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Geosciences METRO Center


Student: Gerardo Torrez

Major: Geology

Advisor: Dr. Keith Putirka

Area: Igneous Geochemistry/Metamorphic Petrology

Graduate School: California State University, Fresno

This is our first METRO student who finished with us, completed his Masters and has his first real job!!

Jerry is now working at Weatherford Laboratories in Houston, Texas. They specialize in core recovery and Jerry is involved in the quantitative analysis of rocks, soils, and clays; ranging from bulk quantities to trace quantity.

He provided this description of Weatherford from their website: 

Weatherford Laboratories is engaged in all facets of rock and fluid analysis for the purpose of evaluating hydrocarbon resources around the world. Our services include core retrieval, analysis and management; geochemical assessments; unconventional reservoir evaluation; and, consulting and engineering services. Additionally, we have developed a wealth of proprietary instrumentation and software in the constant pursuit of more accurate data. With locations on six continents, Weatherford Laboratories provides laboratory services to every major oil and gas producer and is experienced in all play types, on and offshore. Our purpose is to provide precise data coupled with expert interpretation to help you optimize oil and gas production. In an industry where insight and experience are paramount, Weatherford Laboratories stands alone. Among our ranks are several luminaries of the industry whose cutting-edge work has transformed conventional thinking about oil and gas reservoirs. Our team includes several highly respected scientists who have authored hundreds of technical papers. Taken together, our geologists, engineers and technicians offer thousands of years of experience in virtually every hydrocarbon-related science, with multiple advanced degrees and scientific awards to support analytical judgments. What's possible when the best people handle your project? The best people deliver the best analysis. And the best analysis leads to less risk and more reward. It's that simple. At Weatherford Laboratories, we are committed to Higher Standards. Our accomplishments include 50 new technologies, 45 original products, 35 industry awards, and 13 registered patents. We count 3 Distinguished Lecturers among us and we can claim some 982 technical papers on our resume. But those statistics are simply the outward reflection of an internal attitude. Inside Weatherford Laboratories, we nurture an entrepreneurial spirit because it leads to fresh thinking and innovation. We seek out the best minds in the industry for our team. We implement the best tools and technologies to deliver superior science. We encourage proactive problem-solving and superior customer service. Above all, we foster a culture where excellence is the only option. Excellence has led to a client roster that includes every major oil and gas player around the world, a role in countless major projects, dozens of successful completions around the world, and 24/7 reliability. Weatherford has 38 laboratories in 22 different countries and opened their doors to the new Geologic Center of Excellence in July of 2009. The facility offers expanded laboratory services as well as a state of the art training center available to clients for core workshops.

 Alaina Wood

Student: Alaina Wood

Major: Geology

Advisor: Dr. Keith Putirka

Areas: Igneous Petrology, Geochemistry

Volcanoes have been a curiosity to man for millennia. Studying volcanoes goes back to ancient Rome, but we still do not know nearly enough about what makes a volcano tick. Mixing conditions are one important aspect that helps us understand volcanoes. Mount Lassen is one of few active volcanoes located in California. Because it has erupted recently, between 1914 and 1917, most of the eruption is still on the surface and not poorly weathered. It not only erupted ash with andesite, but it also erupted a small volume of dacite. Previous work (Clynne 1998) concluded that the dacite and andesite underwent mixing to some degree (but not fully) while inside the magma chamber.

After collecting and preparing multiple samples from Lassen's 1914-1917 eruption, I will be analyzing their geochemistry and determining the temperature and pressure at which the minerals in the samples formed using equations and methods found in Volume 69 of Reviews in mineralogy and Geochemistry, Minerals, Inclusions and Volcanic Processes. This information will give us a better understanding of the conditions of this volcano, and may lead to insight to the conditions leading up to or during its eruption.

METRO is helping me achieve goals I never could have imagined without it. It is giving me more keys to success and helping ensure a brighter future for me. Being in a science major, research skills are invaluable if you want to succeed or get ahead. Without METRO, I would not be participating in research or learning such important applications to what has already been taught in class and in textbooks. It brings on a whole new level of education.

Michael Farner

Student: Michael Farner

Major: Geology

Project Advisors: Dr. Christopher Pluhar and Dr. Keith Putirka

Areas: Igneous Petrology, Tectonics, Structural Geology,Paleomagnetism

I have been involved in a number of projects in igneous petrology and plate tectonics. Below is a brief description of each project I participated in while in METRO in order of completion.

Magma mixing at Chaos Crags in Lassen Volcanic National Park: Magma mixing has long been overlooked as a dominant mechanism by which igneous rocks form. However there is abundant evidence which shows that mixing is perhaps responsible for many rocks of intermediate composition we observe on the surface of the Earth. Chaos Crags is unique in that it shows magma mixing in the context of eruptive processes. We intend to better understand the timescale of mixing events at Chaos Crags in order to examine the role of mixing in magma differentiation of igneous rocks. We plan to do this by means of petrographic textural analyses and whole rock geochemistry. (with Dr. Putirka)

Deformation in the Walker Lane Belt in eastern California and western Nevada: By quantifying deformation in this region we hope to provide a better constraint on the motion of fault blocks and possible implications for larger scale tectonic processes. To facilitate this investigation we are focusing on volcanic and sedimentary rocks of the Stanislaus Group. Some methods being utilized include GPS tracking and computer modeling, 40Ar/39Ar geochronology, whole rock and trace element geochemistry, and paleomagnetic studies. By using all of these techniques we hope to understand in more detail the nature of faulting and tectonism in Walker Lane and provide further constraint on fault block motions. (with Dr. Pluhar)

Other projects: Magnetostratigraphy, geochronology, and petrology of the type section of the Stanislaus Group, Petrology of a portion of the Pine Flat Intrusive Zone, Geochemistry of some lavas from Coso Volcanic Field.

METRO has helped me a great deal in my research pursuits. By funding my various projects it has allowed my ideas to develop on several geological topics and served as a way for me to further develop my research skills. I will be attending Rice University beginning Summer 2012 as a doctoral student in igneous petrology and geochemistry within the Department of Earth Science.

Rachel Prohoroff

Student: Rachel Prohoroff

Major: Geology

Supervisor: Dr. John Wakabayashi

Area: Structural Geology and Tectonics

Previous research has determined that the Franciscan Complex, located along the western margin of North America, represents the trench and accretionary wedge portion of an ancient arc-trench subduction system active from 159-163 million years ago (Ma) until 80-90 Ma. Several possible origins and modes of rock exhumation have been proposed for sheets of serpentinite, hydrothermally altered volcanic rock commonly found in the Franciscan Complex. The purpose of the current study is to determine the origin, structural relationships, and possible exhumation modes of fault-bounded serpentinite sheets in the Franciscan Complex near Fairfax, Marin County, California. Rachel is conducting detailed field research and petrographic and radiometric analysis of rock samples to characterize rock types and ages within the field area. In addition, she will prepare a detailed geologic map and cross sections of the field area to explore structural relationships of serpentinite sheets with other Franciscan Complex units in the project area. Rachel will present her research at the 2010 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting (October-November 2010). After earning her undergraduate degree in Spring 2011, Rachel plans to pursue a master's degree in structural geology and tectonics. METRO has provided Rachel with valuable resume and interview advice, as well as information about graduate schools and the graduate school experience.

Elizabeth Davidson

Student: Elizabeth Davidson

Major: Environmental Science

Supervisor: Dr. Fraka Harmsen & Dr. Peter Van de Water

Area: Marine Geology

Ammodytes hexapterus, common name sand lance, is an ecologically important forage fish that supports over 100 species of consumers, including birds, marine mammals, and fish. Previously, only a small amount of research has been dedicated to this species and therefore little is known about A. hexapterus, such as where they are located and what type of substrate they prefer to live in. The focus area for this project is the San Juan Islands in Northern Washington. Using multibeam bathymetry previously collected in the area, I will look at the located of sand wave fields, which have been shown to be where sand lance prefer to live. For sediment analysis, I will determine the grain size distribution of sediment samples collected in a sand wave field in the San Juan Channel and compare them to sediment samples I collected in several other locations around the islands. The data will be used to create a GIS map showing the distribution of sediment types in the wave fields. I am hoping to present this project in a poster format within the next year.

The METRO program has introduced me to the research world of geosciences and has provided me with direction for an emphasis in my major. My plan for after graduation is to continue my education in graduate school and eventually earn a Ph.D.

Thomas Shelton

Student: Thomas Shelton

Major: Geography

Advisor: Dr. Segun Ogunjemiyo

Area: Atmospheric Science

The research that I have been involved in with the METRO program has given me an understanding of atmospheric compounds and their temporal and spatial variability. This research included being involved in multiple aspects of joint research in conjunction with students and professors from other universities and USDA research scientists. In one phase of the research, surface and tower based instruments are being used to measure greenhouse and air pollutant gases. We use many different instruments to collect and process and analyze these gases. In another phase of research, a blimp, with attached tethersonde/ozonesonde sensors, is deployed to obtain vertical profiles of ozone and meteorological data. Ground/tower based meteorological data is also being concurrently. This research has given me the opportunity to collect and process data here in California, and in Kansas and Iowa. I have learned a great deal about atmospheric pollutants and their dispersion and transport processes. Working with others on these cross discipline projects has been invaluable.

The METRO program has given me the opportunity to be involved with research and data collection outside of the classroom in a real world environment. Many of the other activities that are a part of this program are also valuable learning experiences. This unique experience will be invaluable in helping me to prepare for graduate school, where I plan on pursuing a career in research and teaching.

James McHenry

Student: James Ryan McHenry

Major: Geography

Advisor: Dr. Segun Ogunjemiyo

Area: Atmospheric Science and Geographical Information Systems

Studying Geography has given me the ability to understand the complexities of our atmosphere. Through the METRO program, under the guidance of Dr. Ogunjemiyo, I have been able to conduct research on the formation and the physical processes governing the transport of ozone in the boundary layer. This process occurs in the presence of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides. As the sun's energy is absorbed by the volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides a reaction occurs releasing ozone or O3 into the atmosphere as a byproduct of the reaction. Using helium tethersondes with attached sensors we can measure a wide range of atmospheric processes interacting with Ozone and record trends that can help us to reduce this harmful pollutant entering the atmosphere. Currently my colleagues and I are conducting field research using a tethersonde that measures wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, temperature, potential temperature, and ozone.

Brenda Osborne

Student: Brenda Osborne

Major: Geography

Advisor: Dr. Segun Ogunjemiyo

Area: Atmospheric Science

As a Geography student, I have studied several of the different processes that take place within the earth. For example, land formations such as erosion, weathering, volcanoes, tectonic plates, and atmospheric conditions such as violent weather where and why it happens along with basic wind patterns, and the different compounds that make up Earth's atmosphere. The Earth has been warming throughout the past decades due to human anthropogenic activities. In recent years it has been determined that dairy farms are the second largest contributor to volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In the MERTO program I am working with Dr. Segun Ogunjemiyo researching and learning about these different compounds on and around dairy farms, using tethersonde and ozonesonde equipment to collect and measure ozone (O3) in the air. My research aim is to understand the vertical transport and formation of ozone(o3) in the troposphere in relation to dairy farm operation and production, as well as other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and greenhouse gases such as methane(CH4), carbon monoxide(CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and ammonia (NH3) the dairy farms may produce due to feed type, milk production, animal housing, and lagoon waste storage.

In the future I hope to research the results of volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gases in the air on the growth, longevity, health of the different evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs in our national parks. As I continue my education I plan study about dendrochronology, GIS, and other atmospheric, geology, chemistry, and biology to aid in my research.

Lei Rengulbai

Student: Lei Rengulbai

Major: Geology

Advisor: Dr. Keith Putirka

Area: Igneous Petrology

A detailed petrologic study of the Palau islands may help determine its geologic history. It may also help determine which geologic events through time have helped shape the chain of islands. Collection of 25 basaltic rocks throughout the islands is necessary. Ideally, the basalts must contain olivine phenocrysts. According to Putirka, olivine phenocrysts will represent a "less homogenized" account of the mantle melting process compared to basaltic rock compositions. In addition to sample collection, a GPS unit may be useful in plotting exact sample locations.

After samples are collected they will be prepared for XRF analysis which will take place at Fresno State. The samples have to be powdered and melted into glass beads prior to analysis. The analysis will determine major oxide concentrations as well as trace element concentrations. Both major oxide and trace element concentrations will be compiled and plotted against ocean-island and subduction zone rock compositions available on the GEOROC website. Based on how the collected data compare to ocean-island or subduction zone suites, the geologic history of the island may be determined. In addition to XRF analysis, thin sections will be prepared and analyzed to identify exact minerals present within each sample. The METRO program has motivated me to complete my research. It has given me the opportunity to learn important lab techniques such as sample preparation for XRF analysis and thin section preparation. Upon completion of my undergraduate studies here at Fresno State, I plan on furthering my education by enrolling into a Master's program somewhere within the state of California.

Stacy Brown

Student: Stacy Brown

Major: Geography

Supervisor: Segun Ogunjemiyo

Area: Atmospheric Science

My research is aimed at understanding the influence of boundary layer dynamics on spatial and temporal variation of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, which include ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The approach involves the use of surface based instruments to measure greenhouse gas emission strength from various sources: tower based instruments, such as Eddy covariance system, to characterize turbulence mixing in an urban atmosphere and balloon-borne sensors that include tethersonde/ozonesonde system to measure vertical profiles of meteorological variables and ozone. The goal is to improve our current understanding of how atmospheric processes control transports and dispersion of pollutants, and also provide useful data for improving air quality models.

The Metro Center is providing me with a unique opportunity to gain experience in research and data collection. This is an important stepping stone in my plan to pursue a career with the National Park Service.

Miguel Cisneros

Student: Miguel Cisneros

Major: Geology

Supervisor: Dr. Jerome V. De Graff

Areas: Geomorphology

The stream-gradient index (SL=ΔH x L/ΔL) is an equation based on the longitudinal profile of a stream and provides an approximation of stream power (Hack, 1973). The stream gradient (SL) index values derived from the equation is capable of providing insight into the underlying material and geological processes of the watershed being analyzed (Hack, 1973, DeGraff, 1981, Lee and Tsai, 2010). Within the forested areas of the Sierra National Forest, there a number of meadows; naturally occurring opening where high-groundwater conditions persist. The groundwater supports herbaceous vegetative community and limits encroachment of trees from the surrounding forest. Wood (1975) demonstrated that many of these meadows are Holocene accumulations of interbedded sands and organic-rich silts. On the landscape, these meadows occupy a variety of locations along the channel with different watersheds. The stream-gradient index was applied to eight large meadows within tributaries to the San Joaquin or Kings rivers to determine if the meadow locations were consistently associated with a distinct range or threshold value. This was accomplished based on data generated from digital 7.5-minute topographic maps. The maps were loaded into Arc GIS so that shape files of the individuals streams can be generated to obtain the data for computing the SL index number. Initial analysis found that......

Amina Sopha

Student: Amina Sopha

Major: Geology

Advisor: Dr. Fraka Harmsen

Area: Sedimentary Geology

Eelgrass is an underwater angiosperm that thrives in many different marine environments. It is commonly found in shallow coastal areas and subtidal zones; they tend to grow in marine environments where the water is clear and sunlight is plentiful. They also serve as an important ecosystem to many marine inhabitants; they provide food, breeding areas and protective nurseries for fish, shellfish and many other organisms. The grasses also help cushion our shorelines from the impacts of waves and currents, slowing erosion. Within the last 2 decades, scientists noticed that a specific type of eelgrass, Zostera marina has drastically declined within the San Juan Archipelago. To understand why the disappearance of Zostera marina is occurring, marine scientists have and are conducting many studies; some of the studies include looking at the location, sunlight present, organisms, bacteria, sediments etc related to the species. The goal of this research project is determine whether the types of sediment with which Zostera marina grows have an effect on the appearance and or disappearance of the flowering plant. I will collect several samples of sediments from a specific location, Griffin Bay, and run sediment analysis to determine whether or not the type of sediments present have an effect on the presence of Zostera marina.

The Metro Program has given me the opportunity to travel and become involved in a project that could potentially become my senior thesis. I plan to attend graduate school after graduation.

Jennifer Ratliff

Student: Jennifer Ratliff

Major: Geology

Advisor: Keith Putirka

Area: Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology

Very little research has been done on the Mesozoic volcanism located in the Foothills Terrane in the central Sierra Nevada. Most of the research pertaining to this area originates from the mid to late 1980s. Several generalized tectonic models were proposed as to the origin of the different formations found within the central Sierra Nevada, but none specifically for the Foothills Terrane. The purpose of my research project is to determine the origin, tectonic setting and possible evolution of the Mesozoic volcanism found in the Sierra Nevada Foothills Terrane located north/north-east of Don Pedro Lake. To determine this, approximately twenty to twenty-five samples have been collected from various outcrops along Jacksonville Road, county road J59 and highway 120/49. Each sample was then prepared for analysis of major and minor trace elements. These samples are currently being processed using X-ray fluorescence and ICP-MS analysis. My goal is to present my findings at the 2010 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. The METRO program has given me the opportunity to work with a variety of faulty members and fellow students, along with allowing me the opportunity to focus full-time on my research project. After graduation, I plan on continuing my education in graduate school and eventually pursue a Ph.D.

Juanita Muniz

Student: Juanita F Muniz

Major: Chemistry

Advisor: Alam Hasson

Area: Atmospheric Science

California's Central Valley suffers from some of the highest air pollution levels in the United States. During the summer months, ozone levels regularly exceed the federal and state standards. Ozone is formed in chemical reactions involving volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Current emissions inventories cite dairy operations as the largest single source of VOCs in the region, but these emissions are poorly characterized, and their environmental impacts are not well understood. The student will carry out a comprehensive set of meteorological and VOC measurements to evaluate fluxes of ozone precursors from the California State University Dairy. Eddy covariance will be combined with simultaneous measurements of VOCs at four heights (1 m, 2 m, 4 m and 8 m) to quantify fluxes of these compounds. The student will present his results at the 28th Informal Symposium on Kinetic and Photochemical Processes in the Atmosphere at UC Irvine (Spring 11) and also at the Central California Research Symposium.

Catalina Olea

 Student: Catalina Olea

Major: Chemistry

Advisor: Dr. Alam Hasson

Area: Atmospheric Science

The research that I'm currently involved with is trying to determine the impact of agricultural produced gases on air quality. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions being study are mainly from dairy facilities and are used to determine their impact on air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and ozone levels. VOCs are organic compounds that react in the presence of sunlight with nitrogen oxides in the air to form ozone in the lower atmosphere. The formation of ozone at this level can affect a persons health and damage crops. The gas samples are collected using a pressurized canister at different heights 15, 30, 50 meters and from up wind and down wind. The gas samples collected are analyzed using a gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) to identify the compounds emitted and its abundance in the mixture. Knowing the compounds that are being emitted will help determine the possible products that can form so that we can better understand their effects on the atmosphere. METRO has provided the opportunity to learn lab techniques outside of the classroom setting and to become more independent in conducting experiments. It has also enhanced my personal and professional growth in the field of chemistry by allowing me to communicate science effectively to others through presentations on campus and at professional conferences. It has also given me the opportunity to travel outside of California and to work one on one with renown experts



David Real

Student: David Real

Major: Geology

Advisor: Keith Putirka

Area: Geochemistry

Graduate School: California State University Fresno

One important feature that is used to determine amount of offset caused by a fault is to compare rock forma- tions that are found on both sides of the fault, and the distance of separation of that formation. Currently, some researchers believe that a volcanic formation, the Ricardo formation, provides a good way to measure the offset of the Garlock Fault. The Garlock Fault, a left-lateral strike-slip fault, is found in the eastern Sierra Nevada. Current research in the area has only provided data on the Ricardo formation found on the north side of the fault. The correlation of the south section of the formation with the north was made using stratigraphic data. However, stratigraphic data doesn't prove that both formations are entirely the same. The purpose of this pro- ject is to gather samples from the north and south section of the formation and perform geochemical analysis to determine if they are chemically identical. X-ray fluorescence will be used to determine weight percentages of major metal oxides found in the rocks. Mass spectrometry may be used for further analysis to determine weight percentages of rare earth metals. Thanks to Geosciences METRO Center, I have been able to learn important lab techniques from professors, in- cluding preparation and analysis of samples using X-ray fluorescence. My current plan after graduation is to further my education by entering the graduate program and earn a M.S.

Kiersti Ford

Student: Kiersti Rae Ford

Major: Geology

Supervisor: Dr. Fraka Harmsen

Area: Metamorphic Petrology

Graduate School: California State University, Fresno

The islands of the Pacific Northwest have long held mysteries to their existence. Through a petrologic look at the metamorphism occurring on the islands off the coast of Washington, known as the San Juan Islands, geolo- gists can determine the age of emplacement of the islands as well as the age of metamorphism. My project en- tails taking a close look at Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Island of the San Juan Islands. Here, samples were collected spaciously on the order of about 30 at 4 inches each in diameter. Those samples were then described in hand sample in the lab. XRF and XRD analysis will be conducted on the samples to determine the iron ox- ides present and perhaps exact minerals present to distinguish the correct rock name. Thin sections will be cut to microscopically examine each sample to establish the origin and evolution of the parent rock. Zircon ages on a sample looking to be highly metamorphosed will be desired if the funding is available. After careful analysis of the samples, I will compile a theoretical answer to the age old question of the islands, "Were the islands in place before or after metamorphism took place?" I will then present my findings in the form of a poster at the 2010 Geological Survey of America Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.