Abby Michels (’18): Mapping faults in Mexico

Posted on February 24th, 2017 by

The following blog is a guest post by Abby Michels (’18), a Geology major with a GIS minor. She spent this past January in Mexico on a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).


“Fault Finders” Abby Michels (’18) and Luke Johnson measuring an exposed fault surface on the Boleo Mineral Mine.

I began researching near Santa Rosalia, Mexico on the Boleo Mineral Mine through an REU with other geology students and professors from both the U.S. and Mexico. I was able to participate in this research by applying for the REU last October. Over the course of three weeks, my partner, mentor and I explored around the mine site and mapped the locations of faults and their orientations. Along with this, we logged two stratigraphic sections, one on either side of a major fault. We will put our data together with data from past research to create a model of the past seismic activity of the studied area. Everyone involved in the REU will reconvene this July at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to complete our analysis of our separate projects and put together a paper and poster with our results.


Each day we would have breakfast as a group, get dressed up in our personal protective equipment and split off into our small research groups for the rest of the day. My group, the “Fault Finders,” would drive around the mine site and get out periodically to measure faults. The majority of our faults were found up arroyos (dried-up riverbeds) or on active strip mining sites. We would take measurements with compass clinometers, take samples photos periodically and record it all in our field notebooks. We even used QGIS in the field to plot different points on a map as we went along.


The content of our research project was pretty complicated and it was difficult to see how it all fit together at times, as we only have the data and won’t be putting the whole puzzle together until July 2017. However, the people I met during my time in Mexico were incredible. We all bonded through living in tiny barracks-style housing and a common passion for geology.


I thoroughly enjoyed my field research experience and I’m definitely interested in doing more. If given the opportunity, I’d love to help conduct more research on a project that’s more geography-heavy.


If you’re looking to do research abroad; apply, apply, apply! Sometimes the hardest part is forcing yourself to sit down and complete applications, but it is the most important part. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself out there!


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