Mapping the course of geology

Since 2008, the University of Northern Iowa has secured $88,490 in federal funding from the University Geologic Mapping Component (EDMAP), which is part of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP). This funding will continue through July 2011.

UNI sees the benefits of undergraduate research

With the support of the Department of Earth Science; Siobahn Morgan, department head and professor of earth science; Robert Libra, Iowa Geological and Water Survey state geologist; the College of Natural Sciences; Joel Haack, dean and professor of the College of Humanities & Fine Arts and Natural Sciences; the Office of Sponsored Programs; and Hillery Oberle, grant specialist of the Office of Sponsored Program, UNI can benefit from undergraduate research

Drew Kreman

Drew Kreman created the geologic map of Waverly, Iowa. He is now a geology graduate student at the University of Arkansas

The EDMAP program trains the next generation of geologic mappers by providing grant funds to colleges and universities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The program, which contributes to national efforts to geologically map the entire U.S., works with universities to help graduate and upper-level undergraduate students gain experience and knowledge in geologic mapping.

"Geology professors, who are skilled in geologic mapping, request EDMAP funding to support students at their college or university in a one-year mentored geologic mapping project that focuses on a specific geographic area," said Chad Heinzel, assistant professor of earth science and advisor of the UNI EDMAP program.

The EDMAP program works with the Iowa Geologic Survey to survey the state of Iowa. The program is currently available at 144 universities throughout the nation, engaging more than 850 students.

The UNI EDMAP program has produced two surficial geological (glacial sediments) maps in the Waverly and Readlyn, Iowa, areas; a project is currently underway in the Dunkerton area. The primary purpose of creating these new northeast Iowa maps is to gather data that will lead to county-specific land use planning tools for Bremer and Black Hawk counties and area farmers.

The procedure
The sample process uses subsoil cores that are gathered with a small buck auger. The samples are then dried and analyzed for sediment content. “We use this data to identify subsoil type and compare it to the existing map," said junior Jordan Vastine, an earth science major who participates in the program. “We adjust the old subsoil map using our results obtained from geographic information system (GIS) software. Our revised map is then submitted to the Iowa Geological Survey for public use."

How students benefitSoil examination
"My experience was a positive one," said Vastine, who has participated in the EDMAP program for more than a year. Vastine said he’s learned how the Iowa Geologic Survey collects samples and uses the data to create maps. He’s even gathered samples and created subsoil maps himself. These maps constitute a fundamental and objective scientific foundation where land-, water- and resource-use decisions are based.

"The EDMAP program has been an incredibly educational and beneficial experience," said Nick Bosshart, senior geology major who also participates in the program. "Students like myself get hands-on experience in GIS, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), field methods, sampling procedures, particle size analyses, the geosciences and many other areas. The knowledge we gain is helpful in preparing a publishable subsoil map in coordination with the Iowa Geological Survey.”

This experience allows students within in the earth science and geology departments to explore other career opportunities by providing hands-on, real-world experiences in conjunction with classroom learning. Although individual projects last for only one year, they may build upon the results of previous years' efforts and create long-lasting research.

How the earth, UNI and Iowa benefits
This geologic data will help develop groundwater vulnerability maps that will be used to evaluate the site potentials for urban and agricultural development by blending classic and modern field mapping techniques.

A geologic map records the distribution of rock and soil materials at and near the land surface. Heinzel said it is the best science product to display the information that decision makers need to identify and protect valuable resources, avoid risks from natural hazards and use the land wisely. Iowans gain information on subsoils in their area in the form of a published map.

The EDMAP program helps broaden UNI's horizons, adding another element for student learning and career preparation.

Buck auger

The EDMAP sample process uses subsoil cores that are gathered with a small buck auger. The samples are then dried and analyzed for sediment content. "We use this data to identify subsoil type and compare it to the existing map," said junior Jordan Vastine, an earth science major who participates in the program. "We adjust the old subsoil map using our results obtained from global information system (GIS) software. Our revised map is then submitted to the Iowa Geological Survey for public use."