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VEPP: Is the Past the Key to the Future?

Dennis Geist
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This is an exercise that is in development and has not yet been fully tested in the classroom. Please check back regularly for updates and changes.

Brief three-line description of the activity or assignment and its strengths:

Geophysical measurements made during catastrophic changes in the Puu Oo system in June and July, 2007 are compared to observations of the eruptive phenomena, both to explore for premonitory signals and to understand the mechanical reasons for the changes. These observations and interpretations are then used for a semester-long real-time monitoring exercise. The exercise is performed in the jigsaw style: experts in tilt, gps geodesy, seismology, and geology participate in interdisciplinary teams.

Full length description:

The objective of the exercise is for the students to make informed interpretations of real time geophysical data in an erupting system. In order to become informed, students will first evaluate geophysical measurements leading up to several large changes in the Puu Oo system in June and July, 2007, using archived data in the VEPP system. They will then monitor the volcano in real time over the course of an entire semester, producing biweekly press releases updating the activity and issuing forecasts.

The exercise makes use of the jigsaw design, whereby students become expert in one medium of volcano monitoring. All of the specialists in each medium will confer, followed by the construction of 4-person interdisciplinary teams. After the retrospective on the 2007 data, most of the work will be accomplished in the interdisciplinary teams (as opposed to the specialist groups). The specialists are assigned to become expert in:

1. Seismicity

2. GPS geodesy

3. Tilt

4. Geology (visual observations); this person will also serve as the Press Officer

Class Outline (Microsoft Word 29kB Jul30 10)

Learning Goals

1. Gain experience accessing, plotting, and interpreting geophysical data.
2. Contribute expertise to an interdisciplinary team in formulating group decisions.
3. Evaluate the mechanics of an active volcanic system.
4. Experience what goes into the design of volcano monitoring programs.

Briefly describe the content/concepts goalsfor this activity (e.g., those involving pure vs. simple shear, deformation mechanisms, kinematic analysis, accurate description of samples):

The main concept is to determine the relationship between eruptive phenomena and geophysical signals. In more specific terms, the main concept is that there is a feedback between the pressure of the magma, its transport in the subsurface, and eruptive processes. Pressure is measured via deformation and seismic methods.

Briefly describe the higher order thinking skills goalsfor this activity (e.g., those involving analysis of data, formulation of hypotheses, synthesis of ideas, critical evaluation of competing models, development of computer or analog models):

1. the management of large data sets

2. pattern recognition

3. the testing of the reality of patterns with statistics

4. the absence of clear premonitory phenomena (prediction may be impossible).

Briefly describe any other skills goalsfor this activity (e.g., those involving writing, operating analytical equipment, searching the WWW, oral presentation, working in groups):

Context for Use

This activity is intended for geoscience majors.
Intended for a combination of student levels
Typical Number of Students: 25
Typical Number Classes Where Exercise is Used: 1
The activity will conducted in lab
Data accessed both during and outside of class

What is the type of activity (a problem set, classroom activity, lab activity, project, field activity, and/or a writing activity)?

An extended problem set, part of which will be conducted in class.

What is the class type (small intro lecture, large intro lecture, or UD/grad course; disasters, hazards, field course, or intro geology; with or without computers; community college)?

Class is advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate level volcanology class. Most students have computers, but there is a desktop computer lab in which the class can be conducted.

Briefly describe the type(s) and level(s) of course in which this activity or assignment could be used (e.g., undergraduate required course in structural geology, introductory physical geology course for non-majors, graduate level seminar on geochemistry):

Advanced undergraduate to graduate level class.

Briefly describe or list the skills and concepts that students must have mastered before beginning the activity:

Entering data a plotting in Excel.

Briefly describe how the activity is situated in your course (e.g., as a culminating project, as a stand-alone exercise, as part of a sequence of exercises):

It is an ongoing project.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

Please describe any helpful examples of this activity, as well as any potential variations on this theme:

What tips might you offer to other educators planning to use this activity?


Describe briefly how you determine whether students have met the goals of this assignment or activity.

The extent to which the press releases are clear and indicate a basic understanding of volcano mechanics.

References and Resources

Please list any supporting references or URLs for this activity:

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