Q&A with Geological Sciences Undergraduate Student Samantha Buck

Q: Tell us Samantha, how in the world did you end up in Antarctica?
A: Antarctica was not somewhere I expected to visit during my undergraduate experience at the University of Idaho (or in my lifetime, for that matter). But as I discovered, Antarctica is actually ripe with tectonic history, and it offers a real window into important geological processes.

Q: Tell us about your research.
Drs. Dennis Geist (Idaho), Karen Harpp (Colgate) and Mike Garcia (Hawaii) developed a field and laboratory-based project through the NSF to study the Vanda dike swarm in the Dry Valleys area of Victoria Land, Antarctica. The overall goal of the project is to understand a phase of Antarctica’s tectonic history where a period of subduction ended and magmatic extension began. Each professor brought an undergraduate student from their respective universities, and we helicoptered and hiked around the desolate icescape recording field observations and collecting rock samples to support various research projects.

My project investigates the conditions at which these dikes formed. I’ve worked in the lab, preparing the rock samples for a variety of analyses (X-ray fluorescence, ICP-mass spectrometry, electron-microprobe) that will be used to determine the pressure/depth at which those dikes were emplaced. For these analyses, I draw upon knowledge gained in undergraduate classes like mineralogy, igneous/metamorphic petrology, and geochemistry. This experience makes those classes far more relatable and has made me realize how much we are learning.

Q: What was the best part about your experience?
This has been an amazing learning process, and I encourage everyone to seek out any opportunity for hands-on experience. Learning through actual application is the perfect accompaniment to a classroom education.

Learn more about the United States Antarctic Program http://www.usap.gov