Sierra Nevada College

Science Labs in Lassen Nat. Park

The geology and ecology of Lassen National Park, a dramatic active volcanic area in north-central California, was the focus of the science department’s first lab weekend field trip of the semester on September 16 and 17. Professors Andy Rost, Chuck Levitan, and their students in Geology and Aquatic Ecology were joined by Professors Suzanne Gollery and Steve Ellsworth, and an assortment of other interested students.

Students descending into the pitch-dark Subway Cave lava tube
Hiking up Cinder Cone
Smoke from wildfires in Oregon makes a spectacular sunset in northern California

The geology class hiked through the Subway Cave Lava Tube, Devastation Area, Bumpass Hell Hydrothermal area, and up Cinder Cone, encountering an amazing array of active volcanic features. On Sunday morning, students made a sunrise hike up Mt. Lassen, a plug-dome volcano. The aquatic ecology class used the science department’s new sonde, a multi-sensor probe nicknamed “the baby”, to measure a range of water quality parameters along depth profiles in Butte Lake. Using our new “research vessel”, the SS Levitan, we collected some really interesting data on the impact of adjacent volcanic activity on the lake.

Students and faculty in Butte Lake Campground at dusk
Navigating the switchbacks on a sunrise hike up Mt. Lassen
Professor Chuck Levitan and students analyze Butte Lake water samples aboard the ‘SS Levitan’

It was a great trip – everyone chipped in to set up camp and wrangle equipment, Lassen is both spectacular and really interesting, and the weather was beautiful. We’re all looking forward to our next weekend field trip, to Bodega Dunes State Park on the Sonoma Coast, where we will study the San Andreas Fault, some marine ecology, and coastal stream ecosystems.