Laguna to gain insight into their memories of the 2005 volcanic eruption.

IN THE NEWS 04/09  Read Professor John Gierke’s interview in a  feature on LiveScience.com. The ScienceLive series, in cooperation with the National Science Foundation, "puts scientists under the microscope to find out what makes them tick."


Rudiger Escobar Wolf’s research earned him a spot in the recent edition of Michigan Tech’s Research Magazine (scroll down the page for article), and he was recently profiled by Tech’s graduate school. His work focuses on devising meteorological forecasting tools that will better prepare hazard agencies and communities mitigate volcanic risks.



STUDENT PROFILED  05/09  Jill Bruning, a MS student who  finished her degree last August is currently featured in a “Behind the Scenes” article on LiveScience.com. In the article, she describes the reasons for focusing her research on ways to improve techniques for exploring water resources in difficult terrains, such as those found in central Nicaragua. She has also been nominated for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award.

DEFENSE 04/09  Karinne Knutsen, a PCMI student who served in Panama, defended her thesis, “La Yeguada Volcanic Complex: An Assessment of Hazards Using New Ar40/Ar39 Ages”. Dating minerals from lava flows and mapping of the region will help characterize the eruptive history of the volcanic complex. She is now working for the U.S. Forest Service in the Minerals Management Program.

NEW GRAD STUDENTS 09/09  Two new MS students, Carla Alonso and Anieri Morales, and 3 new PCMI students, Nicole McMahon, Alex Michels, and Edrick Ramos  arrived on campus this September. Carla, Anieri, and Edrick are recent graduates of University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez. Nicole completed her BS at the University of Oklahoma and Alex finished his undergraduate degree here at Michigan Tech.

DEFENSE 08/09  Adam Blankenbicker, of the first cohort of PCMI students beginning in 2005, defended his thesis, Detailed Characterization of Small Vulcanian Explosions at Santiaguito Volcano, Guatemala through Video Observation and Velocity Analysis. Adam used video analysis to constrain probable eruption rates by measuring velocity, height and plume dimensions through time.

NEW COLLOQUIUM 09/09  A 6-hour webconference colloquium offered on Sept 9 and 10 at MTU focused on Quantitative and Qualitative Survey Methods and Applications in the Developing World. 60 students, faculty and researchers in attended the colloquium, which highlighted several of the program’s MS and PhD students employing surveys in their research on volcanic hazard mitigation and natural resources. Recorded sessions and more information is available at the colloquium website.

Carla photo.JPG

Top:       (L-R) Carla Alonso, Anieri Morales, Alex Michels, Edrick Ramos

Bottom: Nicole McMahon

Michels photo.JPG

MS DEFENSE 10/09  Luke Bowman successfully defended his MS thesis, entitled, “Use of qualitative data to analyze community perceptions of a non-governmental organization's (NGO) impact on disaster preparedness in Los Planes de La Laguna, Santa Ana volcano, El Salvador.” His research was based on an intense 6 month field season living in the community of Los Planes.

GSA CONFERENCE 10/09  With several oral presentations, posters, and a recruiting booth, students and faculty well represented our group at the GSA annual conference in Portland Oregon (Oct 18-21, 2009). Three faculty (Bill Rose, Greg Waite and Simon Carn) and nine students (Luke Bowman, Patty Cobin, Mari Dalton, Julie Herrick, John Lyons, Tricia Nadeau, Essa Paterson, Steph Tubman, and recent alumna Anna Colvin) presented their research ranging from volcanic hazards and risk perception to groundwater monitoring. Abstracts can be found in the GSA technical program.

Luke Bowman aided El Salvador’s SNET in monitoring Santa Ana’s crater lake.

TEACHING ‘PEACE CORPS STYLE’ 10/09  This year’s PCMI students and some MS students got first hand experience teaching local junior high school science classes about geology. Sara Beiring and Deb Sage’s classrooms offered our students the opportunity to impart participatory lessons in true-Peace Corps style (meaning no computers, few photocopies, lots of group work). The resource limitations did not put a damper on fun, though - many of the lessons relied on games, hands-on activities, and class competitions.

Eduardo Cabret leads a discussion on the ring of fire.

PROGRAM FEATURED IN EARTH 09/09  “At first glance it seems an obvious solution to a problem…” starts the article written about the Peace Corps Master’s International component of our program published in the August edition of Earth magazine. The article takes us from the beginning of the program, started in 2005 by Bill Rose, and outlines the advances in geoscience students have made as part of the program.

ATT STUDENTS IN ECUADOR 11/09 Working in conjunction with Ph D student Miriam Rios-Sanchez, five students spent 11 days in a field campaign using geophysics to aid in the delineation of the Quito aquifer system - a complex fractured aquifer. Miriam, the ATT students, and several students from the Escuela Politécnica Nacional hope not only to illuminate this specific aquifer, but to improve methods for aquifer characterization. Find out more about the work on the ATT blog.