Fall 2015

[Alumni News]

Mike Garcia

Digging Deep into Volcanic Hotspots

LOOKING FOR ADVENTURE, and a constantly changing landscape, Mike Garcia (’71 Geology) landed in one of the liveliest places on the planet. Thirty-nine years later, the University of Hawaii professor is still adding to the field of volcanology, much like flowing molten rock continuously adds to the Big Island landmass.

Garcia arrived in the Hawaiian Islands—one of the most active volcanic hotspots on the planet—after earning a doctorate from UCLA in 1976. His interest in geology, however, began as an undergraduate at Humboldt State.

“I came to HSU to study oceanography, but I had to take some geology courses as part of that major,” Garcia says. “Frank Kilmer was one of the professors who would pile us into his vehicle, and take us out to look at local geology.”

Those and other geology field trips led to Garcia’s senior thesis on mantle rocks along the Smith River in northernmost California. Evidence of ancient volcanic arc islands that eventually became the Klamath Mountains encouraged him to do his dissertation research on the rocks of Oregon’s Rogue River Valley.

Two field seasons in Antarctica—home to active volcano Mt. Erubus—have also proved valuable to Garcia’s research. But it’s the easy access to Big Island volcanoes Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and submarine Lo`ihi, that has provided him further research and teaching opportunities.

“We go out on field trips where undergraduate students can actually scoop up molten lava,” Garcia says. “They wear heavy gloves, heavy boots, and actually scoop it up.”

Sharing that hands-on experience with other students and professors without those resources has led Garcia to the development of several training modules that can be included in the curriculum at other universities.