Field Trips 2020

Thanks to the SSA community, Annual Meeting attendees may take advantage of some wonderful field trip opportunities.  Attendance is limited for every adventure, so register early! Registration will open 2 January 2020.

The field trips, organized by our members, are:

IRIS PASSCAL Instrument Center

1 May 2020, 8:30 a.m.–2:15 p.m.

Half day field trip featuring stops at the IRIS PASSCAL Instrument Center on the campus of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and at the Minerals Museum, along with narration along the bus trip down the Rio Grande valley.

NMT is located in Socorro, NM, ~75 miles south of Albuquerque. The IRIS PASSCAL Instrument Center is an ~40,000 square foot NSF-funded facility that supports the IRIS PASSCAL program by providing what is likely the world’s largest instrument depot dedicated to providing seismological instruments for use by the research community. The PASSCAL program has an inventory consisting of thousands of instruments, with a total value exceeding $70 M. The facility consists of warehouse, laboratory and office space. PIC staff can provide tours featuring: discussions describing where and how experiments are done; show the piers, vaults and laboratories used for instrument repair, test and calibration; and tour the warehouse to provide both a sense of scale and a first-hand view of the many different types of instruments in use by the research community today. The PIC provides ample locations for casual lunch in small or large groups.

The mission of the Mineral Museum on the NMT campus ( is: “to procure, display and curate geological, mineralogical and paleontological materials, primarily from the State of New Mexico, for the purposes of research, education, posterity and enjoyment for the citizens of the state.” The Museum accomplishes its goals through:

  • Public display of the best and most representative specimens and materials
  • Educational programming
  • Interpretation of natural history information
  • Selective collection, preservation, research and publication in the Museum’s chosen fields

The interstate travels down the center of the Rio Grande valley and provides an opportunity for interesting narration about the biological and cultural history of the Rio Grande valley and the highly visible tectonic setting.

Trip Leader: Bob Woodward, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (

Seismotectonics of the Pajarito Fault System and Valles Caldera 

1 May 2020, 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

This field trip travels north from Albuquerque to examine the Pajarito fault system (PFS) in the vicinity of Los Alamos, NM. The PFS is a N-S- striking, predominantly E-dipping normal fault that constitutes the active western boundary of the Neogene Rio Grande rift. Its surface trace has displaced the 1.256 Ma Bandelier Tuff plateau vertically by as much as 200 m (down to the east), creating an impressive but complex surface expression and fault scarp. The Los Alamos National Laboratory lies within the hangingwall of the PFS. Because the PFS dominates the seismic hazard at Los Alamos National Laboratory, especially at longer time periods, paleoseismic studies of the PFS began in the early 1990s (McCalpin, 1998; 1999; Reneau et al., 2002; Gardner et al., 2003; Lewis et al., 2009) and are ongoing (Lettis Consultants International Inc., 2019). At the morning and midday stops, we will discuss the challenges of deriving unambiguous paleoseismic parameters (surface rupture length, displacement per event, recurrence, magnitude) from this bedrock fault scarp in an erosional environment.

Directly west of the PFS lies the Valles-Toledo caldera complex, which is the source of the Bandelier Tuff datum around Los Alamos.  This volcanic center remained active through the late Pleistocene. Recent research by LANL staff explores whether the PFS might be more than a simple tectonic normal fault (Swanson et al., 2019); it is possible that the volcano-tectonic systems are more mutually inclusive than previously understood, with possibility of the normal fault influenced or even driven by magmatic events in the caldera system. Afternoon stops will discuss the caldera and volcanic system on the footwall of the PFS and will discuss general principles of volcanic paleoseismology and assessment of volcano-tectonic hazards. The trip returns to Albuquerque via the Jemez Mountains, making a loop that rejoins our outbound route at Bernalillo, slightly north of Albuquerque. 

Trip Requirements:

  • Sturdy shoes or boots that allow participant to hike up to 0.5 miles roundtrip, up and down slopes in areas where trails may be limited or nonexistent. 
  • Long pants are strongly recommended.
  • Participants should bring a small daypack and personal water bottles (minimum 2L water recommended). 
  • Weather can be unpredictable and some higher-altitude sites could still retain snow.  Bring layers, including a rain-resistant jacket or outer layer.
  • Cameras are welcome; however, in some areas, photos may be restricted or prohibited. Guides will clearly announce any restrictions enroute or at stops.
  • The stops will take place at elevations at and above 7000 ft, so participants should consider their physical fitness level and personal comfort with prolonged stops and physical activity at these altitudes.

Trip Leaders: James P. McCalpin, GEO-HAZ Consulting Inc.; Emily Schultz-Fellenz, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Erika Swanson, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Brandon Crawford, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Robert Givler, Lettis Consultants International Inc.; John Baldwin, Lettis Consultants International Inc.


USGS Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory

1 May 2020, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey Albuquerque Seismological Laboratory (ASL) is about 15 miles southeast of Albuquerque on the Pueblo of Isleta, adjacent to Kirtland Air Force Base. The ASL was established in 1961 as a seismic instrument design and testing facility, and it is now regarded as one of the top seismic testing facilities in the world. The ASL supports the Global Seismographic Network (GSN) Program and the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) through the installation, operation and maintenance of seismic stations around the world and serves as the premier seismological instrumentation test facility for the U.S. Government. The ASL also supports ANSS regional networks and Earthquake Early Warning through the operation of a seismic equipment depot that provides instrumentation to all of the networks of the ANSS. The tour will take you through the ASL operations center, instrument testing centers, the underground testing tunnels and the local GSN station IU-ANMO.

This field trip is open only to U.S. citizens due to visitor restrictions at Kirtland Airforce Base.

Trip Leaders: David Wilson, U.S. Geological Survey (; Adam Ringler, U.S. Geological Survey (; Robert Anthony, U.S. Geological Survey (