Landon Stitle, a Geology major and Environmental Science co-major pursuing a certificate in Geographic Information Science, is driven to make geologic research more sustainable for future generations. Her current research is focused on mafic magmatic enclaves found in 100-million-year-old granitic rocks located in Nevada.
The mineral composition of mafic and felsic igneous rocks is vastly different. “Felsic means there is a high concentration of quartz [one of the most common minerals] in the sample, whereas in mafic there is not,” Stitle said.
Her curiosity prompted Stitle to investigate the geochemistry of mafic versus felsic interactions and how mafic magmas contribute to a granitic system, which is the mechanism by which a granite forms. These systems in Nevada formed as a result of plate tectonic activity, and they give context as to how Stitle’s granite samples formed 100 million years ago.
Growing up in the small town of Homeworth, Ohio, Stitle centered her study around principles of sustainability, something she has felt passionate about from a young age.
“I wasn't in any form of a city environment, and it really connected me with nature,” Stitle said. “It allowed me to make the connection of, ‘Oh, I really like this, and I think I could get into this!’”
Stitle’s research journey began during Winter Term 2021. An email sent out by Mark Krekeler, associate professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Sciences, offered interested undergraduate students research opportunities related to environmental geology. Stitle was paired with both Krekeler and Associate Professor Claire McLeod as her two faculty advisors, and they now work collaboratively on researching mafic enclaves.
“We're all there for the same purposes,” Stitle said. “We're all just trying to do science. We love rocks.”
One of the highlights of her research was completing fieldwork in Nevada during the spring of 2022. Stitle was part of a team that went to retrieve and examine geologic samples and mapped various locations.
“It was big,” Stitle said. “Going out west is typically the geologist's dream!” She added that Nevada is a central hub for research mining.
Landon Stitle uses an x-ray diffractometer in Shideler
Hall to collect data for her presentation at the 2023
At the fieldsite outside Tonopah, Nevada, which is known for having various rock types such as common sedimentary and igneous rocks, Stitle collected granite rock samples from the Round Mountain Gold Mine for her presentation at the Geological Society of America (GSA) conference. One of the ways Stitle incorporates sustainability in her research is by improving the accessibility to rocks and minerals found in granite through a variety of geochemical techniques.
“By beginning to constrain it [the geochemistry of granite], we can start to determine where else people can mine for things like gold and silver,” Stitle said. “Just to make sure that those processes are as efficient and sustainable as possible.”
Graduate students Morgan Gillis and Kailee Gokey accompanied Stitle in Nevada. Their influence went beyond helping in field research; Stitle said that Gillis and Gokey have been mentors in navigating important undergraduate decisions such as employment and graduate school. She attributes her increased skills in resilience, problem-solving, and overall confidence to her experience in undergraduate research.
Stitle will give a presentation at the 2023 GSA conference in Pittsburgh later this month before graduating in December from Miami. She aspires to work as a full-time environmental consultant in a firm.
“Doing research has also just made me a better geoscientist, because I'm taking the skills that I've learned in the classroom and translating them to my work so that I'm more solidified,” Stitle said.