MAILED: Oct. 27, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- The decision to leave friends and the comforts of home behind for a month of learning and adventure was an easy one for University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior Lee Delcore. A journey through the wilderness of four Northwestern Canadian provinces while studying geology promised more excitement than an additional month at a summer job.
Delcore and two other UW-Eau Claire senior geology students, Brian Hennings and Heather Golding, spent about a month in Canada as members of an 87-person research team headed by the University of British Columbia. Data gathered during the experiment will improve scientists understanding of the crust and sub-crustal mantle of the tectonic elements of this region of the Earth, Delcore said.
"This research helps scientists understand earthquakes, and locate sedimentary oil traps and kimberlite (diamond) for mining which is becoming a big industry in Canada," he said.
Dr. Robert Hooper, geology department chair, traveled to Vancouver with the students in early August where they teamed with the LITHOPROBE group, Canada's major national research project in the earth sciences. For a month, students traveled through British Columbia, Yukon Territories, Northwest Territories and Alberta as they assisted in gathering data that will improve knowledge of the tectonic structure of the area and give clues to past geological events.
Students and scientists from many areas of Canada collaborated on the project, but students from UW-Eau Claire and Stanford University were the only student participants from the United States, Hooper said.
The experiment was the final component of the Slave-Northern Cordillera Lithospheric Evolution (SNORCLE) Transect, a multi-diciplinary study of the structure and evolution of the continental lithosphere in a region where the rock record spans 90 percent of Earth's history, Hooper said.
During their stay in Canada, the students were responsible for following a detailed map to locate about 40 specific points along the three corridors of study. At designated locations, the group placed geophones, a special type of microphone, about a half meter into the ground, Delcore said.
The seismic refraction method used for this experiment uses explosive charges to generate sound waves which travel from near the surface of the Earth to depths exceeding 100 km within the Earth. The sound waves were received by the geophones and recorded digitally on a seismograph recording system. By analyzing the sound waves time of travel from the source to the detector and the amplitude of ground vibrations, information about the structure of the Earth can be inferred, Hooper said.
"Traveling to each location was the most time consuming part of the project," Delcore said. "We were in a different location each week which provided us with the opportunity to see a lot of Canada and its wildlife; the structural differences in the land were phenomenal."
Although working on the project was a daily task, the students had free time to explore their new environment. They visited glacial lakes, organized a group tour to a lead zinc mine, saw glaciers in progress, and took advantage of many hiking opportunities, he said. The group also visited Fort Providence, a young community that was first organized in 1959.
"Our group spoke with several locals and learned about the struggles their new community faces," he said. "We interacted with the people and learned about their culture and the importance of spiritual connections in their daily life."
The trip was a perfect complement to the students' geology studies at UW-Eau Claire, Delcore said.
"We gained practical experience that is key for getting a job or continuing in higher education," he said. "We also got experience adapting to unfamiliar surroundings and were able to network with people from many backgrounds."
Delcore will graduate in December with an undergraduate degree in hydrogeology and is considering several graduate school programs.
For more information about this study, or other geology field experiences involving UW-Eau Claire students, contact Hooper at (715) 836-4932.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Oct. 27, 1997