The complexity of volcanos continues to increase and fascinate me daily! Today I embarked on a hike through some old lava flow, up, across, and down a wooded ridge, and then back again to the main road. I truly felt "off the beaten path," and was perhaps hiking in a part of the caldera rarely seen by many other visitors. Along with a graduate student working on the project, Jeff, and a park guard named Carlos, who is well versed in the less known paths, my new friend Fred and I took conductivity measurements for 700 meters on our journey. The measurements consist of taking two readings of conductivity, as well as GPS coordinates, by inserting two electrodes into the ground and running a wire between the two. The first electrode you leave where you begin, and you continue to roll the coiled wire until about 300 meters (when you run out of wire on the coil!). The wire is marked every 20 meters, so every 20 meters, we would stop, dig a hole (which was not always easy given the amount of rock and lava in the caldera... the electrodes need soil to read conductivity!) insert the 2nd electrode, take the two readings of the conductivity instrument, and record the GPS location. Sound like a lot of work? It was! The good news is it was a bit cooler today, and I was able to practice my Spanish a bit with Carlos : )
The results... it appears that there is a hydrothermal system (system of water tables) in certain parts of the caldera, which most certainly works in conjunction with the volcano. This information serves to give us more information about the sub-structure of the volcanic area and also allows us to hypothesize about the relationship between heated water tables and volcanos. Jeff thinks (this is groundbreaking work, by the way) that when the heat and magma in the volcano increase, it serves to heat the water table around the volcano, causing the water the to rise, which ultimately may cause changes in the ground structure that we can see.
Today's wildlife sighting... two beautiful butterflies! I'll also treat you to a picture of yesterday's monkey that I was able to borrow from another volunteer.