The Snake River Plain cuts a broad arc across southern Idaho, visible on any relief map. It consists of lava flows and other volcanic features left behind as North America moved across a “hot spot” in the Earth’s mantle – the source for the current activity in the Yellowstone region. Jessica Osterloh, a senior Environmental Science major from Enterprise, Oregon, will be conducting research this spring to look for geothermal energy potential in residual heat left over from the Snake River Plain’s turbulent history. Her project, supervised by Geology professor Jerry Fairley, is supported by a Hill Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
Jessy developed an interest in geothermal surveys while taking Dr. Fairley’s “Mathematical Modeling of Hydrogeological Systems” class last spring. At the same time, one of Fairley’s graduate students asked if she’d like to help with a project analyzing geothermal potential on the Rio Grande Rift region of Colorado and New Mexico. As part of that project, Jessy presented a poster at the National Geothermal Student Competition in Santa Fe and also attended the Geothermal Research Council meetings at San Diego.
Jessy hopes now to use experience gained from that project in her own survey. She will use primarily data from existing drill wells across the Snake River Plain, looking to identify areas that show promise for commercially viable geothermal development.