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Learn about Hawaiian Volcanoes!

Volcanism and Active Geology of the island of Hawai'i (Field-based course)

GEOS 293/393
Wintermester 2015
January 5-13, beginning and ending in Hilo, Hawaii

Instructors: Jeff Freymueller


Pavel Izbekov


Last Updated: October 31, 2014

A field-based course introducing students to the volcanism and active geology of the island of Hawai'i, and by extension, other oceanic islands. Topics include physical features of the volcanoes, plate tectonics and the origin of volcanism, and the development and "life cycle" of oceanic islands. The course has a fee of $1295, which includes food and lodging in the field along with local transportation, but does not include your airfare to Hilo, Hawai'i.

There is no substitute for field-based instruction in the geosciences. Students can learn a tremendous amount even from just a few days in the field, seeing features and processes with their own eyes, and this results not only in greater knowledge and insights but also enhanced enthusiasm and motivation. Our local climate handicaps us in our field-based offerings, but a winter field course in Hawai'i gets around that limitation. There is probably no better place in the world to introduce students to the basic physical features of volcanoes than the island of Hawai'i, with its active Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, and we can also make basic features of plate tectonics and a physical understanding of plate tectonics, erosion, the age and development of the ocean basins, and a host of other problems come to life vividly in this setting.

The volcanoes of the Big Island of Hawaii are one of the premier examples of active hotspot volcanism in the world, and are by far the most accessible. A wide variety of volcanic and geologic features are easily accessible, and do not require long drives to reach. A relatively short field trip can cover a wide range of topics, and will provide a memorable and highly educational experience for the students. Cooperation with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory will allow students to see volcanic monitoring in action and learn about the public safety aspects of that task; depending on eruption conditions, this may also allow us to see some features in areas closed to the general public.

As of late September, an active lava flow is threatening the town of Pahoa, and might cut off access to certain parts of the Puna region. We don't know yet what this will mean, but some changes in the plan itinerary might result. Some areas of the south flank of Kilauea are also subject to closure due to air quality.

The course is offered at both the 200-level and the 300-level. Students at the 300-level will have additional responsibilities for peer instruction during projects and presentations. Students enrolled in GEOS 393 will be expected to read and discuss geological literature and tutor students enrolled in GEOS 293 in field and computer methods necessary for completion of team projects.

Prerequisites (293)
GEOS 101 or GEOS 120 or GE 261, or permission of instructor.
For non-UAF students, this translates to "you have taken a geology course."

Prerequisites (393)
GEOS 222 or GEOS 225 or any 300-level GEOS course, or permission of instructor
For non-UAF students, this translates to (1) an introductory geology course, (2) Historical geology, (3) Mineralogy or a similar minerals and rocks course, and (4) an upper division course, or field methods, or mapping/GIS.

You can find the UAF course descriptions at this link.

We have this course set this up to require permission for everyone to enroll, because there are no pre-requisite checks implemented by Wintermester. So please contact me for more details.

CRNs for the two 200-level and 300-level courses are (Winter 2015):

There is a non-refundable $250 deposit required to secure a place in the class at registration time. This is in place simply because of the disruption that would be caused by someone dropping out at the last minute -- extra housing costs, etc would already have been incurred.

Registration information for Wintermester is at the UAF Summer Sessions website. Registration for WINTERmester opens on November 10 for UAF degree-seeking students and November 17 for non-degree-seeking students (including non-UAF students). However, to be sure of a place please contact me so that I can put you on the list for instructor permission. We have a short application process.

The $250 non-refundable deposit needs to be paid in the Summer Sessions Office at 216 Eielson (we will send alternate instructions to non-UAF students). They can take cash, check, VISA or MasterCard. The balance of the tuition and fees can be paid through UA Online as normal.

Registration for non-UAF students begins November 17. Contact Dr. Freymueller to secure permission to register for the course then complete the Summer Sessions Online registration form. (UAF Summer Sessions sponsors the WINTERmester session.) Call the Summer Sessions office (907-474-7021) to provide credit card information for the $250 non-refundable deposit. When your registration is processed you will receive information via email on how to access your newly created UAF student account on UA Online. You will make the rest of the payment for the course tuition and fees in your UAOnline account. If you have questions about the registration and/or payment process, contact Summer Sessions by phone or text at 907-474-7021.

Schedule (Preliminary)

The course will begin and end in Hilo, Hawaii. Students will be expected to arrive in Hilo on January 5, and will be free to leave Hilo on January 13 in the evening, or the next morning. We will need to know the arrival and departure times and flights for all students in advance.
January 5 Students gather, introduction
January 6 Overview of Kilauea caldera, Tree molds, lower East Rift Zone
January 7 Visit Hawaii Volcano Observatory, Thurston Lava Tube, Kilauea Iki
January 8 Hilina Pali, Southwest Rift Zone, South flank of Kilauea
January 9 Collect monitoring data with HVO staff
January 10 Mauna Ulu, Mauna Loa, Bird Park and kipukas
January 11 Ka'u Desert, Green sand beach, olivine
January 12 Xenoliths, Hualalai volcano (Kona side), Pololu valley
January 13 Waipio Valley and eroded, north side of the island, Return to Hilo

Note that at the moment, an active lava flow is entering the town of Pahoa in the Puna District southwest of Hilo. Safety and access conditions to that area are unpredictable at this time, and the flow may cut off the main road to the south coast and the lower East Rift Zone. We will be consulting with HVO and will find the best opportunity for the students to see and learn about the ongoing lava flow without getting in the way of local residents, some of whom are needing to evacuate their homes.

Field Trip Stops Include:

Online Reference Material

I get paid to research volcanoes?

Dr. Matt Patrick from USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory was profiled in a nice video by CNBC as part of their "I get paid to do this?" series.

Dr. Jeffrey T. Freymueller
Professor of Geophysics
Geophysical Institute
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320

jeff.freymueller -at- gi.alaska.edu
Phone 907-474-7286
Fax 907-474-7290
Office 413B Elvey