GEOL 105 Jockey John Robinson First-Year Earth Lab: Intro to the Geology of Hawai'i Spring 2016


The Spring 2016 GEOL 105 Earth Lab: Introduction to the Geology of Hawaii was taught by Elizabeth Knapp and Euan Mitchell with 12 first year students. It was the Jockey John Robinson First Year Seminar supported by the wonderful generosity of Jamie '81 and Alison Small. In the 4-week course we studied a wide variety of geologic and earth systems processes focusing on the Geology of the Hawaiian Islands. After a week on campus learning some basics we travelled to the Big Island of Hawaii

We spent the first half of our trip in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park studying recent and active volcanism, earthquakes and structural processes. This past spring there was no overland lava flow nor ocean entry (though things certainly changed at Pu'u O' o over the summer - check out the pics on the HVO website now)! We were able to see the amazing lava lake in Halema'uma'u crater at the summit caldera of Kilauea and to hike across the floor of Kilauea Iki. We visited scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. For the first time we were able to visit the NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory (think the Keeling curve) in the same day as the summit of Mauna Kea and the astronomical observatories.

The second half of the trip we spent on the Kona Coast where we learned about coastal processes, mass wasting, beaches and reefs. We studied Papakolea - one of the worlds only green sand beaches (composed of olivine) which formed at the base of the Pu'u O Mahana. We visited several anchialine pools and hot springs as well sacred and important cultural sites to more fully appreciate the connection of the people and the land

We had a amazing group of students and among them some budding geologists and environmental scientists. To learn more about our trip see blog entries below, or go to


The Jockey John Robinson First-Year Earth Lab is a FY Seminar dedicated to promoting the sciences by engaging first-year students in special topic seminars.

No prerequisites other than being a FY student.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kalapana Black Sand Beach

Meaning gathering at the sea, the Kaimu or Kalapana beach was once a huge gathering place for local Hawaiians and …

Friday, May 20, 2016

Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o means “curved water”. The Waipi’o Valley is a valley that has been carved out over hundreds of thousands of …

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lava Trees State Park

After days of seeing vast, black lava flows, visiting the Lava Trees State Monument was a welcome change of pace …

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hualalai Xenoliths?!

The first time I saw the term “Hualalai Xenoliths”, I had absolutely no idea what they were, or how to …

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Puna Hot Springs: A Look Back

I was elated to visit the hot springs after almost a full week spent hiking volcanoes. Unlike rainy days past, …

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Green Sand Beach: A Look Back

When I heard that one of the sites we would be visiting was the Green Sand Beach, I quickly positioned …

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Green Sand Beach

On Sunday we visited a green sand beach off of the coast of South Point. The high concentration of olivine …

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau

Today we went to a Hawaiian place of refuge. Places of refuge were used for a few things: 1) for …

Friday, May 06, 2016

Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

Today we got to explore the largest mountain in the world, Mauna Loa, and the tallest mountain in the world, …