The Bureau of Economic Geology The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
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July 2014

John Hupp (left) and Aaron Averett aboard the survey aircraft Traversing the nightless summer skies of northern Alaska, the Bureau’s Near Surface Observatory lidar team is acquiring the second phase of a large-scale, high-resolution topographic and bathymetric survey of the region. Kutalmis Saylam, John Andrews, John Hupp, Aaron Averett, and Chuck Abolt will use the Bureau’s Chiroptera system to image more than 1200 km2 adjacent to the original survey area flown in 2012 near Deadhorse, Alaska, close to Prudhoe Bay. Chiroptera uses red and green lasers and an ultra-high-resolution camera  to acquire data on bare earth elevation and  vegetation height, while also measuring water-body depths. Detailed scanning of the predominantly sedge- and lake-covered tundra will make possible continuing Bureau studies like those published in the Leading Edge in 2013 and in a pending CRC Press book on advanced wetland mapping, and make possible rapid and accurate mapping of wetlands and other permafrost environments. A second group from the Bureau, including Associate Director Michael Young, Todd Caldwell, Chuck Abolt, and Toti Larson from the UT Department of Geological Sciences, are conducting soil investigations in the area for a potential collaborative research project with NASA next year.
Millions of data points define a high resolution topographic and bathymetric image of north Alaska tundra. Click to see larger image


Brent Elliot (standing) speaks about Texas' mineral resources
On July 15, the Bureau partnered with the Texas Mining and Reclamation Association to provide a professional development workshop for K–12 teachers. Twenty-three dedicated educators from various locations in Texas, ranging from El Paso to Magnolia, toured the Austin Core Repository, learned about geologic core samples, and listened to presentations by Bureau staff. Linda Ruiz McCall coordinated the event and provided the attendees with an overview of geologic cores. Brent Elliott spoke to the teachers about the mineral resources of Texas. Dallas Dunlap and John Andrews showed the group some of the amazing 3D visualizations created for Bureau research. Teachers also visited the Bureau bookstore and stocked up on rock kits, geologic maps, and books to take back to their classrooms. The day ended with a tour of the Texas Advanced Computing Center led by Melyssa Fratkin.
teachers get a tour of Texas in 3D


original core and cuttings metadata
Managing what may be the world's largest archive of rock material is a sizeable task, but making it accessible to the world can be equally challenging. With most of the samples collected and documented before the era of digital data storage, much of the metadata consists of handwritten index cards or other paper documents. To better facilitate viewing of the cores and provide easy access to accurate information, Bureau Research Scientist Associate Beverly DeJarnett is working with Woodlands students Bradley Schmidt and Nathan Scheffe at the Bureau's Houston Research Center to migrate the information to a centralized log and core database. Even with modern recognition software, the human mind is still the computer best able to decode the vast and variant quantity of information, and much of the data is being entered by hand. The program is being funded by the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program, administered through the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Beverly DeJarnett (inset), Bradley Schmidt, and Nathan Scheffe


Greg Frébourg addresses students during GeoFORCE field tripTrekking across the American Southwest with forty 10th-grade students may not be the usual ambition of a mudrock sedimentologist, but Bureau Research Associate Greg Frébourg can describe his second tour as a GeoFORCE instructor with a single, emphatic word: "Awesome." The experience that stands out most for Frébourg is not immersion in 2 billion years of vivid geologic history in the Grand Canyon, or standing on the rim of the Barringer meteor crater, or even rafting the Colorado River beneath Glenn Canyon. Rather, it's the infectious passion for knowledge that his students exhibit at every turn, whether in an after-dinner lecture, or in the field trying to explain the seemingly unexplainable—like Marble Canyon's Natural Balanced Rock. For the students, far removed from their small Southwest Texas towns, it's an opportunity to quench their thirst for knowledge among some of the world's most breathtaking vistas. For GeoFORCE instructors like Frébourg, it's a simple affirmation of their own passion for geology and love for learning.
GeoFORCE students pose beneath Natural Balanced Rock in Arizona's Marble Canyon


Kitty Milliken discusses rock types with a GeoFORCE studentFramed against an azure sky in the far reaches of West Texas and eastern New Mexico, a group of GeoFORCE students gathers around BEG Senior Research Scientist Kitty Milliken, listening attentively to a story that began hundreds of millions of years ago. Far from their urban roots in Houston, these 11th- and 12th-grade participants of the Young Geoscientist Field Course are captivated by Milliken’s illumination of the incredible forces and events that would craft coral reefs, caverns, volcanoes, and mountains, creating one of the world’s most remarkable geologic regions.  A perennial student of Geology herself, Milliken’s knowledge and enthusiasm are contagious, and by the end of the trip the students give her a standing ovation and chant her name. “They’re an incredible group of kids,” says Milliken, “and this has been an incredible trip.” Undoubtedly, this has been a GeoFORCE success, too, changing the lives of these students in ways that will help them achieve future success as earth scientists as well as in the larger endeavors of life.
Kitty Milliken (foreground) and participants of the Young Geoscientist Field Course



 
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