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July 11, 2013

NMC student picked from thousands for research trip

TRAVERSE CITY — Too bad Chris Horvath won’t be asked to write an essay on what he did for summer vacation. It would make for a fascinating read.

Horvath plans to mingle with about 55 world-class scientists and crew on a research vessel plying the Atlantic ocean to help figure out how Iceland was formed eons ago.

“This will help discover the processes that formed the earth as we know it,” he said.

Horvath, 30, is a Northwestern Michigan College student selected from thousands of applicants to serve as one of two paid interns on the R/V Marcus G. Langset, a 235-foot research vessel that launches in late July.

Horvath was picked, in part, for his underwater mapping skills that he picked up in courses offered by NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute.

“It speaks volumes for the program here,” he said. “Very few colleges offer it.”

The relatively new program taught Horvath how to use sonar — or echo technology — to gauge the depth and characteristics of a lake or ocean bottom.

Horvath first applied those skills last summer as an intern when he and fellow fresh water studies students took the “Northwestern” research vessel onto Platte Bay to map out Lake Michigan’s bottom. The intensive two-week mapping project was intended to help Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore unlock the cause of aviation botulism. The project identified lake bed depressions, an indicator of decaying algae thought to create oxygen dead zones that fuel germination of the deadly botulism bacteria.

In Iceland, the principal investigator, Richard Hey, seeks to change the scientific community’s view of how the island of Iceland was formed from the underwater mid-Atlantic ridge, the world’s tallest mountain range, Horvath said.

The collision of the American and and Eurasian tectonic plates created a fractured mountain ridge, he said.

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