Oregon State University

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Crystal Clues

Taryn Bye

Taryn Bye mapping Meyers Canyon during the 2013 geology summer field camp.

Taryn Bye looks at crystals to help predict volcanic eruptions

Taryn Bye knows that crystals are important geologic clues. Like tiny windows into the past, they can tell scientists when a volcano erupted and the complex magmatic processes that shaped its evolution.

Working with Associate Professor Frank Tepley, the senior from Tacoma, Wash., handled thousands of crystals from the El Misti volcano in southern Peru to help understand and predict volcanic eruptions. Ultimately, she hopes to mitigate hazards and improve natural disaster preparedness.

"In the case of El Misti, there are more than 800,000 people who live within 15 kilometers of the summit," she said. "It's a big deal. The way their city is built, it's right in the flow path."

Bye became interested in volcanoes after she took a course from Anita Grunder, professor and associate dean for academic programs. Later, a GIS course introduced her to spatial tools that could be used to study and make inferences about the Earth's storied geologic past.

"It's interesting to learn new tools like GIS that you can use to study volcanoes," she said. "With remote sensing technologies like LiDAR, you can detect types of minerals and different chemical compositions, which is really cool."

For Bye, getting involved in research at the undergraduate level was a natural extension of her interest in volcanoes and knack for hands-on learning.

"Research seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn in an applied way. Plus, Frank was a great petrology teacher," Bye said.

Bye's particular role in the El Misti project was to determine crystal size distributions (CSDs) of plagioclase crystals to assess and quantify the mixing relationship and cooling history of two different magmas. Essentially, CSD methods indicate how long it took the crystals to develop and surface.

The most exciting part, she says, was discovering that the crystal residence time was roughly five days, which corroborated with other evidence that El Misti took about five days to erupt.

In addition to her research, Bye participated in the Geo Club in various leadership roles. She traveled to Costa Rica with fellow team members, visiting active volcanoes and getting an up-close view of the country's rich geologic profile.

Bye's extensive hand-on experience made the transition from college to real world easier. "The Geo Club made me more outgoing and feel more comfortable in reaching out and asking for help. The fieldwork gave me experience with monitoring and also an extra foot in the door. I have the GIS certificate, too, and I'm really glad that I did that," she said.

The Monday following graduation, Bye begins work for the Oregon Department of State Lands as a ranger technician, where she'll be doing GIS work in Bend. Looking back at her time at Oregon State, Bye is thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with world-class researchers who are addressing global problems.

"I never expected to be working with such great people and great instructors," she said. "It was a fantastic experience."

Taryn Bye's video, 'OSU Undergrads'

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