23rd Keck Symposium

Projects

Southeast Alaska

Colorado

Wisconsin

Oregon

Mongolia

Kenai

Svalbard

Unalaska

23rd Keck Symposium Volume

Projects


Southeast Alaska


Colorado


Wisconsin


Oregon


Mongolia


Kenai


Svalbard


Unalaska

Mongolia

Paleobiogeographic Reconstruction of the Gobi-Altai Terrane, Mongolia

map of mongolia

What: Mongolia occupies a key position for unraveling the complex geologic history of central Asia, which formed through the accretion of “exotic” crustal fragments in the late Paleozoic-early Mesozoic.  Students involved in this project will contribute new geologic data about the Gobi-Altai terrane in southern Mongolia  – its sedimentary history, evolution of its invertebrate communities, and paleogeographic setting.

When: July 19-August 14

Where: Three weeks of field work in the Gobi Desert (where we will camp in tents) will commence after three days of overland travel from Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Who: Eight Keck students and four faculty:  Professors Constance Soja (Colgate University),
Paul Myrow (Colorado College), Jeff Over (SUNY-Geneseo), and Minjin Chuluun (Mongolian Technical University).

Project Description and Goals

We will investigate the paleontology, stratigraphy, and sedimentology of Ordovician-Silurian deposits exposed in the Gobi-Altai terrane of southern Mongolia. Joint work with a Mongolian colleague and his students will involve mapping and sampling of sedimentary rocks (primarily limestone but also interbedded clastic and volcanic units) and fossils from stratigraphic sections.  Compilation of sedimentary (petrologic and petrographic), magnetic susceptibility, and paleontologic data will be the basis for determining the environmental setting, paleoecology, and faunal affinities of the biotas.

Student Projects

Student projects focusing on Ordovician-Silurian fossils, depositional environments, and provenance indicators will allow the Gobi-Altai terrane’s geologic history to be better constrained.  Specific topics will be determined in the field based on the student’s interest, academic preparation, and lab facilities at the home institution.  Students will be expected to undertake some laboratory analyses during completion of their research projects in the 2009-2010 academic year.

  • Paleoecology of Ordovician v. Silurian brachiopod, bryozoan, coral, or sponge- dominated assemblages
  • Silurian stromatolite communities
  • Ecologic succession in Lower Silurian stromatoporoid biostromes
  • Depositional setting of interbedded Upper Silurian limestone and shale
  • Age and provenance of detrital zircons in Ordovician v. Silurian sandstone
  • Clast provenance and origin of Lower Devonian limestone breccias
  • Correlation of stratigraphic sections based on magnetic susceptibility patterns and (or) conodont zonation
  • Age dating and geologic implications of interbedded volcanic units

Field Conditions

Unvegetated rocks at our study sites are well preserved, fossiliferous, and accessible along continuous exposures under safe field conditions.  Students should be in good physical shape for hiking up ridges and carrying rock samples back to camp. Temperatures during the day will be in the 80’s and 90’s (F) and drop to a comfortable 50’s-60’s at night.  Apart from preparation of simple vegetarian and meat-based meals, no special diets can be accommodated.  Minimal insects and no snakes, but the occasional scorpion may be spotted.  On the journey back to Ulaanbaatar, we will spend time exploring the “Flaming Cliffs,” a site of stark beauty that is world famous for its dinosaur egg deposits.

Course Preparation

Ideally students should have completed the junior year and have taken at least one course in Sedimentology/Stratigraphy or Paleontology.  Previous experience in the field or at a field camp is desirable.  Additional course work in Historical Geology, Structural Geology, and Biology will be helpful.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for adventurous students who are eager to explore one of the last unchanged places on Earth.   Flexibility when working with others and interest in being part of a group keen to learn from our Mongolian colleagues about the local culture are essential.   We will have opportunities to sample local delicacies, including airag (fermented mare’s milk), camel-milk cheese, etc., to visit (possibly) a Naadam event showcasing archery, wrestling, and horse-racing competitions, and to learn about the legacy of the great Mongolian leader, Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan).   Recommended reading (In The Empire of Genghis Khan by Stanley Stewart, 2002) and documentary film (The Story of the Weeping Camel – available thru Netflix).

Svalbard

Late Holocene Arctic climate evolution: Calibrating the lamination stratigraphy in pro-glacial Lake Linne’ Svalbard, Norway

What: Modern climate is changing rapidly in the Arctic.  To better understand future climate, we need to understand how the climate has changed in the past.  Participants in this project will do field work on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to collect samples and data from a glacier-river-lake system.  We seek to better understand how modern climate influences  glacier melt, sediment transport, and lacustrine sedimentation in order to better calibrate the late Holocene climate record archived in the layered sediments.  In the field we will collect samples and download data loggers on the Linne’ Glacier, in the meltwater stream and in the lake.  In the lab we will process and analyze the samples and data we collect.

When: July 15-August 15

Where: Two weeks on Svalbard and two weeks in the  Lab at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley MA.

Who: 6 students and two faculty (Al Werner (Mount Holyoke College), Steve Roof (Hampshire College) and hopefully Mike Retelle (Bates College)

Project Description and Goals

Cores recovered from Lake Linne’ are well layered and we think, varved.  The laminae vary in thickness and texture from year to year and we hypothesize that changing conditions (eg. glacier mass balance, amount of rainfall, intensity of spring melt etc.)  We are actively monitoring the glacier, the melt water stream and the lake to document which environmental factors cause sediment deposition in the lake.  Our over-arching goal is to calibrate lacustrine sedimentation so that environmental conditions can be interpreted for the late Holocene.

Student Projects

  • Analysis of sediment trap samples (sedimentation rates and sediment textures)
  • Interpretation of the thermal structure of Lake Linne’ for sediment year 2008-2009
  • Interpretation of weather events in the Linne’ Valley as recorded by the automated weather station and air temperature loggers
  • Quantifying the timing and intensity of the snow melt season (using daily photographs, snow depth sensor, and weather data)
  • Quantifying sediment distribution processes in Lake Linne’ (using the 15 logger temperature mooring, and current flow data)

Field Conditions

Svalbard is in the high Arctic and field conditions are often difficult.  Temperatures are typically in the 40s (degrees F), rain is common and polar bear can be encountered at any time.  We carry rifles, we work from boats and our field days are long and hard (rifle and boat safety training will be provided). We hike an hour with heavy packs (one way) to get to the lake and if you will work on the glacier you will hike an additional 4 hours to get to and from the ice.  But, we sleep indoors in comfortable beds, and heated rooms, we have warm meals prepared for us and we have access to flush toilet and showers.

Course Preparation

You should have most of the courses needed to complete a geology major.  Strat./Sed., Geomorphology, Quaternary Geology, Climate Change Geology.

Colorado – Front Range, Year 2

Interdisciplinary studies in the Critical Zone, Boulder Creek catchment, Front Range, Colorado

What: The Keck Colorado 09 project will work with a large interdisciplinary study (Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory: Weathered profile development in a rocky environment and its influence on watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry—NSF 0724960) directed by Suzanne Anderson, Institute for Arctic and Alpine Studies (INSTAAR), University of Colorado. The Keck Project focus is measurement and sampling of geologic deposits and processes in the critical zone, “the heterogeneous carapace of rock in various stages of decay, overlying soil, and the ecosystems they support… fundamental characteristics of the critical zone, such as its thickness, the character of the weathered rock and soil layers and the biological activity within them, together control the passage of water, the chemical processes operating, the material strength, and the function of subsurface ecosystems.”  The “observatory” consists of 3 small, instrumented sites in the Boulder Creek basin:  (1) Green Lakes Valley–a steep, glaciated alpine area in the Boulder watershed; (2) Gordon Gulch–a forested, mid-elevation catchment developed in weathered materials, and (3) Betasso–a steep, lower-elevation basin where surficial deposits are of variable thickness.

When: July 14-August 11

Where: Middle Boulder Creek catchment, Colorado Front Range

Who: David Dethier (Williams College) and 3 students with assistance from Matthias Leopold (Technical University of Munich)

Project Description and Goals

General goals of the Keck Colorado Project include characterizing the critical zone and its development, geochemistry and hydrology, and hands-on experience with field geophysical techniques used to investigate the shallow subsurface down to fresh bedrock. Broader research questions include:

  • “How does critical zone development vary across erosional and ecological regimes?”
  • “How does the distribution of critical zone development control the hydrologic response of the catchments to both snow and rainfall?”
  • “How do weathering and nutrient fluxes vary with critical zone development?”
  • “How does land-use history, including mining and deforestation, impact critical-zone processes in the two lower-elevation sites?”

Student Projects

Students and project faculty will collect data and/or solid or liquid samples at field sites and will work on laboratory preparation and initial sample treatment at the Mountain Research Station or at the University of Colorado.  Participants will return to their home schools with field data, initial results of some laboratory measurements and samples ready for additional analysis.  Data from geophysical (after post-processing) and geochemical analyses (as necessary) will probably return sometime in the fall semester. Potential student projects for 2009 include, but are not limited to:

  1. Characterizing the chemistry of shallow groundwater and meltwater near late-lying snowfields in the alpine zone and/or from baseflow in deeply weathered areas.
  2. Field mapping and measurement of the volume and chemistry of sediment disturbed by historic prospecting in Gordon Gulch and comparison to LiDAR data.
  3. Mapping the depth to bedrock and the structure of the shallow subsurface in Gordon Gulch and the Betasso area using seismic refraction and ground-penetrating radar techniques.
  4. Measuring variations in soil morphology and chemistry along a slope transect from ridge crest to channel.
  5. Measurement of fracture spacing, width and orientation in surface and adjacent subsurface (mine portal or drill hole) exposures.  Fracture density has a strong influence on long-term rates of weathering and erosion.
  6. Assessing the contribution of eolian material to soils in the Green Lakes (alpine) catchment.

Field Conditions

We’ll work at elevations ranging from 5,000 to 12,500 feet and working in environments from the hot semidesert to late-lying snowfields and summer hailstorms!  Participants will stay at an elevation of 9500 ft at the University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station on the shoulder of Niwot Ridge (http://www.colorado.edu/mrs/fac.html) and within hiking distance of the Green Lakes site.  Cabin accommodations are rustic but they’ll serve us well!  Nederland, the nearest town, is about 20 minutes to the south.  The Boulder urban area is about an hour away.  The Lab has a research building with a library, a few computers and wireless connections. We’ll have breakfast and dinner 5 days a week at the dining hall and we’ll make bag lunches to take to the field.  We’ll make other arrangements for Saturdays and Sundays!

Course Preparation

Important for the second year of this interdisciplinary project is a strong interest in surface and near-surface processes and in interdisciplinary science, a record of hard work and the ability to follow through. We would prefer gregarious, “can-do” students with a background in geology or physical geography and coursework in:

  • Mineralogy and/or geochemistry
  • Geomorphology or Quaternary geology or hydrology
  • Sedimentology and/or soils (valuable)
  • Structural geology, geophysics or field mapping (valuable)
  • GIS or a strong background in supporting science (useful)

Wisconsin

The Geology and Ecohydrology of Springs in the Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin

What: The Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin is home to thousands of springs that help to support the region’s world-class trout streams and sustain critical habitat for endangered and threatened species.  Springs provide evidence of heterogeneity of permeability in the subsurface. As such, spring occurrence and geochemistry can provide important insights into local influences on groundwater flow and aquifer contamination susceptibility.  Students on this project will work together to better understand geological controls on the distribution of springs in the region and the contributions of springs to stream ecology.

When: July 12-August 9

Where: Project members will spend three weeks in the field in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin.  We will be based in the picturesque Mississippi River Valley of Crawford County, Wisconsin.  The final week of the program will be spent on the campus of Beloit College, where we can take advantage of the laboratory and computer facilities in new Center for the Sciences.

Who: Six students

Project Faculty: Susan Swanson, Associate Professor of Geology, Beloit College, Maureen Muldoon, Associate Professor of Geology, University of  Wisconsin – Oshkosh

Project Description and Goals

The goals of the project are to:

  1. Characterize and describe the sedimentary strata in the vicinity of spring systems to better understand the features that influence discrete flow and improve upon conceptual models of spring flow in the region. Although recent studies have improved knowledge of the distribution of spring resources (Macholl, 2007; Swanson et al., 2007), the hydrogeologic controls on the majority of the spring systems in the region remain poorly studied.  Studies of the Cambrian Tunnel City Group (Swanson, 2007) and the Silurian dolomite (Muldoon et al., 2001) have shown that stratigraphically-controlled features can be important influences on preferential groundwater flow.  Combined outcrop and core studies of the other Cambrian and Ordovician age strata in the vicinity of spring systems, in combination with existing information (e.g., Michelson and Dott, 1973; Dott et al., 1986), may elucidate similar relationships.  Results of such studies could further the argument that detailed lithostratigraphic information can aid in characterizing hydrostratigraphy and evaluating potential for discrete flow.  Because the Cambrian and Ordovician units are heavily utilized for water supply purposes throughout the Upper Midwest, the potential for discrete flow through these aquifers and the predictability of such zones also has important implications for the development of effective aquifer-management strategies.  A fuller understanding of spring flow paths can also lead to more effective conservation or restoration strategies for individual springs and their receiving waters.
  2. Use physical hydrologic conditions to understand patterns of discrete versus diffuse groundwater discharge to springs and their receiving waters. Springs in Wisconsin help create unique habitat for endemic species of plants and animals because they often provide a stable physical and chemical environment.  Springs can maintain stream flow during dry periods and provide refuge to organisms from heat in summer and cold in winter.  Additional benefits may include increasing concentrations of dissolved oxygen and adding small amounts of nutrients that are essential to the health of organisms (Webb et al., 1998; Grannemann et al., 2000).  Studies of flow, temperature, and geochemical conditions in spring pools and spring receiving waters can contribute to the development of effective conservation strategies where stream-aquifer interactions create beneficial aquatic habitat.  In addition, patterns of flow, temperature, and geochemical conditions along stream reaches have the potential to reveal significant aquifer heterogeneities.
  3. Investigate unique spring systems that support biological communities uncommon to the region and/or have the potential to provide longer term records of hydrologic conditions. Springs that deposit tufa are uncommon in Wisconsin, but several are known to exist in the Driftless Area (Heller, 1988).  These springs are capable of supporting diverse biological communities that sometimes mediate the carbonate precipitation.  They may also provide a special opportunity to study paleoclimatic conditions because variability in δ18O of the tufa deposits is driven by changes in temperature and the δ18O of water that recharges the aquifer and flows to the spring.  Depending on the extent and persistence of deposition, seasonal-, decadal-, and centennial-scale variations in climate can be recorded (Andrews, 2006).

Student Projects

Listed below are potential student projects within the overall project’s goal of evaluating the influence of stratigraphically-controlled features on preferential groundwater flow and their contributions to the ecohydrology of springs in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin.

  • Conduct outcrop and core studies of clastic and/or carbonate sedimentary bedrock units to better understand the distribution of stratigraphically-controlled features and their influence on the formation of springs in the region.
  • Map karst features, such as sinkholes and caves, and relate their distribution and development to the distribution of springs in the Driftless Area.
  • Measure and map patterns of dissolved oxygen and nutrient conditions and/or flow and water temperature conditions in springs and trout streams in the Driftless Area to determine influences of preferential flow and contributions to aquatic habitat.
  • Investigate heavy metal geochemistry (Zn, Pb, Cu, Ni) of spring waters to determine groundwater flow paths to springs and streams in the Upper Mississippi Valley Lead-Zinc District.
  • Utilize groundwater flow and temperature models to better understand the influence of stratigraphically-controlled features on aquatic habitat.
  • Collect core of spring tufa deposits and analyze spring water and spring tufa deposits for stable isotopes of oxygen to provide insights into changes in hydrology and climate over time.

Field Conditions

The group will spend three weeks in the Driftless Area of southwest Wisconsin and one week on the Beloit College campus.  A log cabin in the Mississippi River Valley will serve as our base in the Driftless Area, and we will drive to students’ field sites in Crawford and adjacent counties on a daily basis.  Fieldwork will involve wading in streams, walking through wetlands, and climbing on rock outcrops.  Therefore, in addition to hiking shoes, waterproof knee boots are highly recommended.  The log cabin that we will stay in has a loft with six single bunks for the students.  It also has a fully-equipped kitchen, so the group will cook together.  While on the Beloit College campus, students will be housed in dorms.

Course Preparation:

Students should have completed at least one course in hydrogeology, sedimentology/stratigraphy, geochemistry, or geomorphology (with an emphasis on fluvial geomorphology). Introductory or advanced courses in chemistry or freshwater ecology are also desirable.

References

  • Andrews, J.E., 2006, Paleoclimatic records from stable isotopes in riverine tufas; synthesis and review: Earth-Science Reviews 75 (1-4), pp.85-104.
  • Dott, R.H., Byers, C.W., Fielder, G.W., Stenzel, S.R., Winfree, K.E., 1986. Aeolian to marine transition in Cambro-Ordovician cratonic sheet sandstones of the northern Mississippi Valley, USA: Sedimentology 33, pp.345–367.
  • Grannemann, N.G.; Hunt, R.J.; Nicholas, J.R.; Reilly, T.E.; Winter, T.C., 2000, The importance of ground water in the Great Lakes region: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4008, 14 p.
  • Heller, S.A., 1988, Seasonal geochemistry of two tufa-depositing springs in southwestern Wisconsin: Geoscience Wisconsin 12, pp.77-83.
  • Macholl, J.A., 2007, Inventory of Wisconsin’s Springs: WGNHS Open File Report 2007-03, 20 p. plus appendices.
  • Michelson, P.C., Dott, R.H., 1973, Orientation analysis of trough cross stratification in Upper Cambrian sandstones of western Wisconsin: Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 43 (3), pp.784–794.
  • Mudrey, M.G., Jr., Brown, B.A., Greenberg, J.K., 2007, Bedrock geologic map of Wisconsin: WGNHS State Map 18-DI, version 1.0, 1 CD-ROM.
  • Muldoon, M.A., Simo, J.A., Bradbury, K.R., 2001, Correlation of hydraulic conductivity with stratigraphy in a fractured-dolomite aquifer, northeastern Wisconsin, USA: Hydrogeology Journal 9, pp.570-583.
  • Swanson, S.K., 2007, Lithostratigraphic controls on bedding-plane fractures and the potential for discrete groundwater flow through a siliciclastic sandstone aquifer, southern Wisconsin: Sedimentary Geology 197, pp.65-78.
  • Swanson, S.K., Bradbury, K.R., Hart, D.J., 2007, Assessing the Ecological Status and Vulnerability of Springs in Wisconsin: WGNHS Open File Report 2007-04, 15p. plus appendices.
  • Webb, D.W., Wetzel, M.J., Phillippe, L.R., 1998, The aquatic biota and groundwater quality of springs in the Lincoln Hills, Wisconsin Driftless, and Northern Till Plains of Illinois: Illinois Natural History Survey, Center for Biodiversity Technical Report 1998 (6), 164p.