Evolution of the Precambrian Rocks of Yellowstone National Park

A Research Experience for Undergraduates Site Project, funded by the National Science Foundation (GEO/EAR)


This REU project will provide a comprehensive research experience that will give you the opportunity to: a) work in the field in one of the most amazing study areas in the country, b) design your own research project that will be completed in small working groups in the field and lab, c) work with faculty mentors in their analytical labs to acquire the fundamental data to address your research questions(whole rock geochemistry, mineral composition data for P/T determinations, geochronology and thermochronology), and d) report your findings at the Rocky Mountain Section Meeting of the Geological Society of America and contribute to writing a scholarly research article. To gain the full benefit of this experience:
  • You must be committed to participate in the full program which will be distributed throughout a one year cycle. The field component will run through most of the month of July (June 26-July 24, 2011), visits to the instructors' analytical labs will be scheduled for the fall semester in time to acquire data for c) submission of our GSA abstracts in ~ January 2012, and d) presentation of the results at the Rocky Mountain Section GSA Meeting (Logan, Utah, dates to be determined).
  • We encourage all student participants to pursue an independent study/research/thesis project at their home institution during the next academic year. The project leaders (Mogk, Henry, Mueller, Foster) will look forward to working with your academic advisor at your home institution.
  • Part of the instructors' research agenda is actually research on learning. We are keenly interested in exploring ways in which students best learn in the field. Throughout the project we will be using a variety of research techniques such as interviews, observations (some with video tape), pre-tests, and GPS tracking to understand ways to improve field instruction. We hope that you will help us in these efforts by participating in these learning assessment activities. An IRB (human subject) agreement form will be available prior to the summer field experience.
  • The field component of this project is in the rugged back-country of Yellowstone National Park. You must be in reasonable physical shape prior to the start of the field season to successfully complete this project. You also need to be aware that there are inherent risks associated with back-country field work (weather, encounters with wildlife, lightning...).
  • All participants must provide proof of medical insurance. We also will need to have on file a confidential letter (sealed) with emergency contact information, and any pertinent prior medical information that first responders or medical staff will need to know about in case of emergency. The field staff should also be aware of potential medical issues (e.g. allergies to food or bee sting).
  • Safety is the highest priority in the conduct of this research experience (both in the field and in the lab). Prevention and avoidance of unsafe conditions is expected at all times. Any activities that are deemed to be unsafe will lead to dismissal from the project.
  • Alcohol/drugs/sexual harassment: The overall policies for these items are covered in the Student Handbook of the Keck Geology Consortium (which has set the standard for undergraduate research experiences in geology). In brief, compliance is required for all local laws pertaining to alcohol and drug use (e.g. no alcohol in university vehicles). Sexual harassment/assault (and harassment regarding e.g. lifestyle choices) cannot be tolerated and will be cause for dismissal from the program. Let's work together and respect the law and each other. (Sorry, but we have to address these topics up front.)
  • Data/Authorship/Publication Policy: All data collected in this project (e.g. field measurements, samples, thin sections,maps, images, analytical data) are intended for use to attain the scientific goals of this project, and the data collections will remain under the supervision of the project leaders (Mogk, Henry, Mueller, Foster). These data will also be made publicly available through the Research Office of Yellowstone National Park. However, all students will have access to these data as they undertake independent research projects at their home institution. And the intent of this project is to present the results via presentations at professional society meetings (e.g. Rocky Mountain GSA meeting), and ultimately in a scholarly publication in a research journal. Collaborative scholarly work is an expected outcome of this project. Any published results from this project must acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation with the appropriate disclaimer.

Summer 2011 Logistics:

Dates: June 26-July 24;

Plan to arrive in Bozeman MT by 5 PM on Sunday June 26. We will have a group dinner that evening followed by an introduction to the program. The project will continue through the month of July. Plan your departure for Sunday July 24.


We will cover all logistical expenses related to participation in this program. This includes a) travel to/from the project (airfare or mileage), b) ground transportation to project activities, c) food, and d) housing (dorm rooms on campus, group housing on site). We will also award a $2000 stipend for successful completion of the field program. You will be responsible for expenses for any personal needs, entertainment, etc. The remaining stipends will support participation in the analytical part of the program ($500) and presentation at the Rocky Mountain GSA meeting ($500).

Travel Plans:

We will make arrangements for either purchasing your airline ticket or reimbursing for mileage for your travel to the project. We'll be in touch in the near future to help you make travel reservations.


On campus, housing and meal service will be provided through the MSU Campus Housing Services (dormitory). In the field, we will be staying in a group housing situation, and meals will be prepared family-style (make your own breakfast, pack your own lunch for the day; cooking groups will rotate to prepare/clean up dinner).


We have prepared a draft schedule (Excel 23kB Mar11 11) for the field program. This will include: some days where the whole group will be working together at select sites, and other days when we will break up into smaller working groups where you will have the opportunity to develop your focused research questions. We will take a mid-program break and head back to Bozeman where we will restock supplies, do laundry, relax. For days on campus, we expect that we will do a few hours work doing sample preparation work--archiving samples, cutting thin sections, crushing geochemical samples.

Field Work:

The essence of this project is field work in the rugged back country of Yellowstone National Park. Most of the field work will be done in a series of day hikes with the whole group, or in smaller research groups, to selected areas of interest. There is a possibility that one or more groups may elect to do a backpacking excursion to a research site, but this presents some logistical problems--it is a possibility, but will be considered on a needs basis. During the course of this project we will: a) create a geologic map of the study area (using GeoPad field-based computer technology), b) collect structural geology data, and c) collect geochemical samples (for mineral chemistry, whole-rock, and isotopic studies). These activities will provide for comprehensive research experiences that will lead to important scientific results.

Disclaimer:The field component of this project will truly be a back-country experience. You need to be aware that this project will be physically demanding. This does not mean we will be running a "boot camp", but take a look at the pictures on these webpages and you'll see that there is a lot of topography. We will be doing a lot of hiking, typically ~10 miles/day to get to field sites and collect samples that we'll pack out. You must be in reasonable shape when you arrive at the project to be able to fully participate in the field activities. You should also be aware that there are inherent risks associated with back-country geology. The weather can be quite variable, some of the study area is in rattlesnake country, and yes, there are bears (Oh My!). Safety first will always be the rule of the project, and one of the instructors (Mogk) is a Wilderness First Responder. Going into this project, you just need to know that there are some inherent risks--but even so, the rewards of working in this country are great!

Field Gear:

We will circulate a list of recommended field gear well in advance of the project. But to start, it will be useful if you start planning: Field clothes: it may be 90o or it could snow! Plan for layered clothing, including rain gear. Sturdy hiking shoes/boots. Day pack, water bottles, sun screen, sun glasses (and eye protection), bug spray. First aid kit. Water filter/purifier. Camera! Geologic gear: rock hammer will be useful (we have sledge hammers for geochemical sampling), Brunton or Silva compass for structural data (we have back ups if you don't have one), hand lens, pocket knife. Personal gear: sleeping bag and pad; towels; personal hygiene supplies;...


We will set up a listserv and private web-based listserv for the research team. This will give us a chance to introduce ourselves to the group. It will also serve to disseminate information about the project to the whole group, and we will periodically post articles, etc. to help introduce you to the geology of the area. We want to hit the ground running this summer, and a bit of a review of the literature (both geologic methods and the underlying Science about Yellowstone) will make sure we're ready to go! We'll also be polling the group for some basic information such as food preferences, etc.

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