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Keck Geology Consortium Brings Students
From Across the Country to Study Ohio's Glacial Past

Date: July 16, 2002
By: Chris Curran
Phone: (513) 556-1806
Photos courtesy: Glacial Ohio Project
Archive: Research News

Undergraduate students from Massachusetts to California are working with geologists at three Ohio universities this summer to help recover and analyze data about Ohio's glacial history.

Field trip to glaciers in Alberta, Canada

The students are supported through a nationally funded group called the Keck Geology Consortium. Participants come from seven different schools in five states, including the University of Cincinnati, the University of Dayton and the College of Wooster in Ohio.

The 2002 Glacial Ohio Project is one of the consortium's Advanced Projects which allow students to work on a year-long research project, collecting and analyzing data which will be presented at a special symposium in April 2003.

Nina Trautman, Williams College, coring in Ohio

The primary research goals of the project are to document the retreat of ice from Ohio since the last ice age and to document the nature of the transition to current conditions. But along the way, the students are also learning important research techniques and how to work as professional geologists.

"The mission of consortium is to improve education by involving students in a research experience that helps them learn how to solve real-world problems," said Don Pair, chairman of the department of geology at the University of Dayton and director of the 2002 Glacial Ohio Project.

"In this way, they not only learn the basic principles of the geosciences, they often make a contribution to the general understanding of how the world works."

Over the last several weeks, the students and their three faculty mentors collected sediment cores from sites in northeast Ohio and in the counties just north of Dayton. The sites lie on three different regions reflecting different glacial conditions. Sampling has been undertaken at nine different sites giving each student the opportunity to analyze a complete site.

UC Professor Thomas Lowell with geology students in Alberta, Canada

Before the Ohio fieldwork, the group spent about one week in Alberta, Canada looking at glaciers up close and more recent glacial retreats.

"Seeing actual glaciers and their retreat patterns gave the students much-needed background," explained Thomas Lowell, UC professor of geology. "They could then apply those lessons to the older sites around Ohio."

"The trip to Alberta and the work in the Ohio are linked together because in both cases we talk about glacial chronology and what it tells us about past climate change," added Greg Wiles, a geology professor at the College of Wooster.

"In Canada, we look at the ongoing deglaciation associated with the last few hundred years. In Ohio, we look at the sediments that document the larger scale deglaciation some 16,000 or so years ago."

UC geology student Patrick Applegate in Union City, Ohio

Teamwork is an essential component of the project's success, according to University of Cincinnati geology student Patrick Applegate who noted that the collaborative efforts of several students helped significantly reduce the time it took to process the sediment cores.

"Now we can process some samples in a few hours. One of the project's big strengths is that everyone does everything, so there are lots of opportunities for small innovations like these to develop," said Applegate.

Get a complete list of participants in this year's program.

Find out more about the Glacial Ohio Project.

Visit the Keck Geology Consortium web site.

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