This summer, two Montana State University graduate students and five undergraduates are conducting a survey of Yellowstone National Park to update a geologic map of the huge volcano. They are part of the new partnership that MSU has with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Reagan Colyer of MSU News Service reports the observatory, run by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service is partnering with nine universities and agencies to study the seismic activity, deformation of the landscape and the chemistry of the caldera. Volcano specialist Madison Myers recently joined the Bozeman university and already has experience studying the nearby park. Besides the geology, microbial ecologist Luke McKay will continue long-term MSU studies of thermal biology. In fact, MSU has three departments involved - Department of Earth Sciences, Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences and the Thermal Biology Institute.

Myers said compared the study of the volcano to a jigsaw puzzle, with pieces that are tens of thousands of years old. In a news release, she said, "My side of this work will be based on the geology of the park, using information from the past to better understand the future. We're also looking at the dynamics of the last eruption by conducting a massive field survey paired with lab-based chemistry techniques." Other groups are studying the many thermal features of the park which, McKay said, "can be thought of as surface expressions of of the volcano."

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory was founded in 2001 and includes the University of Utah, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, the Wyoming State Geological Survey, the Idaho Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and UNAVCO.