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Great Rift Science Symposium

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

National Park News

The stark, unworldly landscape of Idaho’s vast lava desert is the focus of the Great Rift Science Symposium to be held October 6-9 at Idaho State University.
The symposium is a multi-disciplinary exploration of past, present and future scientific inquiry into the Great Rift volcanic zone and the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. It consists of two days of keynote presentations, technical panels, poster sessions, and cultural events followed by two days of field trips to sites within the Great Rift. The symposium begins with a keynote address on Thursday by international volcanic specialist Stephen Self who will talk about the geologic history of the Great Rift and potential for “Super-Eruptions” within the Yellowstone system. Self is widely published and was a consultant for the recent Nova television program on catastrophic volcanic eruptions. He holds the Chair in Volcanology at the Open University, UK, and heads the Volcano Dynamics Group in the Department of Earth Sciences. Stephen Trimble, award winning naturalist, writer, and photographer will give a public presentation at 7 pm, Friday, October 7. Trimble has published nineteen books focusing on western wild lands and natural history including of The Sagebrush Ocean: a Natural History of the Great Basin and The Geography of Childhood: Why Children Need Wild Places (with Gary Nabhan). He has also contributed commentary to local and national NPR shows, especially “The Savvy Traveler.” An exhibition, “The Flows: Photography and Poetry of the Great Rift” will open Thursday, October 6, with a reception 6 -9 p.m at the Idaho Museum of Natural History (IMNH). Designed by IMNH Exhibits Manager, David Mead, the exhibition will feature images by award winning photographer Dr. Roger Boe, a local pediatrician, and Tim Frazier, ISU Professor of Mass Communications. Poetry selections from The Flows by Pocatello poet and bookstore owner, Will Peterson, will accompany the display.
On Saturday and Sunday scientists will lead tours to North Laidlaw Park, Government Cave, Pillar Butte, the Wapi Flows, South Grotto, and the Monument Headquarters area. Most of the Great Rift is now protected within the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Created in 1924 as a 53,545 acre National Park Service Monument, the Craters of the Moon area was expanded to 753,863 acres in 2000. The Craters now makes up the second largest monument in the BLM National Landscape Conservation System.
The Monument contains the youngest and most geologically diverse basalt lava terrain of the Snake River Plain and the largest basaltic lava field of Holocene age in the United States. This unique lava landscape supports some of the most intact sage-steppe ecosystem remaining in the world. The Great Rift Symposium is sponsored by the Craters of the Moon Natural History Association, the Bureau of Land Management, Idaho State University, the National Park Service, the Idaho Science Teachers Association, Lava Lake Foundation for Science and Conservation, Sawtooth Science Institute, the US Geological Survey, ∙ National Landscape Conservation System, Idaho Space Grants Consortium, the George Wright Society, Idaho Power, the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and the Idaho Humanities Council.
The first major scientific gathering on the Great Rift, the symposium is expected to attract several hundred scientists, students, educators, and general public who share an interest in this unique area.
Registration is $100 not including field trips, and the public is encouraged to attend. The cost for full-time students is $60. College credit and financial assistance is available for Idaho teachers. Stephen Trimble’s presentation and “The Flows” photography exhibit reception are free and open to the public. To register or find out more about these special events visit the Great Rift Science Symposium website at


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