GGE fieldtrip connects new geosciences majors, faculty
Sept. 16, 2015
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. ¬- Some of the most valuable information in the world isn't found in a library or online, it's discovered in "the field." That's one of the reasons behind the Slippery Rock University geography, geology and the environment department's decision to take 30 majors on a Sept. 18-20 fall field trip to research sites along Lake Erie and the Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center in Blasdell, N.Y.
Students will dig for fossils, study geological processes and learn about subsurface mapping. They will conduct a beach cleanup, camp overnight and hear from experts about micro plastic pollution effecting the Great Lakes.
GGE has offered the field trip for 18 years to connect first-year and new transfer geosciences majors to their peers and professors.
"The idea is to integrate new students into the department, build a sense of community with students but also with the faculty. We let them meet the faculty and get a sense of the kind of research they're interested in," said Michael Zieg, SRU associate professor of geography, geology and the environment.
Fieldwork - the study of rocks exposed on the earth's surface - remains an essential element of geology. Fieldwork enabled earth scientists to see, sample and date the layers that make up the planet. From fossils and rock specimens, scientists have learned the age of the earth, its physical and chemical development and the evolution of the life. Geologists see fieldwork as the key that opens the library of earth history.
"We want to see students get involved right away," Zieg said. "The idea is that by seeing what kind of fun stuff they can do, that will help them persist through some of their difficult coursework. They're very excited about the trip."
The group's first stop is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle. Named for the former governor and director of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, the center teaches about the many forms of life and conservation issues along Pennsylvania's only shoreline.
SRU is a member of the Regional Science Consortium at the Ridge Center, which provides a variety of learning opportunities.
"We're going to talk about sustainability issues and conservation issues associated with the Great Lakes and different projects that we have going on at the Tom Ridge Center," said Tamra Schiappa, associate professor geography, geology and environment, who is coordinating the field trip. "The visit to the center will address the interests of our students who have a sustainability track and are interested in environmental studies. It overlaps with a bunch of different programs."
Students will be introduced to geophysical methods as a means for investigating subsurface geology when they go to Erie Bluff State Park. Brian Miller, SRU assistant professor of geography, geology and the environment, said the stop is near the area where he is conducting research.
"The Lake Erie bluff project is just getting underway and we will employ seismic techniques in an attempt to characterize the near-surface geology," he said. "It is hopeful that the geophysical investigation will provide further understanding of the local deposits and how they contribute to erosion along the bluffs."
After visiting Lake Erie Bluff, students will drive north for camping at Evangola State Park in New York. They will participate in a lecture, participate in a beach cleanup and attend lectures.
While in New York, they will stop at Penn Dixon Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center, for fossil digging.
"We will collect fossils, learn about the fossils, and we can talk about all sorts of geology issues," she said.
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