ZZYZX, CA – This past weekend, Dr. Burmeister’s structural geology course travelled to the Mojave Desert. After a quick stop at Rainbow Basin to learn how to use topographic maps, air photos, and LiDAR datasets, we spent the rest of the weekend mapping the bedrock geology of the southern Salt Spring Hills. Not only does the Salt Spring Hills have a lot to offer in terms of structural relationships, but it was also the site of a series of (ultimately unsuccessful) gold mines during the mid to late 1800′s – the field area is packed with mineralized zones and abandoned mine workings.
This year we were fortunate to be joined by field trip co-leader Juan Contreras (Univ of Illinois, ’10). Juan is a geologist with Newmont Mining Corporation and is an expert in Carlin-type gold deposits. With Juan’s help, Dr. Burmeister re-tooled the existing Salt Spring Hills mapping exercise into a very realistic gold prospect evaluation. Within the scope of a mock contract from Newmont Mining Corp, Pacific students used their knowledge to collect the very same data that an economic geologist would collect on the job. Students were asked to map geologic structures and zones of potentially gold-bearing mineralization. They were given a budget of “12 million dollars” and asked to identify the targets for surface and subsurface (via RC drilling) assays that would be needed to begin a production phase at the Salt Spring Hills site. The results of their site assessments will be compiled into professional reports and presented to “bosses” from “Newmont Mining Corp” in the coming weeks… maybe we’ll all get rich!!!
While in the desert, the crew stayed at the Desert Studies Center (DSC) at Zzyzx, CA. The DSC is a research station maintained by the California State University system and is designed to support research and teaching in remote parts of the Mojave. The site has a long history – it was mineral bath retreat in the early to mid 1900′s before it was purchased by the CSU system. It offers wonderful cabins and dorm-style rooms, hot showers, and classroom spaces.
Students work on locating themselves in Rainbow Basin on topographic maps, air photos, and LiDAR datasets.
Group shot at sunset in Rainbow Basin. From L-R: Juan Contreras (Newmont Gold Corp), Christina Colburn (’13), Kat Rawhouser (’13), Dai Wilson (’14), Alicia Valenzuela (’13), Kaitlyn Blagg (’13), Brittany Klemm (’14), and Nikki Mainwaring (’13)
Brittany Klemm (’14) and Kaitlyn Blagg (’13) work on rock descriptions
Kat Rawhouser (’13) examines jointing in an exposure of granodiorite
Juan Contreras (Newmont Gold Corp) examines a rock for evidence of hydrothermal alteration
Garnet skarn (likely disseminated gold-bearing) from the Salt Spring Hills study area
A thick sequence of dark brown turbidite deposits in the Cambrian Wood Canyon Formation.
The Desert Studies Center at night
Nikki Mainwaring (’13, left) and Alicia Valenzuela (’13, right) work with Juan Contreras (Newmont Mining Corp) on geologic sketches
Kat Rawhouser (’13) and Brittany Klemm (’14) work together on a geologic sketch
Abandoned stone house at the Salt Spring Hills study area
Juan Contreras (Newmont Mining Corp) helps Nikki Mainwaring (’13) with her geologic mapping
Group photo at the Desert Studies Center, Zzyzx, CA
ZZYZX, CA – We are so fortunate to have the chance to conduct research in collaboration with some truly talented people. One of the highest points of this year’s trip to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Charlotte, NC, was that Dr. Kurt Burmeister and Nikki Mainwaring (’13) were fortunate to be coauthors on an excellent undergraduate research presentation by Melissa Gundersen from the Department of Geology at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Melissa did a truly amazing job presenting research that she conducted under the advisement of Dr. Fred Vollmer. In recognition of her outstanding performance, Melissa chosen to receive the Austin A. Sartin Best Poster Award by the Sigma Gamma Epsilon National Honor Society. Melissa’s presentation was unanimously ranked first of 97 qualifying posters by a panel of 6 professors. We are all very proud, impressed, and inspired by her work.
Group shot in front of Melissa Gundersen’s poster shortly after she was awarded Sigma Gamma Epsilon’s highest honor for student research presentations at GSA. From left: Dr. Fred Vollmer and Melissa (SUNY New Paltz), Dr. Kurt Burmeister, Dr. Steve Marshak (Univ of Illinois), and Dr. Yvette Kuiper (CO School of Mines)