Welcome to Neish and Friends!

August 28, 2018

     Before I jump straight into this blog, I want everyone to know that the content will seem similar to some. The blog is intended for the new graduate students who have joined our lab group at Western University. I will just be introducing myself and welcoming them to the lab! Without further ado, let us begin!

     Hey everyone, my name is Gavin Tolometti, and welcome to Neish and Friends! Catherine will have already introduced our names prior to showing our blogs at the meeting but I thought I would introduce myself again. I have been a part of Neish and Friends for two years now, started off as a M.Sc. student but transferred to the doctorate program in late February 2018. I am not native to Canada I am from the United Kingdom. My last name is misleading, I have never lived in Italy, I have Italian heritage from my dad's side of the family. I graduated from the University of St Andrews, Scotland in 2016 and two months after graduation I moved to London Ontario to start my research with Dr Catherine Neish and Dr Gordon Osinski. I left home quickly because I was asked to start my research a month early in the field. I was nervous and a little bit scared moving away from home, but a part of me was excited to see what I can do on my own! 


 I did not stay in London Ontario long after I arrived. About a week later, I joined Catherine and the rest of the research team at Pearson Airport (Toronto International Airport) to travel to Salt Lake City, and then drive north to Craters of the Moon National Monument of Preserve in Idaho. Craters of the Moon is the location of the my field site, and it is where I officially began my M.Sc. research. Craters of the Moon is a polygenetic lava field hosting cinder and spatter cones, non-eruptive fissures, and a suite of differentiated basaltic lava flows.

     The purpose of my research is to understand the surface roughness diversity of the lava flows by analyzing their geochemistry and petrography. The surface roughness at Craters of the Moon includes smooth billowy pahoehoe, smooth hummocky pahoehoe, rubbly pahoehoe, rough frothy (or mega a'a), and blocky. Each surface roughness texture reflects the melt properties and emplacement processes of the lava, changing as the flow advances further from the volcanic vent. A low viscous lava with low silica content behaves similar to hot syrup, moving across a surface with minimal effort. More viscous and siliceous lava require more energy to advance, and move more sluggishly similar to cold syrup. Low viscous lava flows are smooth while high viscous lava flows are rough. Examples of smooth lava flows are billowy and sheet pahoehoe, and examples of rough lava flows are a'a, rubbly, and blocky.  The rubbly pahoehoe surface roughness is an exception. It relies on the mechanical fracturing of a solidified pahoehoe crust, which can occur when effusion rate increases or the lava flow travels over a rough underlying topography. 

     I am currently in the process of writing a manuscript to submit to a journal. My co-authors are editing the draft as we speak. Hopefully by Fall 2018 the manuscript will be submitted to a journal for editing (fingers crossed though)!


     After I upgraded from an M.Sc to a PhD I decided to incorporate a different type of melt that also flows over a planetary surface. I decided to study impact melt rocks and understand their physical and rheological properties. Impact melts on the Moon form flow units similar to lava flows and are predicted to share some petrological and emplacement characteristics. I am in the process of writing up my PhD proposal so the details of the research are still being refined. I will be discussing more about this later in September when the proposal is finished and submitted to my research committee.


     But enough about my research, I want to end by showing you all of the opportunities you can gain whilst studying at Western University and the Center for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX). I have been able to visit numerous places in the United States during research-related visits and field work, be involved in a high fidelity analogue rover mission, participate in a HiRISE targeting cycle (cycle 273), attend an ESA workshop in Redu Belgium, study impact cratering at Sudbury Ontario, join a preliminary lunar sample return mission organized by Western and the Canadian Space Agency, and get accepted into the Graduate Summer Exploration Internship at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. All of these opportunities have allowed me to gain valuable experience in mission planning, teamwork, communication, field work skills, and networking. I can guarantee you, more opportunities are to come from CPSX! I highly recommend getting involved, you will not regret it!


Below are photos from these opportunities


      Can't wait to get to know all of our newest Neish and Friends members!





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