Studying “popping rocks” in the wild

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  • Recent NIC graduate Danny King is pictured doing lab work on Lake Fernan.

  • 1

    NIC graduate Danny King will be partaking in a 30-day research cruise this summer as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates.

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    NIC graduate Danny King will be studying “popping rocks” this summer. This phenomenon happens when mid-ocean ridge basalts that contain large amounts of gases pop as the rocks are brought to the surface.

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    A strong science background combined with experience gained through an INBRE internship paved the way for King to collaborate with an international research group.

  • Recent NIC graduate Danny King is pictured doing lab work on Lake Fernan.

  • 1

    NIC graduate Danny King will be partaking in a 30-day research cruise this summer as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates.

  • 2

    NIC graduate Danny King will be studying “popping rocks” this summer. This phenomenon happens when mid-ocean ridge basalts that contain large amounts of gases pop as the rocks are brought to the surface.

  • 3

    A strong science background combined with experience gained through an INBRE internship paved the way for King to collaborate with an international research group.

Danny King’s quest for educational excellence and his intense interest in environmental science and geology have led him to a unique opportunity to learn and collaborate with an international research group on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutes’ Atlantis research vessel and Alvin submersible.

This summer, recent North Idaho College graduate and Coeur d’Alene native King will participate in a 30-day research cruise as part of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Research will focus on mid-ocean ridge environments in the Atlantic Ocean, particularly the “popping rocks” — mid-ocean ridge basalts that contain large amounts of gases and pop when the rocks are brought to the surface.

“Danny King is an exceptional student,” said Rhena Cooper, NIC biology instructor.

King earned both the geology and biology department awards while working on an environmental science degree at NIC.

“Once he had achieved a well-rounded science background and expressed his desire to earn a graduate degree, he was awarded an NIC INBRE (Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) undergraduate internship,” Cooper said.

During the summer internship, King conducted research on a local lake that experiences seasonal algal blooms and loss of water quality. While immersed in his research, King interacted with a research group, collected and analyzed data and presented a poster at the local INBRE conference.

“He fulfilled his duties with impressive dedication and success,” Cooper said.

A strong science background combined with experience gained through the INBRE internship allowed King to produce a solid, winning application for the REU. He will be working with a research group of prominent research scientists and engineers from multiple higher education institutions to collect a wide range of scientific data with the Alvin submersible and the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry. King has been fully engaged in a two-credit seminar course to gain scientific background and prepare for sea.

“While at sea, Danny will gain significant new skills such as rock sample preparation, rock descriptions, logging of high definition video of the seafloor, bathymetric mapping and GMT maps,” Cooper said.

Following sample collection in the Atlantic Ocean, King will be part of a six-week, post-cruise research program. Areas of interest include primary and secondary mineralogy, lava morphology and gas content of the rocks. Various rock preparation and analytical techniques will be employed to reveal the secrets of the “popping rocks.” Other responsibilities include helping produce outreach materials such as podcasts, blog posts and/or videos. Opportunities also exist for post-summer research and presentations at scientific conferences.

Ultimately, this information will add to understanding of the composition and origin of gases in the deep earth.

“This research experience will also provide Danny an incredible chance to work with prominent research scientists, learn valuable analytical and mapping techniques and open doors to the next step in his academic career,” Cooper said. “That rocks!”

For more information on the “popping rocks” expedition, visit: https://poppingrocks.whoi.edu/samples-weve-got-samples/ https://poppingrocks.whoi.edu/magma-crust-formation-and-the-birth-of-basalt/

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Julie Van Middlesworth is an NIC instructor in environmental science and geology.

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