Grand Canyon trip to Havasupai Falls

This trip had two major goals for UofA AEG participants. The first was to experience seven classical geological formations of the southwest that were exposed on the hike through the Grand Canyon.  The second was to see in person the effect that flooding and natural disasters can have on land morphology and human settlement.        

            The hike took us down 1,500 hundred feet over ten miles.  Geologically we descended through rocks representing 115 million years of Earth’s history form the 270 Ma Kaibab formation to the 385 Ma Temple Butte Formation.  Juxtaposed with these ancient layers are travertine formations of calcium carbonate deposited in Havasupai Creek so quickly that the creek never looks the same from one year to the next.

Havasupai Falls recently experienced the effects of a large flood and debris flow event.   On August 17, 2008, the Redlands Dam on Havasu Creek burst after days of heavy rain. The high flood waters caused a debris flow that destroyed the then prominent Navajo Falls, rerouting the creek and creating two new falls.  More recently, in July of 2013, the town of Supai, near the falls, lost drinking water due to another large flood.  Students goIMG_0436 IMG_0437 IMG_0452 IMG_0459 IMG_0461 IMG_0474 IMG_0486 IMG_0491 IMG_0497 IMG_0498 IMG_0505 IMG_0508 IMG_0511 IMG_0512 IMG_0513 IMG_0519 IMG_6345 IMG_6350 IMG_6352 IMG_6353 IMG_6355 IMG_6360 IMG_6361 IMG_6391 IMG_6392 IMG_6401 IMG_6404 IMG_6416 IMG_6418 IMG_6419 IMG_6420 IMG_6421 IMG_6422 IMG_6444 P1010381 P1010398 P1010404 P1010435 P1010574 P1010598 P1010607 P1010630 P1010632 P1010637 P1010646 P1010652 P1010655 P1010666 P1010682 P1010694 P1010703 P1010719 P1010729 P1010740 P1010754 P1010756 P1010758 P1010770 P1010773 P1010797 P1010799 P1010305 P1010380t to see first hand the results of these floods and the rerouting of the creek.

Trip Report: Backpacking and swim to Romero Pools

Johnny, Rob, Jeb, Jason, Jessica, my wife Trinity and I hiked up 2.2 miles to Romero pools on the 28th of April.  Within this hike we encountered world class geology including seeing folding, faulting, and variation of rock types from red beds to granites on the trail.  In the cove of Romero pools we were surrounded by Mylonite and in the water we were able to scoop hand fulls of sediment to see small garnets of ruby and citrine.  For most that go to Romero pools it is just swimming and jumping, but for Geologists its cliff jumping off of beautiful Mylonite into ruby filled waters.  If you’d like to come with us next time, let us know!

-Brian Gary


Trip Report: AEG Earth Day Backpacking in Saguaro National Park

Rob Davenport, my wife and I went out to the Rincon mountains for a study on watersheds and the potential hazards they pose to the local desert landscape.  In case you are not familiar with this location, it required a small road trip East of Tucson on I10 to Mescal road.  From I10, we headed North on Mescal until the paved road turned to dirt, and then continued on.  Down a quite windy road through a beautiful pass between mountains, we passed many turnoffs for campers and trail heads for hikers.  After about 16 miles since I10 we slowed up to the miller creek trail head.  Miller creek is a desolate trail with beautiful green foliage and the sound of water run off in the distance.  Through our journey up the mountain we discovered some amazing geology and catastrophic after effects of rock falls, which can be seen in the pictures.  This hike was originally intended to transport and use the department’s LIDAR scanner to conduct 3d image capturing of the watersheds of the area surrounding the Rincon summit to be able to identify potential hazards based on rock type and interpolation of the recorded 3d map.  The LIDAR scanner did malfunction before our trip, so the trip was morphed into an experience of visual interpretation of the geological landscape from the viewer, and LIDAR testing is now going to be scheduled for some time in the near future.  So look out for when we are going to go again, we would like to have you and it will be an amazing experience of world class Geo-mechanics!

-Brian Gary


Order your UA AEG t-shirts now!

We are taking orders for our first UA AEG t-shirts now.  They are $15 each.  One the front is the AEG logo with the University of Arizona, and on the back are our sponsors’ logos or names.

Order through Jonathan Adkins,, 303-919-5192.

Earth Day (April 21-22) Saguaro National Park Community Service Project & Backpacking

Email or call Johnny for more info or sign sign up: or 520-971-8235.

AEG, SWES, HWRSA and NRGSO students will be teaming up to conduct LiDAR scanning of the upper Rincon Creek watershed for research related to wildfire management issues.  According to park biologist Don Swann the watersheds below Rincon Peak have not seen fire in possibly over 100 years due to fire suppression management of the forest.  With the increases in recent forest fires throughout the southwest US and post-fire debris flows associated with them, Saguaro National Park needs to know what the hazards are before it burns and it is too late to do anything.  Recently other regional mountains have burned and have had post-fire debris flow assessment and modeling done to predict probabilities of failure and volumes of debris.  It is hoped that the overly forested watersheds of Rincon Creek can be assessed pre-fire in order to facilitate proactive management of the forest if the hazards are too great to people, infrastructure and natural and cultural resources.

Long-range terrestrial LiDAR will be used to extract 3D point cloud images of the main  upper watersheds on Rincon Peak.  The group will hike up to Happy Valley Saddle, camp out and then hike to optimal vantage points within 1.5 kilometers (the range of the Optec scanner) of the watersheds to conduct scanning.  Scans will be primarily horizontal or looking slightly up at the slopes to try to see under some of the forest canopy and under overhanging rock surfaces.  Since Saguaro National Park East already has airborne LiDAR data, the terrestrial LiDAR point clouds will be merged with them to produce 3D images with good data coverage from above and below.  This merged point cloud should be optimal in conducting debris flow analysis, and hopefully other natural resource and environmental research related to the watershed.

Below is the informal proposal I gave to Saguaro National Park regrading this project.

  1. What does the sampling equipment look like?

Our equipment is shown below in Figure 1, which includes scanner, tripod, camera and batteries.  Also shown in image are some LiDAR results from our last research project.

Figure 1.  a) Google map showing sequence of scans performed, b) our Optec LiDAR scanner with high resolution digital camera mounted on top, c) greyscale 3D scan image, d) color 3D scan image due to draping the high resolution photo onto the LiDAR point cloud.
2.  How long do you sample for?

We usually scan for about 4 to 6 hours depending on the area we’re trying to cover.
3.  How do you relate the data from this instrument to our Lidar data from
the air (which we have for the whole park now)?

We can stitch the terrestrial point cloud to the airborne and create a more detailed, multi-perspective model of the slopes and watershed we are trying to assess.  Merging the terrestrial image with the airborne image gives more complete data for places shadowed from the air like under trees and under cliff ledges, so that the ground surface can be better assessed.  Below in Figure 2 and 3 are examples of this in Yosemite National Park.

Figure 2.  Merged Airborne and Terrestrial LiDAR point cloud images (Stock et al., 2011)

Figure 3.  Surface model produced from LiDAR image and draped high resolution photograph (Stock et al., 2011)
4.  What would the resulting product look like (e.g., what could you send
to us as a product?)

Figures 1, 2 and 3 are examples of products we could deliver for this project by this summer if we scan this spring.  In addition to these products, other possible products we could deliver would be: geologic stereonets of the structure and jointing, DEMs, slope stability and rockfall modeling results, debris flow hazard analysis.  These last products would take much more time and expertise than the basic scan images, which already take some time and skill to produce, so they would probably be either based on graduate student research projects or over long periods through club volunteers. We could also enlist our other collaborating clubs to work on this with us, which include SWES (Soil, Water and Environmental Science), HWRSA (Hydrology and Water Resources Student Association) and NRGSO (Natural Resources Graduate Student Organization).  They could use the scanning results to conduct studies on the soils, vegetation and hydrology of the area.  Scans can be done over consecutive time periods and merged together to conduct a change detection map, where topography that has changed (including plants and other structures) is colored red where for removal or loss and blue for deposition or growth.  These are just some ideas I have for how it could help.


UA AEG hosts a multidisciplinary exhibit with other University of Arizona engineering and science clubs and Freeport McMoran employees at the Tucson Math, Science and Technology Funfest 2012.

Tucson area school kids were lined up to get their hands dirty at our multidisciplinary Earth and Environmental Engineering and Science exhibit at the 2012 Tucson Math, Science and Technology Funfest.  Five clubs contributed to this diverse earth exhibit:  Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG); Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME); International Society of Explosives Engineers (ISEE); Soil, Water and Environmental Science (SWES); and Theta Tau-Chi Chapter.  In addition to the university clubs, we also had help from two Freeport McMoran – Mine Technology engineers: Richard Sivils and Jonathan.

Our club, UA AEG, had a display board with photographs and a hands-on activity to break rocks with rock hammers and small sledge hammers.  The science behind the rock breaking activity was two-fold: one was the physics of how the different hammer faces break rocks differently and two was the fact that geologists break open rocks to know what they are and how strong they are.  Safety glasses were on and rocks were shattering with pieces flying everywhere.  The loud impacts and flying shards kept bystanders back, but even more so, it drew in a steady line of eager children waiting to be encouraged to break something.  And with the abundance of rocks we brought (and the fact we didn’t want to carry them all out at the end of the Funfest), the kids were allowed to take pieces they broke off as souvenirs, making for very happy and stress-relieved students.

Richard Sivils, Mining Engineer from Freeport McMoran

UA AEG President, Johnny Lyons-Baral

SME had a display board, a mineral collection and shared a hands-on Field Point Load Tester activity with AEG.  The mineral collection had very colorful specimens that SME members told children and teachers about, including what common household items they are present in.  With some rock core samples breaking at about 10,000 psi (pounds per square inch), the Point Load Tester activity was almost explosive at times, with 3 inch long by  2.5 inch diameter pieces of rock flying out and sliding across the room.  Again, kids were given smaller pieces of the rocks they had broken to keep.  The science behind this activity was to show the kids that by breaking the rocks we can determine how strong the rocks are for either blasting or for stabilizing them for safety.

Point Load Tester Acitivity

ISEE blazed a bright path for the school kids to find us at the Funfest.  Their magnesium burning demonstration drew people’s attention even though they weren’t allowed to look directly at the light.  An exciting video of blasting events and a tumbler explosives grinding display completed the ISEE exhibit.  The idea of increasing the surface area of the explosives through grinding and how it increase the explosiveness was discussed with the children.

The dirtiest group we had was SWES.  Their soil texturing hands-on activity was loved by kids and grimaced at by the adults responsible for those filthy children.  But despite the chaperones’ best efforts, the course of nature prevailed and dirt won the battle over cleanliness.  The science of soil and its impact on agriculture and vegetation growth were cheerfully shared with the students, giving them an appreciation of the science of soils.

Noelle Espinosa and SWES Soil Texturing

SWES and their mess

As our more chemically-based exhibit, Theta Tau helped the kids create bouncy balls from Borax.  Although they told me, the balls ended up more like Silly Puddy, the students were thrilled either way to get their hands making goo and playing with their finished product.  Chemical reactions were discussed with the children and how products can be made by them.

Frank Ventura and Theta Tau making bouncy balls

Overall, the two days were a great success.  Next year, hopefully the groups will start planning and signing up volunteers earlier in the year.  And we also need to have a “photo journalist” to cover both days, to make sure photos and notes are taken and that a story can go to various media venues right after the event.  This year’s event for us grew exponentially since last year, and next year the hope is not so much growth, but rather improvement and more member participation.

AEG/GSA Jahns Lecturer presenting at UA AEG Monday, March 19th.

The AEG/GSA Jahns Lecturer, Dr. Scott Burns, Professor of Geology from Portland State, will be presenting on “Engineering Geology Challenges on the Cascadia Margin, Pacific Northwest, USA”.  The event will be on Monday, March 19th in Mines & Metallurgy Bldg from 1:45 to 3 pm.  This is the first day of classes after spring break, so we should all  be back in town.

Generalized tectonic map of the Cascadia regionCascadia Subduction Zone (USGS 2012,

Abstract: In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the Juan de Fuca plate is being subducted under the North American Plate at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.  The lecture will discuss the hazards of and the preparedness for ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides and tsunamis along the subduction zone.  What are the differences of recurrence intervals for large earthquakes on the northern and southern margins?  Much of the region was not thought to be an earthquake region so earthquake building standards are fairly recent. How does the chance of crustal, plate and subduction quakes affect building codes, emergency preparedness, siting of critical facilities, building of bridges, and transportation corridors in the region?  What have we learned from recent subduction quakes around the world that can be applied to the Pacific Northwest?  What can the region expect after a large quake?

Bio:                                        Richard Jahns Award, 2011-2012

Scott F. Burns

Dr. Scott Burns has been named the 2011-2012 Richard H. Jahns Distinguished Lecturer in Engineering Geology.  Scott is a Professor of Geology at Portland State University (PSU) where he specializes in environmental and engineering geology, soils, geomorphology, Quaternary Geology and terroir.  He just finished his 21st year of teaching there and his 41st year of teaching at the university level (previous positions inSwitzerland,New Zealand,Washington,Colorado andLouisiana).

An author or co-author of two books, over 80 articles, and over 200 published abstracts, Scott has worked on research topics as diverse as landslide, debris flow, radon and earthquake hazard mapping, heavy metals and trace elements in soils, loess stratigraphy, slope stability, Missoula Floods, bio-geomorphology (pocket gophers, tree throw, and ants), alpine soil development, and terroir (relationship of geology, soils, climate and wine).

He was president of AEG (2002-2003) and vice president (North America) for IAEG (2006-2010). He has received the Public Service Award from GSA in 2011 and the Meritorious Service Award (2006) from the Engineering Geology Division (EGD) of Geological Society of America. He has been the Chair of the Engineering Geology Division and the Treasurer of the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division (for 12 years) of GSA.  Scott has been an Associate Dean, chair of departments and president of faculty senates at three different universities, and president of one of the largest and oldest Rotary clubs in the world. Scott has won many awards for outstanding teaching with the most significant being the Faculty Senate Chair Award at Louisiana Tech University in 1987, the Distinguished Faculty Award from the PSU Alumni Association in 2001, and the George Hoffmann Award from PSU in 2007.  He actively helps local TV and radio stations and newspapers bring important geological news to the public.

He has B.S. and M.S. degrees fromStanfordUniversity, plus a Ph.D. from theUniversityofColorado. Scott holds registrations inOregon(RG and CEG) and a license in Washington (LG). Scott also is a consultant and an expert witness for law cases.

The Jahns lectureship, established in 1988, is sponsored by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists and the GSA Engineering Geology Division.  Its purpose is to provide funding for distinguished engineering geologists to present lectures at colleges and universities in order to increase awareness of students about careers in engineering geology.  The lectureship is named in honor of Dr. Richard H. Jahns (1915-1983), an engineering geologist who had a diverse and distinguished career in academia, consulting and government.

The main talk being offered by Dr. Burns is “Urban Landslides – Challenges to Forensic Engineering Geologists”.  Other talks can also be arranged: “Cataclysms on the Columbia, the Great Missoula Floods”; “Engineering Geology Challenges on the Cascadia Margin, Pacific Northwest, USA”, and “The Mystery of Terroir – the Relationship of Geology, Soils, and Climate to Wine”.  To make arrangements for talks, please contact Scott directly at or 503-725-3389.  Descriptions of the talks can be found on the AEG website (  and the GSA-Engineering Geology website (

AEG/AHS Student Night 2012 – April 2

Who:  For students and professionals in the many related fields of economic, environmental, and engineering geology; geological, geotechnical, and mining engineering; and, hydrology, hydrogeology, groundwater, and water resources.

What:  AEG/AHS Student Night 2012, mini-career fair, plated dinner and student presentations.

Where: University of Arizona, Student Union, Rincon and Catalina Rooms

When:  Monday, April 2, 2012 from 5:30pm – 9:00pm

Why: The purpose of Student Night is to provide students an opportunity to learn more about careers in the industry and a venue for the presentation of selected student research and work projects to the professional community.  Our focus for the event is to bring students and professionals together and provide a fun yet professional forum for networking and exploration of employment/internship prospects.  Student Night also provides professionals who attend with the opportunity to market their companies to students and recruit potential future employees.


Important dates

  • Student Presentation abstracts due March 9, 2012
  • RSVP Deadline March 16, 2012

More info to follow!

UAAEG BioBlitz

Last week, 11 members of UAAEG participated in the National Geographic BioBlitz, with a tremendous amount of success.  Several photos were documented and many will be uploaded onto the website soon.

The event was written about also in the Engineer Arizona_online newsletter if you want to read more about it.

Below is a little write of the event.