With this grant, I was able to develop my understanding of the mechanics of metamorphic rock deformation by analyzing rocks along the Alpine Fault Zone on the South Island of New Zealand. Since this area is tectonically active, there are many deformed rocks. I transported the rocks that I collected back to St. Lawrence University where I have continued analysis on them. The primary goal of my research is to discern the deformational history behind the rocks by means of petrographic microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray diffractometry. The microscopy work aids in the analysis of tiny features within the rock, which yield information about the type and timing of deformational events. The X-ray diffractometry work aids in the identification of minerals in the rock. My research on these rock samples will culminate to a senior year project.
As far as challenges go, I had to abandon my original study area since I found out that the dense vegetation created accessibility issues. Instead, I decided on another area to collect samples in a whole different suite of rock. I consulted with professors at the University of Otago in Dunedin to discuss possible localities for sample collection. I also had to check with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) to determine whether I could take rocks from the regions that I hoped to. Otherwise, there was a long and expensive process to go through to receive permission to take rocks from the land. Luckily, my areas of collection were outside of DOC land, so there were no complications there.
I sampled from two different locations on the South Island of New Zealand. To make collection easier, I chose to collect rocks from the exposed surfaces of road cuts. This had its benefits and downfalls. The rocks were easy to collect either as debris or knock off with a rock hammer since the bedrock had already been exposed when the road was created. However, what I came to realize, is that New Zealand’s highways are built right on the coast and most of the island has very steep topography. Therefore, there would often be a roadcut on one side, a road in the middle, and then a cliff on the other. In the end, the fieldwork went extremely well.
I have already discovered many interesting features in the rock samples. Specifically, the photomicrographs (one shown below) are quite spectacular. The crystal form and color of these minerals indicate their chemical makeup. The orientation of the individual grains shows the type of deformation. I have much more research ahead.
I am extremely thankful to have been granted this opportunity to travel to these remote areas and gain an understanding of New Zealand’s geology. I would have never been able to do so without the Romeo-Gilbert Intercultural Endowment.