Stratovolcano and Shield Volcano Morphology, Eruptions, and Seismic Activity

Mark Bowen
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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Initial Publication Date: November 24, 2014


Students compare and contrast the morphology, eruptions, and seismic activity of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and the 1984 Mauna Loa eruption.

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The activity is used in an online undergraduate introductory physical geography course. The focus of the course is landforms and soils. The course is predominantly composed of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be proficient in map reading and analysis and creating and interpreting simple graphs

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise that reinforces concepts introduced in lecture.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Become familiar with differences in topography and seismic activity for stratovolcanoes and shield volcanoes
  • Calculate slope
  • Calculate mass and volume
  • Interpret topographic map data
  • Plot and interpret seismic data

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Before completing this exercise, students should already have completed a basic map reading and analysis exercise. For this exercise, students conduct a series of calculations on portions of topographic maps of Mount St. Helens pre-1980 eruption and Mauna Loa. They then read about the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption and the 1984 Mauna Loa eruption to answer a series of questions. Finally, they plot seismicity data for the two eruptions and compare and contrast stratovolcanoes and shield volcanoes.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete the exercise during the week it is assigned. Upon completion of the laboratory exercise, students must complete an online quiz that consists of the same questions in the exercise. The online quiz is within the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) online learning platform, so answers are automatically graded and imported into the student's grade book.

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