As a partnership of the UNM STEM Collaborative and a First-Year Learning Community, a group of students took a field trip to El Malpais National Monument on Sept. 9. Students were educated on different geological occurrences as they were guided through hiking trails. The main attraction of the trip was the exploration of Xenolith Cave.

One of the phenomena that caught students’ attention was the sudden drop of temperature as they approached the entrance of the cave. Once inside the cave, students had to navigate through piles of large rocks, through a narrow opening, down a ladder and finally into the main opening of the cave. All of this was accomplished with the light of headlamps.

Inside the cave, students were instructed to be seated and turn off their headlamps in order to experience the complete darkness in which many organisms thrive. The STEM and First-Year Learning Community students got into pairs, and each took samples of different formations inside the cave. These samples will be cultured and used later for biological analysis.

Text and images by Brontë Procell.

Brontë Procell is a freelance photographer for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.