October 27, 2012

Laccoliths, Sills, and Dykes, Oh My! The LASI V Workshop in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

The LASI V field trip route in the Karoo Large Igneous Province. Image taken from the LASI V website: http://www.lasi5.com/

My husband and I just returned from Durban as well as South Africa’s “South Coast” and “Wild Coast”, where we enjoyed a lovely week of holiday to celebrate our 1-year wedding anniversary. We had a great time despite the rainy weather, and I took plenty of pictures which I’ll be sharing here on Georneys in due time.

We’re back home in Cape Town now, but tomorrow morning I fly out again. I’m headed to Port Elizabeth, South Africa to participate in something called LASI V, a workshop titled “The physical geology of subvolcanic systems: laccoliths, sills, and dykes.” LASI V consists of two days of talks and posters followed by a 4-day field trip to the Karoo Large Igneous Province. I’ve been invited to attend the conference by Dr. Henrik Svenson, a Senior Researcher at Physics of Geological Processes, a Norwegian Center of Excellence. Henrik has invited me to attend the workshop as a science writer… or, perhaps, as a science blogger. I’ll be taking notes (and pictures!) during the talks and field trip and writing up some blog posts which I’ll be sharing with you here on Georneys. If some of the LASI V participants are willing, I’m also hoping to do a few interviews (my voice recorder is packed!) and share edited transcripts of these interviews. I’m sure I’ll also have plenty of pictures to share from Port Elizabeth and the Karoo!

I’m excited and honored to be participating in the LASI V workshop. I’m so excited, in fact, that I’m even taking an extra week off from my day job to attend LASI V. The list of talks and posters looks great– you can download the Conference ProgramĀ here. If there’s any talk or poster you particularly want me to blog about, please let me know in a comment below. I’m also looking forward to the field trip to the Karoo as I’ve been wanting to visit the Karoo for years. Certainly, the geology of the Karoo is currently a hot topic since several companies are interested in extracting shale gas from the Karoo, but there are concerns about the environmental impact of such gas extraction. As geologists working in South Africa, my husband and I (who work in gold exploration and know relatively little about shale gas) are often asked about what we think about “fracking and the Karoo” at dinner parties and such. We actually learned quite a bit about shale gas and the Karoo last week when we attended a talk by Dr. John Decker of PetroSA, who highlighted how much more research needs to be done just to properly estimate the amount of shale gas in the Karoo, let alone to assess any potential environmental impacts of gas extraction. Perhaps after attending LASI V next week I’ll at least be able to talk more about the geology of the Karoo– if not shale gas and fracking– at dinner parties.

Anyway, I need to finish (re-)packing now, but stay tuned for more about LASI V and the Karoo!