This fall, the UCSB Earth Science Dept. plans to send several students on an academic excursion to several areas, including the Mammoth Mountain volcanic sites where UCSB researcher Charles Walter Rosenthal died just three weeks ago.
The 12-day class will take 20 non-freshmen students to the earthquake faults in the Eastern Sierras and the active volcanoes in Mammoth Mountain. Geology professor Bradley Hacker said the students will gather and analyze data selected from the sites.
A UCSB Institute for Computational Earth System Science assistant specialist, the 58-year-old Rosenthal was killed on April 6 after he fell into a volcanic gas vent called a fumarole while working with the Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol to rope off unsafe areas.
While acknowledging the tragic accident, Hacker said the class will serve as an important tool in educating students about geological sites.
“We want to expose people to earth science,” Hacker said. “Nowadays, the importance of knowing about the earth is [becoming] more and more important.”
He said the geology class satisfies the Area C: Science, Mathematics and Technology general education requirement, as well as a university writing requirement.
Students in the class will take a four-wheel-drive suburban to 10 different locations, including the Eastern Sierra Mountains, the Owens Valley, Mammoth Mountain and White Mountain. Each day, the group will hike for an hour and a half to observe the sites, Hacker said. The group will also observe the oldest living tree, which is known as the Bristlecone Pine.
“It’s a really great place to see cool stuff,” Hacker said.
Earth science graduate student Colin Amos said he is helping design the course. Some of the sites the class will visit are among the most revered geological places on Earth, he said.
“The Sierra Nevada and Owens Valley are about as sacred to geologists as field sites get,” he said. “The entire area is a geological wonderland, and many would argue that few places in California and even in the U.S. rival it in terms of scenery and geological diversity.”
The class’s students will stay at University of California facilities in Bishop, as well as the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab, from Sept. 11 through Sept. 22, utilizing the labs at the various sites, Hacker said.
“We go to some particular place and spend the day collecting data, … [then] spend an hour or two to look at data,” Hacker said.
The class costs $400 to $450, which covers housing, transportation and food. Students can register for the class through the UCSB GOLD network. Hacker said he developed the class with geological sciences professor Douglas Burbank in order to teach students about the delicate nature of the earth and how important environmental protection legislation is to preserving geologically significant sites.
“We hope to expose more people to what the environment is like,” Hacker said. “There is an interest to reverse some legislation [in order] to save the environment.”
Amos said the class will also address the impacts of water diversion from the mountains and how it affects the environment.
“Hopefully, [the class] will spark some interest in the science by getting students outside and thinking about the landscape that surrounds them on a daily basis,” Amos said. “As far as I’m concerned, the more people actively and thoughtfully seeking some understanding of the natural world, the better. This course will be a chance for us to let a few students here in on the secret.”
As for the recently deceased UCSB researcher, geography professor Dr. Dave Siegel said Rosenthal’s family did not wish to hold a memorial at UCSB. He said Rosenthal worked part-time for UCSB and has not lived in the Santa Barbara area for at least 10 years. A memorial was held for Rosenthal and his co-workers at Mammoth on April 14.
“He and is family are tightly connected to the Mammoth community, and all felt that having the memorial there made more sense,” Siegel said via e-mail.