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University Geophysics Students Help Characterize Subsurface at Local Sites

RELEASED: Nov. 3, 2008

UW-Eau Claire students making presentation at WRR Environmental Services

UW-Eau Claire junior geology major Taylor Crist was among the student researchers who presented data to Wisconsin DNR officials and WRR Envrionmental Services Co. staff about the subsurface at the WRR site and at Lowes Creek County Park. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — Twelve University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students enrolled in "Engineering Geology and Geophysics" with Dr. Katherine Grote, an assistant professor of hydrogeology in the geology department, recently completed a project to help the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources characterize the subsurface at the site of WRR Environmental Services Co. Inc. and at Lowes Creek County Park.

The information generated during the geophysics studies will help provide a better interpretation of the depth to the top of bedrock as it slopes from Highway 93 westerly toward Lowes Creek, which may help with groundwater monitoring at the site, Grote said.

For four weeks in September and October, the students worked in teams to collect data at WRR and Lowes Creek County Park using a variety of geophysical techniques. The students were concerned with investigating the depth to bedrock at a variety of locations on the sites, Grote said.

After analyzing and interpreting the data, the students presented their findings to DNR officials, WRR staff and a representative of Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc., an engineering firm retained by WRR, at an Oct. 23 meeting at the WRR offices.

Juniors Brennan Kadulski, Green Bay, and Nicholas Borchardt, Woodbury, Minn., described the students' efforts to characterize the site's geology using well logs from four bore holes. Using the data obtained, they created fence diagrams showing stratigraphic units and depth to bedrock, which were then compared to the results obtained by other testing methods.

Sophomore Jacob Heimdahl, Blair, and junior Taylor Crist, Eau Claire, reported on the results obtained from using a seismograph for seismic refraction surveying and noted some of the challenges faced with this particular technology. Senior Herald Schulz, Seymour, and junior Troy Moseley, Warrens, reported on the results obtained from electrical resistivity testing. Seniors Bryan Hardel, Le Sueur, Minn., and Bryan Kunert, Sheboygan, reported on the electromagnetic survey the students conducted. Juniors Matthew Aebly, Eau Claire, and Mitch Korth, Appleton, spoke about using a gravimeter to conduct a gravity survey. Seniors Bridget Kelly and Anna Baker, both of Eau Claire, presented the students' conclusions after comparing the results of the various techniques, as well as their recommendations for further study.

Grote said she thought the project had been a good experience for the students and that they had worked hard on it.

"They received field experience with geophysical techniques and got to interpret real data, which is always more difficult than 'canned' exercises from a textbook," Grote said. "They are also writing up their results in a professional report, so the complete experience teaches about how geophysics works and prepares them for employment after graduation."

Baker agreed.

"This class has taken the most hands-on approach to learning of any I've found at UW-Eau Claire," Baker said. "Not only were we able to take the techniques we were learning in class into the field to test our knowledge, but we were also able to apply what we were working on to a real environmental issue facing our community."

WRR said they appreciate the work of Grote and her geophysics students and they expect the results to benefit WRR in its ongoing assessment of geological and hydrogeological conditions at and near its property. WRR representatives also said they appreciated the cooperation of the Eau Claire County Parks and Forest Department in allowing the students to conduct non-invasive testing on the county property at Lowes Creek County Park.

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NW/JB

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