||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
Geography Professor, Students Participate|
In Research in Canada, North Dakota
MAILED: July 22, 1999|
Sites in southwestern Manitoba and eastern North Dakota served as summer classrooms for three University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students and their geography professor.
Dr. Garry Running and three undergraduate students continued the work in the Oak Lake Sand Hills area of Manitoba that Running and other researchers began last year. The UW-Eau Claire team also participated in research on the Sheyenne Delta southwest of Fargo, N.D. Student researchers were Amy Landis, a senior geography major from Eau Claire; Tim Morrell, a senior geology major from Sheboygan; and Mark Aurit, a senior geography major from Dodgeville.
"The students braved floodwaters along the Souris River, high water tables, fierce biting insects and a bumper crop of poison ivy to conduct research in the extremely wet northern Great Plains this summer," Running said.
The research team in Manitoba included faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students from UW-Eau Claire, the University of Calgary, the University of Saskatchewan, Lakehead University in Ontario and Brandon University in Manitoba.
"Our research in Manitoba is directed toward providing a team of Canadian archeologists, anthropologists, ethnohistorians and ethnobotanists with geomorphic and geographic information to provide environmental context to a rich archeological record that spans the last 6,000 years," Running said. "UW-Eau Claire geoscience students and me are responsible for reconstructing the last 11,000 years of landscape evolution and paleoenvironment of the dune-dominated landscape archeological study area."
Running is co-principal investigator of the grant, which will support a continuation of this interdisciplinary, international research project during the next five summers. Morrell, and alumni Bill Lazarz and Matthew Bloom-Krull presented the results of last year's research this spring at the Association of American Geographers annual meeting in Hawaii.
Researchers have applied to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council for Canada for a $3 million grant to fund similar research across the prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Running said, noting that the proposal already passed the first and most critical cut in the application process.
"My role will be to head the 'geoteam' for this broader study of changing environments and human land-use of the northern Great Plains during post-glacial time," Running said.
In addition to the work that the students did for the project itself, the three student researchers also are working on individual research agendas.
Morrell will analyze ostracodes to reconstruct paleoenvironmental conditions in the area about 6,000 years ago, a critical period of environmental change and human cultural adaptation to such change across the plains. Ostracodes are small molluscs that are good indicators of water temperature and salinity.
Landis will use orthophotographs and GIS to map the modern distribution of sand dunes in the study area. She will compare the impact of modern land use on dune stability. Dunes occur on grazed land, ungrazed land and on private agricultural land. She will explore the impact these land uses have on rates and magnitude of dune erosion.
And Aurit will combine GPS and GIS to create detailed topographic maps of significant archeological localities. He will compare the accuracy of computer-generated topographic maps with the knowledge-based topographic maps that are painstakingly assembled by archeologists in the field. His work also will guide future exploration of the area for archeological remains.
In addition to their work in Canada, UW-Eau Claire's research team also worked with soil scientists from North Dakota State University and the U.S. Forest Service on a project on the Sheyenne Delta. The Sheyenne Delta is an 840-square-mile expanse of sand dunes reworked from a delta that formed along the shores of glacial Lake Agassiz.
"Again, our goal is to reconstruct when the dunes formed, under what conditions they remain stable and under what conditions they resume blowing around," Running said. "Identifying the environmental and climatic conditions under which the dunes destabilize, erode and begin to migrate downwind is particularly important."
Dune movement is associated with low water tables, Running said, explaining that lower water tables in the past were caused by drought. "Low water tables in the future will be caused by natural droughts, plus more severe droughts related to projected global warming, and water table draw down related to increased irrigation and use of the delta aquifer for the Fargo municipal water supply," Running said. "We are determining the impact blowing sand and dune movement that buries wetlands will have on habitat for aquatic migratory birds and endangered species, and how much such movement will lower grazing capacity of the dune grasslands."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 22, 1999