Regional Studies in Geology Capstone Experience

NOTE: Posted on behalf of Vicky Crystal and Alexandra Freeman, students in GY445.

As senior geology majors, we have the option of taking the coveted Capstone Course for studies on the regional geology of one location within North America. This year, 11 seniors and two geology professors, Henry Fricke and Christine Siddoway, traveled to California and Nevada to investigate the exciting geologic history of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Death Valley, Yosemite, and Mammoth Lake.

Overlook of pyroclastic volcanic deposits of McKissick Canyon, Nevada.

Above: Overlook of pyroclastic volcanic deposits of McKissick Canyon, Nevada.

Vicky Crystal’s sketch of McKissick Canyon, Nevada.

Above: Vicky Crystal’s sketch of McKissick Canyon, Nevada.

We embarked on our journey on October 1, 2013. Upon arriving from our flight in Reno, Nevada, we purchased food and supplies for our travels ahead. Due to the recent government’s shut down, national parks have been subject to closure for the time being. This may complicate our plans for geology studies in several national parks! While in the process of loading groceries in the parking lot, student Will Durrett was interviewed by a local news station, asking his thoughts on the situation.

We set up base camp 30 miles away from Nevada City, California. During these first couple days, we designated our daytime to touring the western and eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevadas and our nighttime to blogging and competing in lively cook-off dinners.

So far, we have come across a variety of very different rock formations, ranging from older metamorphic rock to sedimentary river deposits and widely dispersed volcanic deposits. The rock units that we will be working are 600 million years old or younger. Throughout this experience, we will conduct field observations with the intention of building a story of the geologic evolution of this region, with a focus on the paleo topography and modern topography.


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