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Years of Collaborative Research
Yield New Geological Survey Publication

RELEASED: Jan. 25, 2008

Dr. Kent Syverson
Dr. Kent Syverson

EAU CLAIRE — More than 10 years of research conducted by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire geology professor Dr. Kent Syverson and 14 geology students came to fruition in late December with the publication of Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey Bulletin 103, "Pleistocene Geology of Chippewa County, Wisconsin."

The 53-page illustrated bulletin on the glacial geology of Chippewa County, which includes a colored 1:100,000-scale geologic map and cross sections, describes the sediments, landforms and glacial history of the county. It will make, for the first time, that information accessible to everyone from land-use professionals and land owners to area teachers or outdoor enthusiasts interested in knowing more about local geology.

According to Syverson, the 1,000-mile-long Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which passes through Chippewa County, makes many people interested in this area's geological features and history. The new bulletin and map will be on display at the Chippewa Moraine Ice Age Reserve Visitor Center, located on the Ice Age Trail east of New Auburn. It is also available for purchase from WGNHS.

Chippewa County Conservationist Dan Masterpole said the bulletin is a great example of an effective effort by the university to combine research with a project that has great practical value.

"This publication will be very important to economic development and ongoing land management efforts in the county," said Masterpole. "Local governments, engineering firms, private developers, building contractors and well drillers all need good information about site conditions when decisions are being made about where to develop and where to conserve land. The same groups also need to locate reliable sources of sand, gravel and clay to build and maintain roads, manufacture cement and blacktop and improve building sites. The more we know about our natural resources, the more we appreciate them and the better we can manage them," Masterpole said.

"I will officially 'roll out' the publication by leading a glacial geology field trip for laypersons in late September," said Syverson. "People don't need to know anything about geology to enjoy this field trip. They just need to be interested in knowing more about the area's glacial history. I also hope some area teachers will participate."

The one-day course will be offered Sept. 27 through UW-Eau Claire's Office of Continuing Education. Syverson said the trip will concentrate on looking at glacial sediments and landforms found in this area. Hiking will not be required, and all participants will be able to purchase a copy of the bulletin and map.

Syverson is particularly pleased that many undergraduate students were involved in the project, made possible through $63,000 in grant funding from WGNHS and the Chippewa County Land Conservation Department. The project progressed from field work, conducted during the summers of 1996-2000, into laboratory work. Although many students were involved, Syverson said one student researcher, Katie Thornburg Stariha, contributed to the project in a major way after he recruited her as a freshman researcher.

"Katie did both field mapping and clay mineralogy lab studies for the next two years," said Syverson. "She used an x-ray diffractometer to identify different clays in till (unsorted glacial sediment) and went on to publish four poster abstracts on the project. One poster earned an award at a national geology conference in Reno, Nev. She also obtained full-ride funding to attend graduate school at UW-Madison, where she received her master's degree in geology."

"This collaboration allowed me to see what it was like to work as a geologist prior to entering the field and the opportunities that existed with the education I was acquiring, " said Stariha. "The undergraduate research program in the UW-Eau Claire geology department is top notch and really allows for development of rapport with the professors that you don't get at other institutions. Working on this project gave me opportunities and experiences beyond those of just taking classes and provided me an excellent background for work I am doing now."

Originally from Spooner, Stariha is now coordinator of the St. Croix Environmental General Assistance Program for the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, where she develops and implements environmental grant programs related to surface and groundwater, indoor air quality, geographic information systems, brownfields, wetland mitigation, drinking and wastewater, solid waste and recycling, and other environmental and natural resource issues identified by the Tribal Council.

"Our geology program at UW-Eau Claire is very hands-on, and that makes our students very marketable for jobs right out of college or getting paid to attend graduate school for further study," Syverson said.

To order Bulletin 103 from the WGNHS map sales office, call 608-263-7389 or use the order form online. The cost is $15 plus shipping and handling, but a 30 percent educational discount is available where applicable.

For fee information or to register for the fall field trip, call Continuing Education at 715-836-3636 or go to their Web site to register online.

For more information, contact Syverson at 715-836-3732 or syverskm@uwec.edu.

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NW/JP

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