Commencement 2024 Information

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Geology Prof’s Fulbright Highlights Research and Teaching in the Czech Republic  

April 2, 2020

photo of Michael Petronis

Michael Petronis

Las Vegas, N.M. – New Mexico Highlands University geology professor Michael Petronis’ Fulbright Scholar Award to study ancient volcanos in the Czech Republic aims to help predict eruptions in active volcanoes worldwide.

Petronis is known globally for his research on volcanology. His geology fieldwork for his Fulbright will be focused on the ancient Krasny Vrch volcano in the Eger Rift in northeastern Bohemia. It will take place in fall 2021.

“The inner skeleton of Krasny Vrch is exposed along a 500-meter long quarry wall that includes magma feeders and lava flows,” Petronis said. “It’s an ideal research site to map the process of midcontinental volcanism.”

Petronis said the various research projects in the Czech Republic will expand our understanding of volcanology, paleoclimate and the rates of geologic processes, to name a few topics.

“These research projects will be integrated into several of the local geoparks in the Czech Republic in permanent displays and park literature with an effort to communicate the sensitive geologic and ecological nature of the study areas,” Petronis said.

Another of Petronis’ Fulbright research projects will explore the ascent process of magma, molten rock, from its source region at the depth to a volcanic eruption at the Earth’s surface.

“Understanding more about ancient magma flow patterns allows us to better understand current volcanic activity globally,” Petronis said.

Petronis’ third research project integrates geophysical techniques with magnetostratigraphy – the study of rock magnetic properties used to date sediments. His research will take place at the Jeleni Vrch volcano diatreme in northwestern Bohemia.

“This research will allow us to look at how the European climate changed through the recent geologic time and relate this back to the same time period in the Southwest U.S.,” Petronis said.

While in the Czech Republic, Petronis will collaborate with geologists from Charles University in Prague, the Academy of Sciences and the Czech Geological Survey.

“This collaboration will allow us to work with the preeminent geological and educational research entities in the Czech Republic,” Petronis said.

During his Fulbright in the Czech Republic, Petronis will also teach geology courses at Charles University such as Tectonics of the Rifts. He teaches these same classes at Highlands.

“One of the biggest goals of this Fulbright is learning new ways to teach geology to a broad international audience,” Petronis said.

Petronis said Highlands students will benefit from his Fulbright experience.

“Further international collaboration brings back new knowledge to the Northern New Mexico community, such as how the Czech Republic has similar geological regions and resources as New Mexico,” Petronis said.

Petronis said the Fulbright will rekindle his enthusiasm and drive to expand research experiences for Highlands’ geology students locally and abroad.

Over the years, Petronis and fellow Highlands geology professor Jennifer Lindline have secured many National Science Foundation and other grants to lead Highlands students to Europe for geologic research. Three previous NSF grants focused on Central Europe, including the Czech Republic.

Petronis joins the ranks of distinguished Fulbright scholars worldwide who were selected to participate in this prestigious international academic exchange program. The U.S. government established the Fulbright Program in 1946. The U.S. Department of State administers the Fulbright Program.