Michael Zieg, assistant professor of geography, geology and the environment at Slippery Rock University, knows the meaning of a "Rock Solid" education more than most people. Zieg just returned from a two-week research expedition in Antarctica, where he collected 150 rocks he and SRU geology majors will analyze to learn more about the separation of continents.
Zieg was selected as one of nine geologists, eight from America and one from Poland, for the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs project. The project hopes to shed light on the rifting of Antarctica from Australia.
The NSF selected Zieg because of his previous Antarctic experience and his ongoing study of igneous rocks. He has been to Antarctica three times. The igneous rocks, formed by cooling magma, are part of a sequence of sills, or horizontal intrusions, Zieg said. These sills were discovered as part of Capt. Robert F. Scott's famous Discovery Expedition from 1901 to 1904. Zieg collected his samples in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, which, contrary to what one would assume, "is an ice free area," he said. "That is part of what makes this project so important, that the rocks are exposed on the surface with no soil, poison ivy or snakes."
He said the trip was an outstanding opportunity to examine a classic rock sequence and provide learning opportunities. "My students and I will be able determine how the sills formed and cooled and learn more about the development of igneous intrusions. I see a number of educational opportunities for Slippery Rock University students." "There is significant student buzz about this trip," added Michael Stapleton, SRU assistant professor of geology.
The team's previous work was highlighted in National Geographic. Zieg, assistant professor of geology for three years, received his doctorate in earth and planetary science at Johns Hopkins University and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at NASA Johnson Space Center. In 2006, Zieg received the SRU's President's Award for Scholarly and Creative Achievement.