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New Mexico Bureau of Geology geochronology lab receives two NSF awards to support student research

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— August 26, 2019

The National Science Foundation Earthscope program, in conjunction with the Geological Society of America, supports the grant that provides “Awards for Geochronology Student Research” known as AGeS. The New Mexico Geochronology Research Laboratory (NMGRL), one of several NM Bureau of Geology laboratories, is a participant in the AGeS2 program. The AGeS program is designed to link students with geochronology laboratories to facilitate in depth student understanding of geochronology methods with hands on experience ultimately leading to publication of new data.

Each participating lab in the AGeS program can sponsor a maximum of 4 students in any given funding cycle. Students across the nation reach out to the NMGRL seeking an opportunity to utilize our facility to support their AGeS proposal. Drs. Matthew Heizler and Jake Ross evaluate the student requests for scientific merit and opportunity for fostering new collaborations. In 2019 the NMGRL accepted 4 student proposals that were then entered into a competitive pool of 78 total proposals. AGeS awarded 20 grants and excitedly, two of them were NMGRL sponsored proposals. It is noted that no participating laboratory can receive more than 2 grants in any funding cycle.

Masters of Science student, Karissa Vermillion, from New Mexico State University received an award for her proposal “Correlating volcanic products to their source calderas using high-precision 40Ar/39Ar sanidine geochronology”. Karissa will be mentored by Dr. Jake Ross and is the only MS student to receive an AGeS2 award. She will use a combination of 40Ar/39Ar geochronology and geochemistry of sanidine to evaluate volcanic eruption source areas towards determining linkage to distal volcanic deposits here in New Mexico.

PhD. Student, Drew Levy, from the University of Nevada-Reno received an award for his proposal “Prelude to the ‘plano’: Assessing the contribution of Jurassic crustal thickening to growth of the Cretaceous Nevadaplano”. Drew will be working with Dr. Matthew Heizler where he seeks to use 40Ar/39Ar thermochronology to understand the complex tectono-thermal history in eastern Nevada. His study area has been complexly deformed and metamorphosed during multiple episodes from the Jurassic through the Miocene.

In addition to gaining direct knowledge of 40Ar/39Ar theory by enrolling in the argon geochronology course via distance education, Karissa and Drew will spend significant time in our laboratory preparing their samples and collecting their isotopic data.