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22 January, 2003

I'm Taber Hersum, the token male student representing the igneous petrology group at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). My fascination with geology was spawned by my interest in physical science and numerous outings to the Cascade Mountains near my home in eastern Washington State. I was an average but disinterested math student in high school but upon taking calculus classes in college I realized the applicability of mathematics in quantifying geological processes. This led me to earn a double degree in geology and applied mathematics from the University of Washington in Seattle. I decided to pursue an advanced degree in geology at JHU, in parcticular igneous petrology, largely because of my involvement in undergraduate research.

At JHU, the idea of visiting Antarctica and the mountainous Dry Valleys region became an intoxicating prospect for me, similar to being asked to parcticipate in an exploration party of the frontier American West during the 19th century. The 'dry valleys', including Wright and Victoria Valley were not discovered until aerial reconnaissance by Navy pilots in the 1950's and are therefore relatively ripe for scientific exploration. The large vertical exposure of outcrop, no vegetation, and relative lack of snow and ice in the Dry Valleys provide a unique opportunity in the world to study the underside of a magmatic system.

I have several interests in studying the Ferrar dolerites (dolerite is the same compostion as basalt) of the Dry Valleys. Foremost, my primary research activity at JHU has been in developing a computer algorithm that simulates the nucleation and growth of crystals during magma solidification. The resultant size and arrangement of crystals, or texture, from a simulation can be compared and calibrated with the natural texture of an igneous rock and therefore important parameters such as nucleation rate and crystal growth rate can be evaluated for solidifying magmas. The dolerites have a wide variety of igneous textures, including chilled margins where the magma cooled fast and many small crystals exist to areas deeper in the middle of the sills that cooled more slowly and have less but larger crystals. By testing my algorithm with samples from the Ferrar dolerites I will be able to extend my model to other magmatic systems.

To Mom, Dad, and Christina at home I'm safe, eating plenty (no denying that), and having a great time. I would also like to say 'hi' to my friends and relatives back in WA state, California, in Baltimore and D.C., and other places. For those interested, a couple days ago, to improve my personal hygiene as commented on by my fellow teammates, I plunged into a little pond near camp after clearing a hole through the '' thick ice. I am happy to report that all my appendages are still intact. Take care and I hope to see you all soon and when I do, please refrain from comments about my beard! Taber


1. Taber Hersum


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