Yellowstone’s “breathing“ volcano
Problem-Based Learning in America’s first national park
Webquest based on UNAVCO by Denise Thompson.  Revised by Nancy West and Shelley Olds.
Yellowstone National Park has an aura of magic.  When it’s mentioned, people’s faces light up.  Who doesn’t treasure a memory of Yellowstone or dream of going there?  In this activity you experience its sublime geology, flora, and fauna virtually as you solve a problem:  you will use layers of earth science and cultural data to place a research station within the park, somewhere where it will be safe from volcanism, seismicity, and crustal deformation.  

Objectives: You will: 
·* identify a good spot to build a scientific research station in Yellowstone National Park;
·* interpret historical and real-time scientific data about volcanic activity in the park;
·* analyze the data to detect regions of high and low risk for volcanic hazards;
·* define criteria for determining when the research station must be evacuated; and 
·* communicate your findings.

The Problem for you to solve:
Congratulations!  You are a private consultant, and you have just been awarded a $250,000 contract.  A research group has preliminary approval to create a research station within Yellowstone National Park.  The station is for scientists to live and work as they do research on geological features, flora and fauna, and weather and climate.  They will stay at the station for as long as several months.  Therefore, the station—or camp--will have 
·* bedrooms or bunkrooms for about 20 people;
·* two laboratories, one for geologists and one for biologists to prepare and examine specimens; 
·* a kitchen; 
·* a dining room;
·* a living room big enough for all 20 people to relax at the end of the day’s work;
·* covered porches;
·* and a garage to store snowmobiles.  
Because the park is already in recreation heaven, there will be no need to build recreational facilities like a movie theater.  The station needs to be located near an existing road but not visible from the main roads.  Assume that the station will cover five to ten acres.   How big is ten acres?  An acre is about the size of a football field without the end zones.  On the map at the end of these instructions, 10 acres would be a square about 0.2 mm on a side. If you made a dot with the sharpest pencil you could find, that dot would be larger than the field station’s area.
A. Introduction: Monitoring Volcanic Activity
As a whole class, review the presentation, “Yellowstone: Super Volcano.”  This presentation shows you how scientists monitor volcanoes.  You will see the kinds of measurements scientists made before Mount St. Helens erupted and are making now at volcano observatories in the United States.  Yellowstone National Park hosts the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.. 
Make a drawing that illustrates the different signs of volcanic activity and the scientific tools to monitor each type.

B. Learn about the Yellowstone Supervolcano: 
Analyzing eruptive history, seismic, or hydrothermal data  
Individually, you will become knowledgeable about Yellowstone’s volcanic history, its earthquakes (“seismicity”) or hydrothermal activity and volcanic gases.  Each of the topics has a presentation.  


1. A map of Yellowstone NP
2. Graph paper or Excel/spreadsheet program
3. Three interactive presentations, “Taking the Pulse of Yellowstone’s “Breathing” Caldera – Eruptive HistorySeismic Activity, and Hydrothermal Activity: on Google Classroom. 

1. Print off a copy of the Yellowstone NP map.
2. Watch the three presentations which describe the current and historical monitoring data at Yellowstone NP.  Some slides will ask you to follow links to websites.
3. Record notes in your notebook as you follow along with the presentations., On the Yellowstone National Park Base Map you’ll want to draw locations of important information.  This might be where big earthquakes occurred, hydrothermal vents, past lava flows, for instance.  The notes and map coments will help you chose a location for the new research station. Make a key for your map similar to those you see on several of the slides.  Consider making a draft copy of the map and then dress it up for a final clean copy.  
3. Consider relevant questions pertaining to your project such as:

Volcanic eruption history data
* How often does the Yellowstone hot spot create a new caldera?
* What types of volcanic eruptions are associated with Yellowstone?
* How are these volcanic eruptions dangerous?
* Where are the areas most prone to hazardous eruptions?
* In your professional opinion, is there an immediate (next 100 years or so) danger related to volcanic eruptions at 

Hydrothermal & volcanic gases activity data.  
* In what way is hydrothermal activity dangerous?
* What gases are monitored at Yellowstone? In what way are these gases dangerous?
* Where are the areas that are most dangerous due to hydrothermal activity or gases that would keep you from
  building a research station?

Seismic (earthquake) activity data
* How are earthquakes dangerous? How many modern day large (greater than magnitude 5) earthquakes have
  occurred at Yellowstone?
* What is the most common magnitude of earthquakes recorded at Yellowstone?
* Does the pattern of earthquakes at Yellowstone suggest movement of magma?  (Remember the pattern at Mount
  St Helens.)
* Where would earthquakes most likely affect a research station?

C. Analysis 
Now you get to assemble what you’ve learned and decide where you propose building a research station.  Refer to your maps or use Google Earth to look at the data for each of the science topics you explored, eruption history, seismic activity, and hydrothermal activity.  Consider all you've discovered during your research and put together a plan for your proposal.

D. Conclusions Making a Decision:  Selecting a Site for the Research Station
Read the problem on the first page again.  Using the data on your paper maps and the information you’ve discovered,decide the best place to build a five to ten acre research station.  Keep in mind the practical considerations and safety issues.

E. Prepare Your Recommendations
For this project you will prepare a 2 to 3 page digital paper which will be turned into our Google Classroom:  the paper should minimumly include following:
1. Restate the problem—remind the research group of what they are paying you to do.
2. Summarize your data—they don’t have expertise or time.  That’s why they hired you.  Explain to them what data you collected and what it means.
3. Make your recommendations—be specific as to where you think it is appropriate for research station to be. Be sure to include the a copy of the Yellowstone Map with the location of your proposed site noted.
4. Support your recommendations—explain why the spot you recommend is the best spot. Use specific details from your data.   You should also describe any further data collection that you recommend.
5. Make your case in a conclusion by emphasizing the important points.
6. Be prepared to persuade your classmates that yours is the best site for the research station.