Minerals! Not Rocks…

by Kathryn Courtney

What comes to mind when thinking about Hawaii? Sandy beaches, flowers and an escapement from work come to my mind. Have you ever though of Hawaii as a place to work? Geologists visit the islands to research and discover the history and the land formations.

The geological factors that each island possesses fascinate geologists. Dr. John Roma Skok, a Ph. D., in Geological Sciences researches at Louisiana State University the Department of Geology and Geophysics. Skok and a group of LSU geologists prepare to visit Hawaii over the winter break to research the islands. David Susko, an undergraduate researcher of geology discusses the expedition:

Skok travels the world to research geology, specifically on extreme environments. One of his expeditions, he traveled to Spain to research the Rio Tinto River. “The river has a pH 1,” said Skok. The pH scale determines how basic or acidic a substance is. “The Rio Tinto River is more acidic than stomach acid, which has a pH 3,” said Susko. Surprisingly, things live in such extreme conditions. Skok collected samples of the river and tends to research it in his spare time.

Remember when you were a child, you picked up a white rock and drew on the concrete? Actually you picked up a mineral, according to Susko. Kaolinite, a clay chalky mineral, marks on concrete. Skok recovered a sample of Kaolinite in his expedition to Spain. Turns out “many minerals streak on concrete, and they are not all white,” said Susko. Nonetheless, Skok does not draw on concrete with his mineral, instead keeps it for his mineral collection.

Kaolinite from Spain

Kaolinite from Spain

Skok collects several minerals and samples from all over the world. Basalts are very common and can look differently because how the rock weathered, according to Skok.

Skok constantly explores extreme environments to further his research. Ultimately, he wants to develop Mars’ climate specifically the ancient volcanoes, which obviously is an extreme environment.

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