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First Time’s a Charm for UC Undergraduate at the Geological Society of America Meeting

Fifth-year UC geology student, Christy Reuter, presented her first poster at this year’s GSA meeting in Colorado.

Date: 12/20/2004 8:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
After returning to UC from the Annual GSA Meeting in Colorado,undergraduate student Christy Reuter was brimming with enthusiasm. "I’m very happy to report that our poster was a hit,” says Reuter. “We had steady traffic throughout the poster session.”

Tracy Brockman, Alejandra Bonilla, Christy Reuter and Mike DeSantis.
Proud poster presenters Tracy Brockman, Alejandra Bonilla, Christy Reuter and Mike DeSantis

Reuter co-authored the poster with six others from UC, both students and faculty members, from the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering. Their poster was called the “Mineralogical and Compositional Variation of Glauconite.” Her co-authors were Tracy Brockman (Department of Geology), Jeffrey Barrow (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Alejandra Bonilla (Department of Geology), Michael DeSantis (Department of Geology), Warren Huff (Department of Geology) and Hari-Prasad Ponnaboyina (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering). Since Tracy Brockman recently graduated, Reuter is the only current undergraduate on the team. Reuter’s major focus is on geochemistry, with Huff as her advisor.

So what’s the big deal about glauconite? Glauconite is an iron-rich clay mineral that forms in certain low-oxygen sedimentary environments, and thus it is a good indicator of those particular conditions. The problem is that what many authors have called “glauconite” turns out not to be the same mineral. In this presentation, nine glauconite samples of different ages were compared by several analytical techniques. The results show that while some characteristics of glauconite do vary from sample to sample, the fundamental characteristic of iron in the crystal structure is the same for all samples. Thus, the term continues to be useful as an environmental indicator.

"Not all glauconites are the same,” Reuter says, laughing. “We wanted to compare the mineralogical compositions of these nine glauconites. They ranged in age from the Cambrian to the Eocene. Glauconites are green and very rich with iron and potassium. The structural formulas do not vary greatly at all. That led us to a big conclusion that the oxidation of the iron is an early diogenetic phase. All of the samples showed the same trends. That means the mineral formed in a marine environment on the sea floor. It helps give a better idea of what’s going on in the depositional environment.”

Christy Reuter explains the group

"It seems that people know very little about glauconite in particular,” Reuter reported on her return to UC. “They are not widely studied around here. We have had some people follow up about our poster and methods.”

"We started this project with our clay mineralogy class last spring,” says Reuter. “Over the summer and the course of this quarter, I put together a poster with Alejandra Bonilla. Tracy wrote the abstract.”

Alejandra Bonilla
Alejandra Bonilla (photo by Dottie Stover)

Alejandra Bonilla is a new graduate student in UC’s Geology Department, thanks in part to the Wycoff Scholarship Fellowship, which is awarded to the top graduate applicant of Latin American or Hispanic ethnicity.

What interested Reuter was the mineralogy class. “What I really liked about the class is that it’s all applications,” says Reuter. “It’s like a big lab. And I got to use a bunch of equipment in the engineering building, like a scanning electron microscope.”

The class was attended by both geology and engineering majors. The engineers were geotechnical engineers.

"Geomorphology is important,” says Reuter. “Especially clay mineralogy, here in Cincinnati. They need to know how the land is going to change.”

Reuter began her undergraduate career at UC as a pre-vet student, but switched to geology. Once she started getting into the core pre-vet classes, she realized that she was not cut out to be a veterinarian. “I am a pet owner, not a pet doctor.”

Dr. Warren Huff and three UC geology students
Professor Warren Huff with students

Reuter appreciates the UC geology faculty for both their expertise and their enthusiasm. “The faculty here is so engaging and so nice. I know all of them by name and they know me. I’m involved and they get me involved in research opportunities. The faculty is very supportive.”

"We do paleo,” she says, referring to the solid reputation for paleontology in the department. For example, U.S. News & World Report has ranked UC’s paleontology program ninth in the nation. “And Dr. Huff is one of the world’s premier experts on K-bentonites. I feel underqualified just to speak with him!”

Reuter has plans for her future — both near and far — with the GSA meeting being in Colorado. “My mother just moved to Boulder in March. I’ll be able to have an early Thanksgiving with her and kill two birds with one stone.” In the long run, Reuter hopes to attend graduate school and get into geochemical research. For now, she was thrilled to be able to go to Denver.

"It was a wonderful experience as an undergraduate and gave me some insight into the world of research. I would recommend it to every undergraduate.”