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Kent Syverson

Kent Syverson
  • Professor
  • Geology

UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Teaching Award, 2012

UW System Economic Development Grant ($451,317 for 2013-15) The Responsible Mining Initiative: Building an Educated STEM Workforce for the Natural Resource Industry, co-authored by Dr. J. Brian Mahoney

My current research interests involve studying the glacial geology of Wisconsin and Maine with undergraduate geology students (see publications list). Students and I have researched the history of the Driftless Area, evidence for permafrost conditions in this part of the state, the origin of the Blue Hills Felsenmeer of Rusk County (Thompson and Syverson, 2006; Hoaglund et al.,2007; Hinke and Wittkop, 2007;Orr et al., 2009;Mohr et al., 2009), and the origin of high-relief hummocky moraines and ice-walled-lake plains (Clayton et al., 2008). I also studied pre-Late Wisconsinan till units to better understand the glacial history of the western Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey [WGNHS] and the Chippewa County Land Conservation Department funded this project in Chippewa County, and the WGNHS published the research results as a bulletin and colored map (Syverson, 2007). I am very interested in glacial history (Syverson and Colgan, 2004, 2011) and glacial stratigraphic units. Recently served as lead editor for the State of Wisconsin glacial lithostratigraphy update published by the WGNHS (Syverson al., 2011).

Students in my upper-division courses (Geomorphology and Glacial Geology) have been involved extensively with projects to better understand the landforms in the Chippewa Moraine Ice Age National Scientific Reserve Unit near New Auburn, WI. These student projects were used by the National Park Service to develop exhibits for the Chippewa Moraine Visitor Center. These exhibits are worth a special visit to the Visitor Center (Chippewa County Hwy. M east of New Auburn). My research students also have produced geologic interpretive guides for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in the Chippewa Moraine (Syverson et al., 2005) and in the Straight Lake State Park area of Polk County (Freeman et al., 2012a,b).

My glacial geologic research in Maine has been supported by the Maine Geological Survey. Students and I have studied striations (scratches on the bedrock surface formed parallel to the flow direction as the glacier drags rocks across the bedrock) in Maine as evidence for major ice-flow direction changes (Syverson and Greve, 2003;Syverson and Thompson, 2008;Syverson and Olson, 2011). Ice-flow directions were increasingly deflected by a calving glacial margin in the Penobscot River valley (Syverson and Thompson, 2008;Syverson and Olson, 2011) and 200- to 400-m-high bedrock "bumps" at the base of the glacier as the ice thinned, a situation similar to my Ph.D. study area in Glacier Bay, AK. Students and I also have investigated glacial-marine sediment in the China Lake and Bangor regions in southern Maine (Syverson and Mans, 2005;Syverson and Thompson, 2008). Heavy glacier ice during the Ice Age caused the land surface to sink, and the ocean flooded the depressed land surface as the glacier ice melted.

Since 2009 I have become very interested in the geology of frac sand deposits in the State of Wisconsin (see a video of my frac sand geology seminar presented on 2/17/2012). Frac sand, used enhance recovery in the oil and natural gas industry, is becoming a major industry in western Wisconsin. I have done consulting in the sand industry, and this has led to a research project studying the mineralogy of sandstone cements (Haas et al., 2014). This has important implications for the composition of airborne dust particles. Research projects and our field-based geology program are preparing our students for jobs in the industrial sand industry. These activities also laid the foundation for the Responsible Mining Initiative Economic Development Incentive Grant in 2013 ($451,000) to provide more scholarships and paid internship experiences for geology majors. 

Invited Lectures:

Frac Sand Supply &Logistics Conference, 4th annual conference, Sept. 24-25, 2015, invited lecture entitled The Responsible Mining Initiative, presented in San Antonio, TX.

Geological Society of Minnesota, April 6, 2015, invited lecture entitled Industrial Sand Mining in Wisconsin – Geology and Controversies, presented at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) Minnesota Annual Conference, April 22-23, 2014, Duluth, MN. Talk with co-author J. Brian Mahoney entitled: Developing a new Responsible Mining program in Geology at UW-Eau Claire.

University of Minnesota-Duluth, Dept. of Geological Sciences, February 6, 2014, invited lecture entitled The Frac Sand Mining Boom in the State of Wisconsin -Geology and Controversies, presented at Duluth, Minnesota.

Silica Sand &Construction Aggregate Resources of the Upper Midwest, September 16, 2013, workshop sponsored by the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) Twin Cities Section.Talk entitled: Mineable resources in Wisconsin – from iron ore and volcanogenic massive sulfides to glacial outwash and frac sand: An overview.

Teaching Interests
  • Environmental Geology
  • Geomorphology and Aerial Photograph Interpretation
  • Glacial Geology
  • Oceanography
  • Rocky Mountain Field Studies
  • Chair, Dept. of Geology
  • Teach Oceanography (Geology 102)
  • Teach Geomorphology and Aerial Photography Interpretation (Geology 345)
  • Teach Glacial Geology (Geology 420)
  • Develop paid internships in industry through the Responsible Mining Initiative
Research and Creative Activities
  • Glacial geology and geomorphology
  • Deglaciation in areas with high relief and calving glacier margins in Alaska and Maine
  • Industrial sand mining and frac sand mining
  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison (Geology, minor distributed between civil and environmental engineering and geography)
  • M.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison (Geology)
  • B.S., University of Minnesota-Duluth (Geology, minor in chemistry)
  • Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) New Miner training, 24 hours (completed 17 June 2015, updated 3/23/2016)