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Recent Geology Student Research

Many of our students conduct research either with one of the professors in the geology dept., the Keck Geology Consortium, or at other national labs and NSF REU programs.   Students conduct research during the summer, through independent studies during the year and through their theses. Students receiving funding assistance from the R. Preston Hawkins IV Geology Award; the Samuel J. Kozak-Odell S. McGuire-Edgar W. Spencer-Frederick L. Schwab Award; and the Frank G Young Award.

Note there is a thesis requirement of the BS degree in geology.   The abstracts of the W&L Geology Theses over the years are quite varied.

This year's thesis research topics are:

Hal Hundley is studying experimental rock deformation of Cambrian-Ordovician carbonates from the valley and ridge of the Appalachians.

Liz Olson is studying beachrock along the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica in order to gain a better understanding of the history of beach morphology in the region as well as to assess the accuracy of current radiometric dating techniques of beachrock.

Karen Roth is using portable X-ray florescence to characterize the chemical composition of obsidian nodules collected in southwestern and western New Mexico, with the aim of establishing their inter-region, inter-site, and intra-site variability to facilitate the sourcing of obsidian archaeological artifacts.

Kendall Wnuk is studying how dynamic erosion affects intermontaine depositional basins in Northwest Argentina

Theses from previous years are below:

  • Clay Holshouser '13 analyzes seismic attributes in Texas
    Clay's thesis "3-D Seismic Attribute Analysis of the Yegua Formation, Texas Gulf Coast" uses a 3-D seismic dataset, well logs, and production data to study the relationship between seismic attributes and existing hydrocarbon production, as well as subtle geologic features, within the Yegua formation.
  • Rose Pettiette '13 reconstructs Alaskan terranes
    Rose's thesis, "Tectonic Evolution of the Chugach-Prince William Terrane: U/Pb Detrital Zircon Age and Provenance of Cover Strata to the Paleocene Resurrection Peninsula Ophiolite in Seward, Alaska," is studying the formation and emplacement of an ophiolite that has been thrust into a continental terrane located in southeastern Alaska. The age of the ophiolite has been highly controversial. My thesis aims to solve this debacle by using geochronology to date and define sediment interbedded with the ophiolite.
  • Lauren Schultz '13 interprets seismic Alaska
    Lauren's research involves seismic interpretation in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. She's also working on creating a 3d model of the region, along with restorations of the Brooks Range-related deformation in the southern end of the region.
  • Matt Benson '12 helps assess live coral cover
    Matt's thesis, "Assessment of Live Coral Cover and Carbonate Production Across Time, Depth, and Space in the Caribbean" is based on research he conducted with Professor Lisa Greer in Belize.
  • Liz George '12 studies environmental change in the Connecticut River
    My senior thesis “Reconstructing environmental changes in the lower Connecticut River using diatoms” is the culmination of research that I began with the Keck Geology Consortium in Connecticut last summer. My advisor, Dave Harbor, and I have learned both how to go about studying diatoms as paleoenvironmental proxies and some of the significant things that they can teach us.
  • Lizzy Mann '12 works to better understand of tree throws and erosion
    Mann has been studying the effects of tree throw, the bowl-shaped cavity or depressions created by trees in the subsoil, along a climosequence of sites on shale in the Appalachian Mountains. These sites are associated with the Susquehanna-Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHO), and Mann is using GPS location, tree girth, relative tree age, tree type, dimensions of pit, azimuth of fall, and slope and azimuth of maximum slope. These observations of tree throw have been made as part of a broader effort to characterize rates of erosion on shale hill slopes. Mann has collaborated with Timothy White, a 1984 graduate of W&L and currently a research scientist at Penn State University, on this project.
  • Maria Reimi '12 studies dirty, dirty calcite
    Reimi has been working in the geology department's experimental geochemistry lab on research that she began last summer in Peter Burns' lab at University of Notre Dame where she was studying a novel aqueous synthesis that leads to the formation of calcite (CaCO3) crystals, up to 500 micrometers in diameter. This work is part of her senior honors thesis on the incorporation of toxic metals such as lead and arsenic into calcite: "An Experimental Investigation into Incorporation of Trace Metals in Carbonate Material."
  • Natalie Stier '12 interprets seismic Arctic Alaska
    Natalie's thesis is: Influence of the Kingak Formation Ultimate Shelf Margin on Frontal Structures of the Brooks Range in National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska.