2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


COCKBURN, Jaclyn, Geology, Union College, 807 Union St, Schenectady, NY 12308 and GARVER, John, Geology Department, Union College, Olin Building, Schenectady, NY 12308-2311, cockburj@union.edu

“Living on the Edge” is a field-based course focused on natural hazards where plates collide. The course is a three-week, stand-alone mini-term at Union College. In this third offering of the course, we focused on seismic and volcanic hazards in Alaska. Alaska is excellent for such an excursion because it is logistically simple and has had several recent seismic events. We had two key field regions. The first included Kodiak, the Kenai Peninsula, and Cordova. Here, we focused on the near-surface effects of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, which included understanding tsunami deposits and the geologic record of uplift and subsidence. One focal point in this region was the extensive damage to roads and buildings by several different processes in Kodiak, Seward, Valdez, and Cordova. The second region was centered on the Denali fault and the Central Alaska Range. One focal point in this region was the seismically readied Trans-Alaskan pipeline, which was well-designed to withstand the shaking that it experienced in the 2002 event. In the field we have several specific objectives including measuring section, mapping on air photos, and classifying geomorphic features in the landscape. Our overall goal is to get students to understand the plate tectonic framework of this setting and to see how society mitigates hazards related to this plate setting. The course has been designed to attract and retain majors in geology and environmental science. As such we actively encourage and recruit promising freshman and sophomores to consider taking the course, so an important challenge is to keep the level of discourse understandable to first-year students, but with enough depth to engage the senior majors. Several aspects of this experience resonated well with the students. The students respond well to the experience partly because the science is applied and they see the relevance of what they are studying. They are excited to apply previous knowledge from the classroom and to see firsthand what they have studied. Finally, we chronicled the trip with a blog (lote2007.blogspot.com) that connected parents to the field experience so that they could see the excitement of discovery and learning.