Early Undergraduate Research Opportunity - Mapping in the badlands of Toadstool Geologic Park, northwest Nebraska.

Nature of opportunity: To obtain 3 credits of independent study, explore geoscience as a discipline and career option, learn about Nebraska's geology, participate in a unique field experience, and be part of a research team investigating how the earth's crust deforms.

Intended audience: This is meant specifically for students who have had only intro level courses in geoscience, or who have not had geoscience course work, but who are interested in science as a potential career path. There is no future commitment required, just an existing interest in exploring science as a career option. Geoscience majors are welcome to participate in the project through other mechanisms (please see me if interested). An absolute maximum of ten students can participate.

Description of project: In northwest Nebraska, near Crawford, is Toadstool Geologic Park. Here, numerous fractures, veins and faults deform the sediments, and can be studied in great detail in the excellent badland exposures. These faults and veins are unusually well exposed, creating an almost unparalleled natural laboratory for the investigation of crack and fault geometries. This geologic 'window', in turn, provides insight into how the earth's crust deforms in the middle of a continent and tectonic plate, far away from plate boundaries such as the San Andreas fault. Using GPS (global positioning system) units) we have started to build a very detailed database on the position, orientation and characteristics of these faults, veins and fractures. Initial results are very promising. The purpose of this summer's project is to build on this initial work, greatly expand the database, and eventually to better understand how the interior of plates can also deform. This project is particularly well suited to provide an early undergraduate research experience, as the project can be broken down easily into simple parts that are easy for someone without geologic training to understand and participate in. This is an actual research project.

Link to related student project.


The adjacent picture is of some of stepped veins standing up above the mud cracked sediments. Note how the tips curl towards each other.


Time: There will be three parts to the course:

Cost: The cost is being subsidized by an NSF grant to UNO. Tuition, transportation, and some food will be paid for.

Training material for those involved:

Value of preparation.

Collaboration in the Toadstool Project.

Project goals

Models for intraplate strain

Information on Toadstool stratigraphy.

Measurement of the orientation of structures.

Information on chalcedony veins at Toadstool

Annotated bibliography for Toadstool project

Student report topics.

Some help with using ArcMap for your projects.

Contact information:

Dr. Harmon D. Maher Jr.
harmon_maher@mail.unomaha.edu
402 554 4807
Durham Science Center Rm.206