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Kenneth W W Sims

of Dept of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming


A Professor at the University of Wyoming and a former tenured Research Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Dr. Kenneth W.W. Sims uses isotopic and chemical tracers to study geologic processes in the earth and other planetary bodies. Ken has over fifty peer-reviewed scientific publications focusing on the study of mantle melting, oceanic and continental crustal genesis, volcanology, hydrology, planetary core-formation, climate change and oceanography. Dr. Sims earned his BA in Geology from Colorado College, his MSc from the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico; and his PhD in Geochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. Ken’s field experience ranges from ocean floor geology, using submersibles and remote sensing techniques to geological studies of active volcanoes at high altitudes in technical terrain. Academic awards include: the Estwing Outstanding Senior Award at Colorado College, an Outstanding Student Instructor Award from the UC, Berkeley, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Postdoctoral Scholar Fellowship, three Mellon Awards for innovative exploratory research and the Kincaid School 2012 Papadopoulos Fellowship.

In addition to his academic career, Ken is an avid climber and has been an alpine guide for over three decades with extensive experience in technical, high altitude and cold weather mountaineering in Antarctica, the Alaska Range, and the Andes of Peru. These technical climbing skills have enabled him to collect young lavas and gather volcanic gas data inside active, remote volcanoes across the globe, including Erebus Volcano in Antarctica; Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua; and Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo Volcanoes in DR Congo. Using isotopic and geochemical data measured in these hard-to-get-samples Professor Sims’ ultimate goal is to better understand the genesis and evolution of Earth’s volcanoes, with an eye toward predicting future eruptions.

Sims’ research and scientific expeditions have been featured in National Geographic Magazine; Oceanus; Popular Mechanics; New Scientist; several children’s books and magazines; NHK Japanese Public Television (Miracle Continent Antarctica- Mt Erebus), National Geographic Television (Man versus Volcano); and, the Discovery Channel (Against the Elements). Professor Sims is a featured scientist on National Geographic Explorer Site http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/kenneth-sims/
For Professor Sims’ complete Curriculum Vitae, Publication List and Mountaineering Resume see http://geology.uwyo.edu/kenwwsims.

Climbing Into Volcanoes, Collecting Rocks—and Hopefully Saving Lives

When a growing population lives below two major volcanoes, someone better figure out how they work.

Sangay Volcano Erupts in Ecuador

In December we’d been walking on its slopes, collecting rock samples. One month after we departed, Sangay started erupting with ferocity again.

Collecting Clues to Solve a Volcanic Mystery

After nearly two weeks on its slopes and summit, we are now one step closer to understanding the genesis, evolution, and future of Sangay volcano in Ecuador.

A Volcanic Adventure on “The Giver”

Ken Sims is off to explore another volcano—this time in the dizzying reaches of Ecuador’s highlands. The Sangay volcano is one of the most remote, dangerous and active volcanoes in the world, and Ken wants to collect lava samples as they erupt from the summit.

Ross Island 2014: Journey’s End

Ken Sims’ expedition to Ross Island in Antarctica is wrapping up. Having narrowly obtained the samples he needed, Ken reflects on the dangers endured in this remote ice-desert for the sake of science and exploration.

Antarctica 2014: Success at Lewis Bay

Join Ken Sims as he tackles perilous ice-encrusted volcanoes in the attempt to study their geological past in Antarctica.

Rediscovering Ross Island 2012: “G-092 Redeployed to CONUS”

Written by Ken Sims. “G-092 redeployed to CONUS” (the Continental United States). This Antarctic vernacular sounds almost Orwellian, but essentially it means that after five great weeks in Antarctica, our 2012 Ross Island Expedition, dubbed G-092, is drawing to a close. It is bitter sweet to have our expedition come to its end. I will…

Rediscovering Ross Island 2012: Penguins in the Wind

Written by Glenn Gaetani. We (Ken, Phil, Paul, Erin, Dan, and I) left McMurdo Station to spend four days at Cape Bird sampling lavas erupted from Mount Bird, a 5900 foot shield volcano that makes up the northern part of Ross Island (see blog 1 for a map). The flight from McMurdo to Cape Bird…

Xenoliths From the Mantle- Little Green Rocks From Deep Inside the Earth

Written by Kenneth W W Sims We are familiar with the geology we see on the surface of the Earth—the granite cliffs of Yosemite, the volcanoes of Hawaii, Yellowstone and Mount Saint Helens, or the red sandstone spires in the deserts of the American southwest. But what does deep inside of the Earth look like?…

Rediscovering Ross Island 2012: Awe-Inspiring Ice Caves

Written by Erin Phillips Writer After a hearty Sunday brunch at McMurdo station, Ken, Paul, Dan, and I went out for an afternoon on the snowmobiles.  This outing would allow those of us with no prior snowmobile experience to become more comfortable with the machines, as we will be using them for sampling rocks in…

Rediscovering Ross Island 2012: Erin, Dan and Paul Make Their First Helicopter Flight

Written by Paul Wallace. Mt. Terror – it sounds like something out of the Lord of the Rings, and at 10,600 feet elevation, it’s an imposing site.  Based on very limited age information, this volcano was last active about 1 million years ago and its flanks are dotted with small cinder cones and lava domes. …

Rediscovering Ross Island 2012: Lava Sampling on the North Shore

Written by Ken Sims. After all the requisite training we are now sampling the volcanic rocks on Ross Island. Yesterday while the other team members were completing their environmental training, Phil Kyle and I flew out to Lewis Bay (Plate 1 and 2) to sample the lava flows from Mount Bird that are exposed in…

Rediscovering Ross Island: Getting Ready with Survival Training

Written by Dan Rasmussen Two days isolated in the frigid expanse of the Antarctic desert lit by 24-hour sunlight with only survival equipment—at McMurdo Station, this is known as “Happy Camper School”.  Our two enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructors, Susan and Ben, led us (Paul, Erin and me) through the essential training necessary to stay safe,…

Rediscovering Ross Island: Our Arrival In Antarctica

Rediscovering Ross Island Expedition 2012 arrives in Antarctica

Rediscovering Ross Island: The 2012 Expedition to Understand the Geologic Origin of Ross Island, Antarctica

Written by Kenneth W W Sims. In 1841 James Clark Ross and crew in two tiny ships “Erebus” and “Terror” discovered Ross Island. They named the highest peaks after their ships and quickly recognized their volcanic origin. Erebus was in a state of vigorous eruptions at the time. Later in the early 1900’s British explorers…