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News from Geology

News from the Augustana Department of Geology about field trips, internships, student publications and honors. Students and alumni who would like to share news are invited to email

Bonaire research

Despite being 1000 miles away from any ocean, Augustana is making a name for itself as a champion for Caribbean island geology and the preservation and restoration of ocean coral reefs. Augustana geology professors Dr. Michael Wolf and Dr. Jenny Arkle, along with geology major researchers Alicia Felker, Sophie Arceneaux, Zoe Heiar and Audrey Zettler, visited the island of Bonaire to conduct baseline video surveys of the reefs to monitor coral disease and decline. After returning the campus, the students will process and analyze the photogrammetry survey data and GIS results as their senior inquiry research, and will share their results with the Bonaire nature conservation scientists and marine authorities. Each year, Augustana students and faculty will continue to monitor the reef health to aid in conservation management through the Geology Department's newly established Marine Geology of Bonaire Research Program.

ReeFiesta 2024

In addition to the underwater drone work, the Augustana marine geology faculty and students joined over 100 volunteer SCUBA divers during World Reef Awareness Day (June 1) at Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire's ReeFiesta 2024, cleaning the underwater coral restoration nursery trees of invasive algae and firecoral. Fragments of a variety of coral species grow on the nurseries, suspended until they are large enough to get transplanted back into their natural ecosystem. But due to disease, rising sea temperatures, excess nutrients, sediment runoff and the disappearance of spiny urchins, the coral reefs are in decline. Hopefully coral nurseries like these can help restore these important species to the Bonaire ecosystem, and Augustana geologists will continue to play a scientific role in the important work. 

Kacey Plambeck, Emily Martin, CAvit Schempp

Three senior geology majors won top monetary awards for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Poster Presentations at the Geological Society of America's 2024 Joint North-Central and South-Central Section Meeting in Springfield, Mo., in April.

Kacey Plambeck (left) earned second-place honors for "Experimental Growth of MVT Sulfide Mineralization." Emily Martin (center) and Cavit Schempp (right) tied for fourth-place honors for their senior inquiry research on "Evaluation of Indoor Radon Concentrations for the Quad Cities (Rock Island County, IL, and Scott County, IA)" (Martin) and "Analysis and Description of the Iridescent Thin-Film on Calcites in Eastern Iowa" (Schempp). 

The judging was conducted by professional geologists from the Missouri Geological Survey. Congratulations to our Augustana geologists!

Bonaire cleanup

Students in the J-Term Geology of Bonaire courses, in true Augie fashion, challenge themselves in mind, body and spirit —daily labs on the rock outcrops and nightly lectures around the beach gazebo, tough mountain climbs and challenging cave crawls, helping classmates with anything from cooking, to coursework to dive gear. Here students volunteered with the Caribbean Bonaire community on a cleanup dive of the harbor to protect the health of the ocean wildlife and the fragile coral ecosystem by collecting fishing line and hooks that harm sea turtles.

Niah Tyler

Geology and environmental studies double major Niah Tyler '25 was one of several geology majors who landed summer geology internships. Tyler was selected for a coveted Research Experiences in Solid Earth Science internship, and was installing seismometers for earthquake detection in New Mexico on their first day in the field. Tyler's geophysical research, which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, helped to better locate motion along subsurface faults. This month Tyler had the thrill of presenting work at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco, which convenes more than 25,000 attendees from 100 countries.

Geology trip, April 2024

Geology majors and faculty members trekked to Springfield, Mo., for the Joint Section Meeting of the Geological Society of America conference. The students presented research posters and participated in a conference-sponsored field trip to the Missouri trace fossil beds that help interpret the paleoenvironment of the region.

Pictured: Jaycee Bythewood, Makayla Palm, Cavit Schempp, Shaun Duckett, Kacey Plambeck, Alex Wandrey, Niah Tyler, Alicia Felker, Briana Reagan, Sophie Arceneaux, Audrey Zettler, Zoe Heiar, Emily Martin, Eulle Casaquite, Dr. Strasser, Dr. Arkle, Jack Hughes and Dr. Wolf.

Tri-State Field Conference

Twenty Augustana geology faculty and students headed south to the far reaches of the state and into Missouri for the 75th Annual TRI-STATE Field Conference. Eighty five geologists from the Illinois and Iowa Geological Surveys, and from colleges and universities around the Midwest participated. The focus of the field conference was origins and history of the Southern Illinois Basin evolution and regional and global events recorded by the sedimentary surface and subsurface.

Bonaire, Feb. 2024

Students in the Geology of Bonaire courses studied and identified the fossil corals on the ancient marine terrace at Boka Onima and compared them to the modern reefs they saw on their dives. Here, they're capping off a day of research with a nighttime snorkel to observe the nocturnal habits of sea creatures like urchins, five-foot-long hunting tarpons and jellyfish in the bioluminescent waters.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, summer 2023

As a member of the Northwest Youth Conservation Corps, geology and environmental studies double major Emily Martin '24 (holding the camera) was involved with conservation projects in Washington state and northern Oregon, camping near the areas she and her crew worked on. Her team's projects included trail building, fuels reduction, habitat enhancement and stream restoration. The group poses here in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, home of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Devils Tower, Wyoming, summer 2023

16 incoming first-year students visited the mountains of Wyoming on the annual GEOL-105 trip with Drs. Strasser and Wolf. The group visited Devils Tower to study its interesting geologic history.

Udden Geology Club

Udden Geology Club members celebrated the end of a semester with a pizza party, where they donned diffraction grating glasses. The glasses change light sources into crystal structure shapes -- and help remind everyone to look at life through different lenses and perspectives! At more than 90 years running, Udden Geology Club is one of the oldest clubs on campus. The group meets every Friday at 4:30 p.m. All are welcome!

Fryxell presentation

Augustana’s Geology Department and Fryxell Geology Museum foster community outreach and engagement—undergrduate geology majors share their expertise and enthusiasm by taking the show on the road throughout the academic year to present earth science concepts to hundreds of people around the Quad Cities at Fossil Day Programs, public library events and science fairs.

Fryxell presentation

Augustana's Fryxell Geology Museum fosters community outreach and engagement. Makayla Palm '24 (pictured) and seven other geology majors took the show on the road and presented earth science concepts to 150 Moline Public Library visitors at their Fossil Day Program.

Older news

Caribbean, Jan 2020

Students excited to explore the geology of the northern side of the Caribbean island of Bonaire at Boka Chikitu in Washington Slagbaai National Park during January-Term courses. Jan. 2020

Caribbean, Jan 2020

Geology Students travel to the Caribbean island of Bonaire for January-Term 2020 to survey coral ecology along the modern marinescapes to compare to the fossil corals of the ancient marine terraces on land.

Caribbean, Jan. 2020

Geology Students travel to the Caribbean island of Bonaire for January-Term 2020 to survey coral ecology along the modern marinescapes to compare to the fossil corals of the ancient marine terraces on land.

Devil's Lake, Fall 2019

Sitting on the 1.6 billion-year-old bluffs of Devil’s Lake, in the Baraboo Range, Wisconsin during the Fall 2019 field trip.

Lake MacBride, Fall 2019

Exploring the stratigraphy of an old quarry in Lake Macbride State Park, Iowa. Fall 2019.

Allied Quarry, Rock Island, Fall 2019

Udden Geology Club, learning about economic geology at Allied Quarry, Rock Island. Fall 2019

Grand Canyon, Feb. 2018

Backpacking the Grand Canyon February 2018. Left to right: Caitlin Lebel '18, Bets Hobart '19 , Allison Pease '18, Lauren Judge '19, Joey Teresi '18 , Sierra Kindley '19, Mark Lundine '18, Jack Malone '18, Dr. Kelsey Arkle,  Jill Reale '19, David Hundrieser '19, Dr. Mike Wolf.

Hawaii, Spring 2017

2017 Spring Break Field Trip to Hawaii. Over spring break, Dr. Wolf led a field trip for 20 geology majors to the Big Island of Hawaii as the culmination of a 1-credit course taught during winter term. No need for PowerPoint presentations when the students can present their final course research papers on the formation of lava tubes...inside a lava tube! Crystallization of basaltic flows becomes crystal clear when you can smell, hear, see, and feel the process occurring in an active surface flow a foot away.

John Deere Planetarium

Planetarium and geology museum to host open house on May 11

Augustana College's John Deere Planetarium and Fryxell Geology Museum will be open to the public on Saturday, May 11, 2024, for an evening of stargazing and space shows. The planetarium, located at 820 38th Street, Rock Island, will be open from 8:30-10 p.m., with indoor and outdoor programs in the planetarium, observatory and geology museum.

Holden Village students posing for a photo before heading to the village.

Five years of Augustana’s January Term

Augustana College students take a break from their 15-week semester schedule to engage in a month-long period of intensive learning during January Term, or J-term. This three-and-a-half week course was added as part of the college’s transition to semesters in 2019-2020.

Makayla Thumb

Unearthing students' love for geology

Four Augustana students have hit the ground running with their summer geology internships. Projects include studying the formation and evolution of ancient mountain belts, paleontology research, studying geological maps in zinc mines and installing seismometers for earthquake detection.