Las Vegas, NM — Highlands University geology senior Sarah Trevino participated in a two-week fieldwork experience in the Isle of Mull, Scotland, to study and map where tectonic plates collided on the island.
The Isle of Mull is in the Inner Hebrides archipelago — a 45-minute ferry ride from the western coast of Scotland.
Trevino, a 23-year-old Colorado native, joined a group of international college students in March for the fieldwork led by geology professor John Reavy of University College Cork in southwestern Ireland.
Trevino has earned a 4.0 GPA and will complete her B.S. degree in geology at Highlands in December.
“On the Isle of Mull, our goal was a comprehensive study of orogenesis — where two tectonic plates collide,” Trevino said. “We studied the metamorphic changes and mineral assembly of the rocks in the field, and how that relates to large-scale tectonic events. We developed detailed geologic maps of the different kinds of rock in this region.”
Large-scale tectonics refers to geologic events that happen on a continental scale — such as the interaction between the Pacific and North American continental plates along the San Andreas Fault.
“This Isle of Mull fieldwork was an incredible experience, and I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity. It helped solidify my interest in large-scale tectonics, and gave me a real taste of the kind of research I would like to do someday in a potential Ph.D. project. I have an insatiable curiosity to learn more about geologic history. I absolutely love it,” Trevino said.
Trevino added that on the legendary Isle of Iona west of Mull, she got the chance to stand on some of the oldest rocks in the world — dating back 3.2 billion years.
Visiting Highlands University geology professor Will McCarthy earned his Ph.D. at University College Cork. He suggested to Reavy, his former adviser, that Trevino participate in the Scotland fieldwork.
“Sarah is ferociously smart, and I knew she would be an asset at this upper-division geology field camp, and represent Highlands well,” McCarthy said. “John Reavy sang her praises after the field camp, saying Sarah has a well balanced work ethic and made a major contribution.”
Highlands University geology professor Jennifer Lindline is Trevino’s adviser and fellow geology professor Michael Petronis is Trevino’s research adviser.
For her senior research project, Trevino conducted a magnetic polarity study of sediments in the High Plains Aquifer in Kansas. In 2011, Petronis garnered a National Science Foundation grant for groundbreaking hydrogeological research in aquifer, which supplies nearly 30 percent of the groundwater in the United States.
“Sarah has keen insight when making critical field observations, which allows her to see the small-scale geologic features and then link them to the large-scale geologic processes,” Petronis said. “Having this skill set will allow Sarah to become and outstanding professional geologist. She also has very strong critical thinking ability, which we try to instill in all our undergraduates.”
“The research opportunities at Highlands have been phenomenal, and we have stellar geology professors,” Trevino said. “Dr. Lindline and Dr. Petronis are passionate about what they do and actively pursue research, which makes us better geologists. I know their guidance will be there for me after I complete my degree at Highlands.”
Trevino’s goal is to earn her doctorate and become a university geology professor and researcher someday, saying Petronis and Lindline inspired her in this path.
“I want to be a professor and pass the torch to the next generation of geology students,” Trevino said.