2009 Tinker Memorial Grant Recipient Visits Gobi Desert

Graham Hagan_Peter Undergraduate Geology major Graham Hagan-Peter shares with the CAS eNEWS his experiences last summer and how he has benefitted from being a scholarship recipient.

Graham is pictured here with a Mongolian graduate student who accompanied the group on their explorations.


In the summer of 2009, I had the privilege of accompanying Geology faculty member Dr. Laura Webb and her M.S. student, Merril Stypula, on a trip to the Gobi Desert in Southeastern Mongolia to conduct geologic field work and collect samples for analyses in our department at UVM. The purpose of our research is to explore the dynamics of intracontinental deformation. The primary question: how is the continental crust in the middle of Asia deforming due, at least partially, to stress fields emanating from plate boundaries thousands of kilometers away? We are incorporating structural, microstructural, petrological, and geochronologic data to attempt to answer this question. The results of this research will bear implications for the complexities of global tectonics.

We spent 14 days in the field, setting up a camp of individual tents a few kilometers from our field area. As one would expect, the Gobi Desert is extremely hot in July, making field work near intolerable on some days. The terrain was very rugged, so the preferred mode of transport from Ulaanbaatar (the capital of Mongolia) to our field site was by old Russian vehicles. We were accompanied in the field by two van drivers, a cook, and two Mongolian graduate students. They proved to be crucial in organizing the logistics of the trip as well as very helpful with the field work. The Mongolian lifestyle is unlike any that I have ever experienced, and despite an initial state of shock, I became very comfortable immersed in a wonderful culture and made some great friends.

Awards such as the Tinker Memorial Grant and the Hawley Research Grant, in conjunction with the support of my mentors in the Geology Department faculty, have helped inspire and fund my work at UVM. By helping with tuition and research expenses, these programs have enabled me to pursue many wonderful opportunities with the university, such as my ongoing research project.


Thanks to a generous donation from Arthur J. and Claire Heiser, the UVM Geology Department bestows the annual Arthur J. and Claire Heiser Joseph B. Tinker Memorial Grant to a deserving undergraduate geology major. The award is an approximately $1,000 scholarship to be applied towards UVM tuition. Recipients have demonstrated both excellence in academic performance, and activity in the UVM Geology Department community. Such activities may include, but are not limited to, the GeoClub, Sigma Gamma Epsilon, departmental work-study, TAAs, independent research, and Perkins Museum guide.