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Rock Doc column: Clues lead to source of huge eruption
October 29, 2013

By E. Kirsten Peters, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

Peters-e-k-2010-80PULLMAN, Wash. – When I was a child, I read a lot of murder mysteries. At a young age I favored the books featuring Miss Marple by Agatha Christie. When I was a bit older I fell in love with Lord Peter Wimsey in the books by Dorothy Sayers.

Stalagmites speak of climate history
July 16, 2013

PULLMAN, Wash. – Caves fascinate people. I visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico as a kid when my family was on a summer vacation. Maybe that early exposure to the wonders of what geologic processes can do helped influence my decision to study natural science in college.

With any luck, you’ve been in a big cave at some point, and maybe you’ve exposed a kid or two to the wonders of these sometimes enormous holes in the rocky rind of our planet.

Some of the interesting features of certain caves are the column-like attributes that … » More …

Science abounds when cruising through Alaskan landscapes
July 9, 2013

kirsten peters, rock docEach year at this time thousands of tourists embark on cruises along Alaska stunning coastal waters. If they are lucky, the tourists experience dry weather, relatively calm seas and breathtaking vistas. In some places the ships can get up close and personal to dramatic scenes of glaciers “calving” ice that breaks off and falls into the ocean.

Although I’ve hiked up to glaciers in the Rockies and walked across them, I’ve never seen them entering the sea. I’d like to do that and have the notion recorded on my “bucket … » More …

Researcher journeys to the bottom of the Earth
November 15, 2010

The mountains of Antarctica, lying several thousand feet below the ice, as detected by radar.  Image courtesy of Michael Studinger, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory


Geologist Jeff Vervoort with a 1.86-billion-year-old piece of gneiss he found near Clarkia, Idaho, typical of the rocks at the core of the ancient supercontinent of Rodinia.

Jeff Vervoort’s research is running hot and cold, in a good way.

Last week, he contributed to a paper in Science showing tropical rain forest biological diversity went up, not down, during a period of global … » More …

Riches unearthed in the midst of war
August 5, 2010



PULLMAN – Some geologists are heroes.


That was the thought that came to my mind when I read of what Afghan geologists had done during the long and difficult time the Taliban had run their country.


Even without real hope they might ever do geology again, but with fears about what might happen at any time to the reports of previous geological mapping work, the Afghan geologists took the records home to preserve them. When the dust of the American invasion had settled and the Afghan … » More …

New microprobe hones detail
February 6, 2009

John Wolff looks at the microprobe computer screen to view an analysis of a rock

sample. (Photos by Becky Phillips, WSU Today)



Nick Foit holding a garnet crystal.

The geologists had warned them — but people were still caught off guard when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. The ferocity of that explosion went beyond all predictions and killed 57 people. Today, in a quiet laboratory on the WSU Pullman campus, John Wolff is developing an early warning system to monitor volcanoes capable of spewing a thousand times … » More …

Demonstration explores the mechanics of volcanoes
February 14, 2007

(Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services).Several volcano eruptions were witnessed on campus recently. Water volcanoes that is…Geology students watched simulations of how a volcano’s pressure builds up and releases energy, sending a trail of water about 30 feet high in the air. According to Kurt Wilkie, an instructor in the Geology department, Geology 101 uses the water volcano to demonstrate why composite volcanoes like Mount St. Helen’s or Mount Rainier have pyroclastic style eruptions.Magmas generated at convergent plate boundaries contain dissolved gasses and as the magmas rise the gasses are released from the molten rock. The magma and overlying volcano are unable to slowly release the gas, much … » More …