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UW-Eau Claire Faculty, Students|
Participate in Canadian Research Project
MAILED: August 21, 1998|
An archeological site in southwestern Manitoba served as a summer classroom for three University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students and their geography professor.
Dr. Garry Running and three undergraduate students spent three weeks in July at the site, excavating some 10,000 years worth of soils and landforms near the Souris River.
The site is a rare undisturbed area. As a result, researchers are learning much about the various people aboriginal and European who have occupied Manitoba during the last several thousand years.
"There was thousands of years worth of landscape evolution lying there," Running, assistant professor of geography, said of his interest in the Canadian site. "Every time we stuck our shovel in the ground, we found something new and interesting."
Running visited the site last summer while vacationing in the area. "It was absolutely fascinating," he said of the work at the site, which began in 1992. "They asked me if I'd be interested in coming back this year with students and I said I'd love it."
The sand dunes some 40 to 50 feet high were among the features that made the site so fascinating to him, Running said. Based on his work, he estimates that the big dunes have been around 5,000 years.
"Since that time, short periods of drought have disturbed them but it looks like the environment, though very dynamic, has been much like the present over the last 5,000 years," he said of the dunes.
Running concentrated his research on a sand dune called Flint Stone Hill on the banks of the Souris River. There he uncovered an uninterrupted soil sequence dating back more than 10,000 years.
"We have more than 10,000 years of time preserved in one spot," he said.
Running and his students brought back numerous soil samples from the site, most of which will be analyzed in UW-Eau Claire labs. Eventually, Running and his students will use this data to reconstruct how, why and when the dunes formed. That, he said, could prove to be important to those who study climate change particularly global warming.
"We're trying to reconstruct how landscape evolves," Running said. "Sand dunes are good markers for what's going on. This could be a model for how global warming will affect the Great Plains landscape."
Initially, Running said he was curious as to the age of the dunes, specifically wanting to know if the archeological sites discovered in the area were buried beneath the dunes or adjacent to them.
"Our research showed that the dunes were there first," Running said. "The people who came later chose to live in areas where dunes and adjacent wetlands are present."
Running and the students who participated in the summer work will present their findings at various conferences in and outside of Wisconsin during the coming academic year. Running also said he hopes to bring additional students to the site to continue the research.
In addition to UW-Eau Claire's representatives, faculty and students graduate and undergraduate from the University of Calgary, Lakehead University, Medicine Hat College and Brandon University worked at the site. UW-Eau Claire's student researchers were Matthew Bloom, a junior geography major from Eau Claire; William Lazarz, a senior geology major from Deerbrook; and Timothy Morrell, a junior geology major from Sheboygan.
"This was a neat experience for our students for a lot of reasons," Running said. "It was a good example of an interdisciplinary project. We had historians, zoological archeologists, physical anthropologists, ethnobotanists, native studies researchers, geographers and geologists. We had all kinds of people there all working together on the same set of research objectives."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: August 21, 1998