University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire  Summer Times
July 24, 2000 Volume 36, Number 6
Geology research takes first place in Canada   
Professor says teamwork among student researchers made project rewarding

Two geology students from UW-Eau Claire, Karl Beaster and Josh Kohn, have won first place at a competition in Canada for research that took them nearly a year to complete.
     Geology professor Karen Havholm approached the students with an idea for a research project that studied the depositional environment of the Hinckley Sandstone, which can be found in outcrops along the Kettle River, just north of Hinckley, Minn. Beaster and Kohn met during a field course, Geology 343, with Havholm and decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
     Havholm worked with them to map out the project and showed them how to get started on their field research, said Beaster, a senior geology major.
     "She introduced us to the equipment and the techniques used in field geology," said Beaster. "But after that we were mostly on our own."
     Beaster and Kohn worked on the presentation of their project until midnight the night before Student Research Day at UW-Eau Claire, where they took first place in the natural sciences division.
     A few weeks later they took their presentation to a professional meeting at the Institute on Lake Superior Geology. The sandstone studied in the research project is part of a failed Mid-Continent Rift rock sequence, in which Lake Superior is found.
     "It made sense to take it there," Beaster said. Havholm encouraged them to take the project to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and accompanied them to the meeting.
     Beaster and Kohn's project won first place in Canada against 20 other student research projects. The two think what made their project win first place was the effort they put into a poster outlining their research work.
     "We really had a good grasp on the subject and thought our poster looked good," Beaster said.
     Havholm said the judges told her that they were impressed with how clearly Beaster and Kohn stated their research problem and their supporting evidence.
     The field research took the duo almost 20 days, and both said they found it quite interesting and learned a lot. "Big blocks of sandstone really do have a lot to say," Beaster said. "They can tell you what was going on when the rock was deposited a billion years ago."
     "There are so many interesting things about just one rock unit," said Kohn, also a senior geology major.
     Havholm has worked as a mentor on many projects like this one, but said the quality of the students working on this project made it special.
     "They were very self-directed and independent," she said. "But they also did everything as a team, which they found very rewarding."
     Beaster and Kohn worked on the project as an independent study and earned two credits toward their major. Kohn said the experience and everything they learned was priceless and will definitely help them in their future careers. He hopes to teach earth science or work for the U.S. Forest Service.
     "I'd like to do something where I get to be outside," Kohn said. His favorite part of the research project was working independently. He also liked doing the field research.
     Beaster said geology interests him because everything around us is geology. "Some places are so beautiful, you can't comprehend how they are formed,' he said. "Geology clears all that up."

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Updated: July 21, 2000