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UW-Eau Claire students develop hiking trail guides for a Wisconsin state park

May 17, 2012

EAU CLAIRE — Visitors planning to hike in Wisconsin's newest state park will receive help from two University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students.

The students developed Ice Age Trail hiking guides in Straight Lake State Park for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The trail guides are the first site-specific interpretive materials available for park visitors.

Junior Rebecca Moore, Champlin, Minn., and senior Ian Freeman, Eau Claire, began their work on the project in July 2011 under the guidance of Dr. Kent Syverson, professor of geology.

"Both Becca and Ian have worked very hard to produce a professional geology field guide," Syverson said. "They braved the bugs and intense temperatures during their fieldwork but were motivated to keep the project moving forward."

Straight Lake State Park, dedicated in 2005, is the newest state park in Wisconsin. The Ice Age National Scenic Trail was recently constructed through the park, located in Polk County in western Wisconsin.

Both students describe the fieldwork as the most rewarding aspect of the project, even though they did that part of the project during the hottest week of the summer.

"The fieldwork was the biggest highlight for us; we enjoyed hiking along the Ice Age Trail in a beautiful state park," Moore said.

The students also presented information about their project at the Minneapolis National Geological Society of America conference in October 2011. The conference included a field trip to Straight Lake State Park, as well as other areas of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Freeman described Straight Lake State Park and the surrounding areas as exceptional examples of classic glacial landforms. For their project, Freeman and Moore researched the area, finding that most of the geologic features along the trail were deposited or shaped by glaciers.

The student-created guides share information about the geology of Straight Lake State Park as seen along the segments of the Ice Age Trail. One side of the geological educational materials is composed of a topographic hiking map of the trail through the park with numbered stops. The other side of the guide contains interpretive materials about the geology at each numbered stop on the hiking map.

The project has provided the students with an opportunity to gain real-world experience and participate in student-faculty research, Syverson said.

"Student-faculty research is a great opportunity that enriches the major," Freeman said. "I learned more about glacial geology doing this project than I have in any class. Most importantly, I think that I have gained the ability to learn any subject on my own."

All materials have been reviewed by the WDNR, representatives of the Ice Age Trail Alliance and other glacial geologists.

The WDNR will post the hiking guide on the Straight Lake State Park website and have them available at certain WDNR locations. Materials will include a trail guide, as well as multimedia presentations accessible online via smart phones.

"The Wisconsin DNR is very pleased with the results, and they look forward to publishing the hiking guides," Syverson said, noting that the WDNR plans to have the interpretive materials available this month.

Freeman and Moore said they hope that their guide will be used by many future visitors and hikers to the state park.

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CC/JB/DW

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