What we are all about

Living on the Edge is the field study of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other hazards where tectonic plates collide. Field studies focus on understanding the science behind natural hazards that lead to catastrophic events and subsequent loss of life. Fieldwork is aimed at recognizing hazards and understanding the processes behind the hazards. The blog chronicles the participants and their experiences in Alaska Summer 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Hi Everyone, we arrived into Seward this afternoon after an over-night ferry ride that left Kodiak Island late last night and dropped us off at Homer early this morning.  The students have lots to say about the last week or so.
Tyler Izykowski

The beginning of the final leg of our trip has docked us on the island of Kodiak. In our three day, two night stay we overcame a flat tire incident (blast you Fire Bear!), spent a lot of time looking at the effects of the tsunamis that hit Kodiak in 1964, and investigated the recent activity of faults in the Narrow Cape area. We determined that Narrow Cape is seismically active and therefore a less than ideal location for the multimillion-dollar Kodiak Launch Complex. In between projects, we relaxed by the beach and fished, catching tons of ugly, prehistoric looking rockfish and even a flounder (well done Shabana!). We’re boarding the ferry back to the mainland where we make our final stop in Seward to say what’s up to our Union Alum brother man, William Seward, purchaser of the Great Land. Until then it’s 9.5 hours on the ferry, which means a good night sleep and a shower. Chaoooo!

Liz Morgan

Whoa Nelly, what a crazy past few days it has been. The last time we chatted we were still in Cordova and had one night still to go in our stay there. After leaving Cordova via ferry, we stopped at Ninilchick for a lovely over-night fourth of July stay on the beach with a glorious view of Mt. Redoubt. After packing up camp we started making our way to Homer. There was a slight delay because of a car accident (not us) and we made it to our destination safe and sound. We had some time to look around the stores in Homer and I got a cool book from the Homer bookstore, as well as pins made from a local artist. The ferry ride from Homer was incredible! I had never been on a boat that I slept on (ferry ride was 13 hrs and we left port at 10 pm Alaska time). Kodiak is amazing. We’ve been studying the effects of the Katmai 1912 eruption on local topography. Its location in the surficial stratigraphy can help identify fault types and determine the local movement of the faults. As I write, I am back on the ferry, and we’re making our way back to mainland Alaska. It’s exciting to have the trip come to an end, but it is bittersweet. It has been the experience of a lifetime and I will treasure the friendships that I’ve made along the way.

Marisa Kwoczka

Since we last chatted our group has been traveling a lot. We went to Hartney Bay and studied the location of sea barnacles on the uplifted rocks that were moved in the earthquake. After the 1964 tsunami, Cordova rose two meters and we were able to see where the barnacles had once lived and where they are present today. Afterward, we hung around Cordova and Liz and I frolicked by the port and then we regrouped and took a ferry to Whittier. From there we drove to Ninilchik and studied sediment deposits and past faults. The following day we took a thirteen-hour ferry to Kodiak and here we also learned about sedimentary deposits. In 1912 Mount Katmai erupted depositing volcanic ash for miles. While studying the sedimentary deposits we noticed different layers of volcanic ash varying from coarse to fine and peat/ dead organic material. In Narrow Cape, Kodiak our group created a topographic map of the area by pointing out faults and reasons why the landscape looked the way it did. During our free time, we swam in the Pacific ocean again, which was not as cold as Ninilchik. Now we are aboard the ferry again but headed back to Homer. Showering here is great and the beds are super comfy! Unfortunately our trip is almost ending, but we will be able to blog one more time! hot diggity dog!



Alex Connell

Hey everybody since we pulled up stakes at the Chugach National forest we have traveled all the way to Kodiak Island. We have done a lot of traveling by car and ferry. We made a stop in Cordova where I saw sea otters for the first time in my life. After hanging out with the sea otters we hoped on an overnight boat to Kodiak. The weather on Kodiak has been really warm, it was actually really nice taking a dip in the chilly Pacific Ocean waters near our camp. We are camped out along a beautiful stretch of stream that flows directly in to the Pacific Ocean. All of us at the campsite have been catching weird looking tidal fish called a sculpin it has been a great time. Since we have been here we have investigated faulting in the twin lakes region, investigated ash layers from the 1912 eruption of Mt. Katmai, and tsunami deposits from the great 1964 Alaskan Earthquake. It has been really interesting understanding the complex hazards that Kodiak Island has to face when planning any major project. I am sad the trip is starting to wind down, Alaska has been amazing. 

Taylor LaBrecque

We’re sadly leaving the beautiful weather on Kodiak Island. We arrived here Monday morning after taking our first dip in the Pacific Ocean on the Fourth of July and were fortunate to be able to see Mount Redoubt from our campsite. We’ve been learning about the different stratigraphic layers at various sites. In Kodiak we were able to make a prediction of what type of fault had affected the area and caused the deformation that we saw. We were concentrating on the area of Narrow Cape and calculated the altitude at the lowest and highest points. The land was shaped in a “W” and could have either been  Horst and Graben faults or simply two faults together. One age marker that kept us in check was the ash from the Katmai eruption in 1912. It had such a distinct color and taste that we immediately knew the time frame that the substrate was from. We found this layer in all of the stratigraphic layers we looked at which gave us insight into how much ash was actually deposited on the island. We only have a couple days left in Alaska and I can’t wait to find out what we’re doing next!

Tyler Willey

Hey all. Since we last blogged we have done much traveling, and now find ourselves leaving Kodiak Island after 2 nights and 3 days. We spent the 4th of July in Ninilchik at a campsite that was beachfront and looking out at the steaming Mt. Redoubt.  We were secretly hoping she would blow. We have spent most of our time studying stratiographic layers and how we can use them to date past disasters.  We have been studying many faults that can be seen in the sediment layers, and spent most of our time at Kodiak mapping the Narrow Cape Fault. We measured altitude at various points along the map and studied some sediment and vegetation before we individually mapped what kind of faults we were on and where they were located.  Most of the group seemed to have the faults down to two different types, and to which group is right continues to be unknown. Our last day on Kodiak we looked at 3 bays that were impacted by tsunamis caused by the 1964 earthquake. In Middle Bay, we were able to dig down and find a layer of ash from the 1912 Katmai volcanic eruption, followed by a very small layer of peat, followed by a layer of ocean sand on top of it.  We were then able to say that the sand was from a sandsheet brought onshore by the tsunamis in 1964.  Some other excitement we had at Kodiak besides great weather (apparently warmer and sunnier then the east coast) was swimming in the pacific ocean, Garver catching a red salmon, and practically everyone catching many small rock fish. The days are quickly winding down, and I am sad to see the end of the trip approaching.  Hopefully our final days in Seward and Anchorage continue to bring excitement and fun!  See y’all in a few days!

Tyler W


Wow! I’ve really enjoyed these past couple of days on the coast. I’m from a coastal area back home but there is no comparison here. In my last blog I mentioned that each area we have visited is completely different and its still continues to be different. My favorites on the coast (Hartney Bay, Ninilchik Beach, and Narrow Cape) have been aesthetically mind blowing and all very different. Hartney Bay (just outside of Cordova)was organically rich and had lots of critters growing everywhere. Ninilchik was very rocky, but looked exactly like a beach. The greatest part was the next morning a Ninilchik when the tide went in about a mile! We met a couple of new people there including our friends Bob and Sonya who grilled fresh Salmon and Halibut for us. “It was the best yet!” Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island was unbelievable. It was very pacific looking…like in a magazine. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought I was in New Zealand! These past couple of days have been full of travel, beaches and music.  Not to mention I had lots of fun when Eve, Steve, Adrienne and Doug came over for s’mores at Mc Kinley Cabin (by Cordova).  The whole gang was singing and thanks to Eve and Steve I’ve been newly inspired to play the banjo! But in our travels these past few days, it was interesting to see the difference in Cordova’s interseismic subsidence (seen at the bay) and Kodiak’s interseismic uplift (seen in the fast growth of vegetation on slopes). I’m really looking forward to our trip to Seward (after all I do live on his memorial street in Schenectady)…not really looking forward to our final exam tomorrow which just means that this trip is coming to an end. But hey, all good things must come to an end. So, all I can do is enjoy our remaining days! Talk to you soon!




As we’re now riding our second long ferry back towards the Alaskan mainland, I’ve got a lot to catch you readers up on. We had a final night in the cabins (another very late night of ridiculous antics) before waking up at the butt crack of dawn to catch a ferry to Whittier, AK on the southern side of the Kenai Peninsula. Upon arrival, we had to drive through a one-way tunnel that accommodates cars and a train on the hour, which was pretty amazing. Our next campground, Ninilchik, was a beautiful beachside site where the friendliness of those in AK continues to amaze, as our neighbors gave us fresh salmon and halibut for dinner. We, in return, stunned the locals by diving into the frigid waters of Cook Inlet. We eventually got on the first of our overnight ferry rides (and got to shower again! It was almost not worth it considering the showers we got J) and arrived in the truly beautiful town and port of Kodiak City. About 10 miles from our campground on Kodiak was the Kodiak Launch Complex, a commercial satellite launch center that we found has been built on a number of active faults (way to go U.S. government!). We also looked at the sediment layering in Middle Bay where we found remnants of tsunami deposits following the 1964 earthquakes. Kodiak was devastated by this event and yet, along with all of Alaska’s coastline, is now tsunami prepared (as evidenced by the awesome siren that went off in Kodiak city today). Kodiak has been a ton a fun and one of, it not the most beautiful place we have visited so far. We hiked up a tall ridge overlooking the Pacific that featured a number of abandoned bunkers from World War II. It was an erie throwback to wartime life and an incredible juxtaposition to the incredible craggy coastline and fantastic wildlife we could see from atop our cliff (puffins, whales, seals and a ton of turns diving for fish). Alaska, as their license plates say, truly is the last frontier and a place of completely unfettered beauty. Only a few days left L but I’m sure they will be as amazing as the last 3 weeks have been!





Well it doesn’t get any better than this.  I’m sitting on the ferry to Homer from Kodiak Island with 8 hours of ride ahead of me.  Everyone is studying for our final exam, which is coming up tomorrow night.  It is a little bit like back at Union except we are living on a boat for a night in ALASKA haha.  The last couple of days have been busy ones.  Since I last wrote we have stayed in a few new places, and visited a lot of new towns along Alaska’s coast.  We spent time in a town called Cordova, which was easily my favorite town on this trip.  It was serene, surrounded by snow capped mountains, and was full of rich history.  I loved it.  After that we took the ferry across Prince William Sound to Whittier where we stayed on a beach across the way from Mt. Redoubt (Which is the currently erupting volcano you may have heard about on the news here and there).  It was amazing, and I got a chance to swim on the beach, which was only a few steps away from our tents.  Here we learned about the massive coal beds, which lay underneath the Cook Inlet.  We also got a chance to look at the sediment layers, which are deposited underneath the basin, and we talked about post-1964 earthquake uplift in the area.  After staying outside of Whittier for a night we drove to the town of Homer where we caught the ferry to Kodiak Island.  During our time on the island we managed to fix a flat tire, check out volcanic ash and tsunami deposits, catch some fish, and go swimming in the Pacific Ocean.  Izzy alone caught over 30 rock fish in the river next to our campsite on the island.  Shabana managed to snag a halibut as well.  We took a trip out to the Kodiak Launch complex yesterday and talked about the hazards of seismic faults, which run parallel to this muti-million dollar satellite launch center (good planning on that one :/).  We also went to a place called Middle Bay today and dug up tsunami deposits from the waves that destroyed the area in the hours after the 1964 good Friday earthquake.  Back then Kodiak was ill prepared for such an event, and because of this people lost their lives.  Fortunately in the years following the earthquake the island set up warning systems for the shorline towns.  We heard them test the warning siren today while we were hanging out in Kodiak.  Now we are into the last few days of the trip, and most of us are excited to get home but sad to leave this place.  I feel like the trip has gone much too fast, and I can’t believe how the time has flown.  We have seen so many things, and taken in so many beautiful sights that I barely acknowledge the mountains that flank the ship as we chug along.  We only have a few days left here, but I am positive more amazing things are to come.  Until next time!


P.S. not many new animal sightings, just a ton of bald eagles, a few whales, and some puffins


Isabel Zellweger

Hi! Hi Everyone! So I believe our last blog was while we were staying at McKinley Cabin, so let me fill you in with what we have been up to!  On Thursday we explored the alganik slough and looked at the sedimentary stratigraphy of a bank. When we did that we discovered the rotating clay and peat layers. The clay represents the interseismic deposition (when there was slow subsidence) and there was a bit of running water. The peat represents cosiesmic uplift, the land was moved upward and there was vegetation. It was very interesting to look at these layers on the Alganik slough because they are a strong indicator of subsidence and uplift. Another indicator was at Hartney Bay when we compared the barnecels levels, which indicate how high the sea level was at that point. Hartney Bay being in Cordova experiences coseismic uplift. This was seen because the barnacle level from 1964 is much higher on the shore than today’s level. After Cordova we took the ferry to Whittier and headed down to Homer. On the way we camped in Ninilchuk,, which was very beautiful. We were very fourtnate to have Mount Redoubt right in front of us- what an amazing sunset! At Ninilchuck we all were very brave and took a dip in the ocean which was pretty cold! Over the next few days in Cordova and Kodiak we focused a lot on the formation of Alaska’s volcanic arc, forearc, and accretionary complex all due to the subduction of the pacific plate underneath the North American plate.  In Kodiak we also focused a bit on faults; we did a mapping project dealing with the faults along the Kodiak Launch Complex. This project was really interesting to do because it made us think about the formation of the patterns on the land. Many of us decided that there were four faults creating horst and graben topography. I will definitely├č say that Kodiak has been one of my favorite places on the trip so far- the weather has been absolutely perfect and it the scenery is absolutely beautiful. I am so fortunate to experience all of this. I am sad I have to say goodbye to all of this soon!  On another note, its bedtime now, so I have to go… Until next time!




  1. Beautiful photos! It looks like the weather there was much nicer than it's been back here in the northeast. Sounds like you all have had an amazing experience in Alaska. Enjoy the last couple of days! See you soon!

    Denise Izykowski

  2. The pictures show such a contrast in the climate, pretty neat to see. Sounds like the trip has gone pretty well. Can't wait to hear all the details in person. Enjoy your last few days and hope all the trips back go smoothly.

    Clare LaBrecque

  3. From toques and rain gear to sunhats and swimming. You've done it all!
    Will Garver ever share his fishing secrets with the rest of the group? He always has the biggest catch and the students are holding up what looks like bait. Youth and skill are no match for old age and treachery.
    Safe travels all,
    Eliza's Grandma