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WVU student studies Hawaiian volcanoes

Created on:   Sat, Jan 20, 2018   2:21 PM

Last modified:   Sat, Jan 20, 2018   2:23 PM

Submitted to The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The thrill of volcanoes led WVU senior Holly Pettus to a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Hawaii this summer.

Pettus, a senior geology student from Pineville, spent nine weeks studying mantle xenoliths from Kilbourne Hole, N.M.

When a volcano erupts, rock from the mantle is ripped and ejects alongside the magma. It is difficult to determine where these rocks originate once they are found on the surface, which Pettus hopes to discover through her research.

“The different crystals within the rock tell you what pressure and what temperature the rock formed at, and that tells you what depth it actually came from,” Pettus said. “To determine this, we looked at calcium content in olivine crystals within the rock with an electron microprobe and were able to better constrain where the rocks actually came from by using the chemistry of the rock.”