Montana State University

Tip Sheet: MSU findings on Mount St. Helens, other topics to be presented this month

November 1, 2004 -- from MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
NOTE TO EDITORS: Several Montana State University researchers will present their findings at the 116th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. The Nov. 7-10 meeting in Denver is expected to draw 6,200 geoscientists. Some topics that may interest you are listed below. Please contact the MSU News Service at (406) 994-5135 for abstracts and additional contact information.

Old crystals found at Mount St. Helens

Most scientists thought the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens broke up the crystallized rind around the magma channel and that later eruptions contained pieces of the rind. Jennifer Detwiler found differently, however. Detwiler, an undergraduate student at Montana State University, used an electron microprobe at Oregon State University to examine samples of the magma from the lava dome. She found that foreign crystals in the magma did not come from the rind, but from a much older source. Her results were supported in an independent study by the U.S. Geological Survey, said Todd Feeley, associate professor of earth sciences at MSU. Detwiler, Feeley, doctoral student Sandra Underwood and others from MSU flew into the crater during the summer of 2003 to collect samples for the study. They returned to the site during the summer of 2004 before volcanic activity closed the crater to researchers.

Jennifer A. Detwiler, et al. "Disaggregation of Plutonic Inclusions in Mount St. Helens Dacitic Rocks Erupted from 1980 Through 1986." A copy of Detwiler's abstract is available from Evelyn Boswell at (406) 994-5135 or

Geologists and students get locked out of field sites

Good geological field sites can be hard to find, and changes in land ownership and management practices are making access to some classic sites even harder to obtain. "It's hugely important," argued MSU geology professor David Mogk, that field experiences in the form of day trips, regional excursions and field camps remain open to students. But increasingly, as private land changes hands and get subdivided, geologists and their students are being denied access to traditional sites. Even running field programs on federal land has become more difficult owing to new regulatory guidelines. Mogk is issuing a "call to arms" to the geological community to begin working to expand access before it's too late. For one, geologists must start talking with private landowners about the educational value of geologic features on their land and cultivate good landowner relations. For another, geologists must develop a heightened sense of stewardship of these places and leave a light footprint when visiting.

David Mogk, "Access to Field Sites: A Growing Concern for Geoscience Education." A copy of Mogk's abstract is available from Annette Trinity-Stevens at (406) 994-5607 or

Geology's effect on health often overlooked

The relationship between geology and human health is often overlooked in undergraduate classes. To make up for that, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers' held an On the Cutting Edge Workshop on Geology and Human Health in May at Chico Hot Springs in Montana. The workshop included a trip to the Butte-Silver Bow Superfund Site and resulted in a collection of resources for teachers of introductory and core undergraduate classes. The material can be used by the general public, as well. Teachers will continue developing online resources, and scientists are invited to join them. The website that describes the workshop is located at: Presenting the information at the 2004 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America will be Jen Millner, former undergraduate student at Montana State University and now a research associate at MSU.

J.R. Millner, et al. "Web-based Resources for Teaching Geology and Human Health." A copy of Millner's abstract is available from Evelyn Boswell at (406) 994-5135 or

Using the web to teach about the earth

Virtual field trips, especially when held before a traditional field trip, improved how well students learned geologic concepts. Online resources, especially organized by theme such as "Yellowstone National Park" can help students research some of geology's big questions. And making the geologic "data stream" more user friendly helps prepare students to tackle complex, real-world problems when they graduate and get jobs. MSU geology professor David Mogk and others from MSU are presenting information on these and other projects they've undertaken to harness and improve online resource for the benefit of today's cyber-savvy geology students.

Copies of related abstracts are available from Annette Trinity-Stevens at (406) 994-5607 or

Annette Trinity-Stevens (406) 994-5607, Evenly Boswell (406) 994-5135