Geology Alumni Newsletter 2009




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This is now our 6th Geology Newsletter. It’s been a great few years with good enrollments and great opportunities for students in graduate school, oil and gas, mining, and the environmental industry. Hopefully the downturn is not too deep or long.  Here is a brief recap of the news for 2007-09: 

    • Western State Geology with 60-70 majors has more majors than any time since 1983!
    • We have a new faculty member Dr. Dave Marchetti. Dave is a geomorphologist with expertise in cosmogenic dating;
    • The department continues to be  involved in a number of student research projects that have shed light on some very interesting aspects of regional geology including the West Elk and Nine-Mile Hill volcanoes, the Moenkopi Formation in the salt valleys of Utah, local glacial geology etc.;
    • Students and faculty have been involved in the geologic mapping of another local quadrangle -- Signal Peak -- and with geologic and Quaternary mapping near Fish Lake in Utah;
    • The department has been able to purchase new petrographic microscopes, an X-ray diffractometer, a X-ray microanalysis attachment for the SEM, corer for lake sediments, and a shallow seismic refraction system;
    • And finally, the news just keeps getting better. W.A. “Tex” Moncrief donated another $1.5 million to the department to enhance our already very successful petroleum geology program.

New Geology Faculty:  Dr. Dave Marchetti

Dave Marchetti came to Gunnison in the fall of 2007 as our new geomorphologist / hydrogeologist and is thrilled to be at Western.  Dave is originally from a small village southeast of Rochester NY called Penfield. He grew up with thick piles of glacial till in his back yard and outcrops of the Lockport Dolomite, which makes up part of the Niagra Falls escarpment, a short bike ride away.

Dave attended SUNY Geneseo for college and after a brief stint as a biology, geography, and then chemistry major he switched to geology ultimately ending up with a somewhat odd undergraduate degree in geochemistry. Like many other upstate New Yorkers with a fascination with geomorphology (think G.K. Gilbert – who was from Rochester; and John Wesley Powell – who came from Mt. Morris which is only a few miles from Geneseo) Dave headed west to the University of Utah for graduate school. For his MS project he worked on applying the then relatively new technique of cosmogenic exposure age dating to some debris-flow deposits in Capitol Reef National Park. He stayed at Utah for his Ph.D. where he incorporated surficial mapping and cosmogenic dating of glacial and mass movement deposits to understanding the Quaternary history of the Fremont River drainage basin.

Towards the end of his graduate time at Utah he started a project with several USGS mappers on the age of lake deposits in the San Luis Valley and was introduced to western and central Colorado.

After grad school, Dave taught at Colgate University in central NY for a year and remembered why doing geology was easier and more rewarding where one could see the rocks and the sun shone more than once a month.
Dave has several current research project that involve Western students including additional cosmogenic dating of glacial deposits in central and northern Utah mountains and Quaternary mapping of more 7.5 minute quadrangles than he’d like. In his free time he takes advantage of the great outdoor opportunities around the Gunnison Valley including skiing and fishing, and just plain old walking around and looking at stuff. On his desk in Hurst Hall is what may be one of the best collections of shark teeth in western Colorado.

    Annual Geology Awards

    We have held two geology banquets since the last newsletter. In 2007, we graduated ten new alumni at a barbeque in Jim’s backyard. In 2008, eleven new alumni joined your ranks.
    At the banquets we handed out our annual awards:

    The RMAG “Hammer”, awarded to our outstanding senior went to Jeramy Harshman ‘07 in 2007 and to Chuck Samra ‘08 in 2008.

    The Val Mitchell Memorial Scholarship in Geology, awarded to our outstanding junior went to Andrew Payton ‘08 in 2007 and to Tyler Patrick ‘09 in 2008.

    The Menzer Scholarship, awarded to encourage a beginning student to think about a career in geology was awarded to Sarah Ablel ’08 and Andrew Payton’08 in 2006 ant to Katherine Schuller ’09 in 2007.

    The Richard and Belva Moyle Scholarship awarded for summer field camp went to Ray Gerrity ‘09 in 2007.

    • The annual graduation banquet is held each spring the night before graduation.  All geology alumni are invited but please let us know in advance if you plan to join us.

    Bartleson and Prather Research Scholarships

     The Bartleson-Prather Fund for Excellence in Geology is going strong.  As we described in past newsletters, the fund provides a scholarship and research supplies for students, on a competitive basis, between their junior and senior year.

    We have awarded two scholarships since the last newsletter.  Christoper Dorian ’07, working with Jim Coogan, conducted a gravity survey of the Jacks Cabin area to look for subsurface faulting.  Chris actually got good data out of the old Worden Gravimeter some of you might remember from taking geophysics with Ray Ruhle

    This past summer Andrew Payton ’08 working with Dave Marchetti studied the glacial sediments near East Beckwith. In addition to doing a fair chunk of surficial mapping and relative age dating, Andrew was able to estimate paleoclimatic conditions during the Last Glacial maximum from glacier reconstructions and simple climate modeling. Andrew’s work may be expanded upon during the next Research in Quaternary class.

      New Geologic Map of Signal Peak

       We completed the Signal Peak quadrangle in 2007 and it is now available from the Colorado Geologic Survey at:


       Signal peak was mapped by Jim Coogan, Rob Fillmore and Allen Stork with the help of Joe Nicolette ’07 and Andrew Payton ’08.

      We have proposal into the Colorado Geologic Survey to map the Cement Creek quadrangle and the Parlin quadrangle


          In Memorium

        Kevin (Tex) McAndrews ‘75 died in Austin, Texas in March of 2008, just short of his 59th birthday. Kevin moved here from Texas, was an outstanding student here and in fact, was the 2nd recipient of our RMAG hammer award in 1975. He was well known for his intensity and excellence in everything he did from geology to hunting in which he was without peer. Kevin went on to earn a Master’s degree at Colorado State University and worked for Bear Creek Mining and later for Kennecott in Tucson, Reno, Salt Lake City (where he was District Manager) and finally Guadalajara up until 1998.  He was highly respected by his peers and colleagues in the mining industry. He was most proud of his two daughters (who are quite successful in their own right) and of his new house in Manzanillo, which he bought upon retirement in order to do some deep-sea fishing, which he loved.  I consulted for Kevin in the summers of 1988 and 89 looking for placer gold prospects.  After some initial research and office work, I was ready to go into the field. Upon asking him for some advice, Kevin replied “Bruce, Just follow your nose!” which was excellent advice. Kevin was a good friend and I will miss him.
        Warren Seeton ‘76 was 55 years old upon his death and worked in the mining industry all of his life. He mostly grew up in Taylor Park where his dad, Ross Seeton, had many placer mining claims. If anyone ever had “gold fever”, it was Warren. I remember Warren well as a very kind, bright and engaging young man who was quite intense about mining. He was in poor health for a number of years prior to his death and periodically he would call and ask me what I thought about the “meaning of life.” It was rather unsettling and, as fate would have it, since Warren had a deep respect for Kevin McAndrews ‘75, I asked Kevin to call him and talk to him, which he did, much to his credit.
        Paul Maniaci ’04 – Paul was killed in an avalanche near Jackson Hole, WY on Saturday, March 10, 2007.  Paul was an extremely avid mountain biker, rock climber, skier, and adventure racer.  At the time of his death he was teaching in Steamboat Springs.  While at Western, Paul was a member of the Mountain Search and Rescue Team as well as a member of the Adventure Racing Team.  After graduation, he worked in the WSC Student Services Center and taught at the Gunnison Valley School before moving to Steamboat.

          Volcanology Research



          Faculty News

          Inactive (old, retired or escaped) Division:

          Bruce Bartleson (1965-1998) continues to have an active retirement with far too many committee meetings – one of the things I really hated while at Western. But now I’m the president of the town Library Board (trying to build a new library) as well as on the Western State Alumni Board and the Scenic Byway Committee. On top of that I’ve gained quite a bit of local fame by becoming (by default) the unofficial custodian of Gunnison weather records. On the other hand, I do still have a lot of time for fun things like traveling, mountain biking, hiking, back-country telemarking and fly-fishing.

          We’ve had some great trips in the past few years. Since I talked to you last we have been to: 1) New England for the fall colors and met Nancy Molyneux (’77) and Rich at Little Squam Lake in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and had a great tour of a part of the world I had never seen; 2) Hawaii in March of  08’ for 2 glorious weeks near the end of one of the worst (or best – super snow fall!) winters we have ever had here – we did both the Big Island and Kauai; 3) the French Riviera at Le Lavandou, a very nice little coastal town southwest of Cannes, and a tour of the Grand Canyon du Verdon – really spectacular. 4) a really remote and acrophobic Anasazi ruins west of Blanding in Canyonlands.

          For several years now Duane Vandenbusche and I have been putting on a historical and geological tour of the mining camps of the San Juan Mountains including, Lake City, Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Durango. We go for a week, stay in nice hotels and take Western State vans (not nearly as fun as the old weenie wagons). The trip has been a sell-out now for 5 straight years and is run through the Extended Studies department of Western. We’ve also done a fund- raiser tour for the Crested Butte Center for the Arts by leading tours (70 people) into Taylor Park and the Crested Butte- Irwin areas.

          I’ve had the good fortune to spend some time with some of you alums, such as; having dinner with Rod Graham 83’ on his annual ice fishing expedition to Gunnison, hiking in the Ouray area with Colleen McShane Cope ’77 and family, skiing with Bob and June Just ’74, several times, as well as Scott Effner88 and wife Sue in January, 09, two memorable days fly-fishing on the upper Cebolla with Tom Shrake ‘81, as well as showing Tom and Anne's daughter, Katie, around campus as a potential student,  having supper (and Margaritas!) way out in the La Garita’s with Lauren Hart Ellison77, bumping into Rebecca Nanni ‘96 and James Porter ‘97 at the Firebrand (again), lunch with Lynn Padgett ‘97 and having a great Continental Divide hike near Monarch Pass with Freddy and Mary Frankel '77 and  I’ve probably forgotten somebody.

          Oh yes, I also have a Facebook site and you can see many of our alums there. It’s always fun to see you, so be sure to call if and when you ever get back to Gunnison

          And finally, one of the milestones of my life was reached in 2006 when I attended my 50th college reunion in Beloit, Wisconsin and then afterwards flew to Switzerland to visit my daughter and family and spent two weeks hiking in the Austrian and Swiss Alps.

          • Mary Lou Bevier (1982-85) is still at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Here is her report: “I've been transforming my courses so as to increase student learning and engagement, with help from geo-science education experts hired for the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at UBC. We are two years into a five-year project which we hope will change science education at UBC and then percolate out to other institutions.” She also found some live brachiopods at a May low tide and sent me some pictures. (Yep, they’re not extinct, yet) She also spends a lot of time sailing from her Salt Spring Island retreat cabin.

            Holly Brunkal (2005-2007), former lecturer in the geology department, is currently working on her PhD in the Engineering Geology department at the Colorado School of Mines. Her dissertation research will include an examination of the geology, geomorphology, vegetative regime, and other factors that influence channel sediment recharge in areas that have been burned by wildfire and have experienced debris flows. The goal of the project is to find a debris channel recharge rate that will calculate the timing of when the “gun is reloaded” for the next debris flow event. Field work for the project will be done in Colorado, New Mexico and Southern California. Holly continues to represent the Rocky Mountain section on the board of directors of the Association for Women Geoscientists, and is the vice-president of the student chapter of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists at CSM. She is also employed by the USGS to work on research specific to post wildfire debris-flows, estimating run-out and inundation areas. Holly spends her summer months in Gunnison, enjoying mountain biking, hiking and going to Blue Mesa.

            Ron Hill (2007-2008) Ron Hill came to us from the USGS as the first Moncrief Chair in Petroleum geology.  After a year he moved on to become Senior Geochemist for Marathon Oil.  Ron reports that he and Pam “are cruising along in Houston and adjusting to our new life.  Kids are great, Andrew is talking and walking and Alex is Alex, a wild three year old.  They are great fun.” 

            Tom Prather (1965-1999)-Tom is currently wimping out by spending all of February and March in Tubac, Arizona, a fancy golfing resort but send us this report:

            "I’ll break this down into seasons:

            Summers - staying around the Gunnison country - hiking, climbing, biking, fishing, golf, camping.  I enjoyed seeing the Destinations Unknown group (’83) and hiking around the upper Cement Creek Valley looking at our old field camp area in August, 2008.

            Fall - Again, there's nowhere like the Gunnison country to be in the fall. We take lots of fall color viewing trips mostly by bicycle with some camping and fishing thrown in.

             Late fall to winter - A good time to travel.  We took November trips to Tennessee, Colorado Plateau and Southern Arizona.  Winter trips to Southern Arizona and Texas.  At home in snow country I still do lots of cross country and downhill skiing and this winter added snow-shoeing (a terrific workout).

            Spring - Back home for more of the usual activities.

            On a sad note I need to report the passing of Pokie to his many friends. The highlight of Pokie’s year was always field camp - he loved the hiking and being around the students.  You may remember that when it was time to break camp, Pokie would go hide in the woods not wanting to leave.

            Richard Moyle after retirement from the University of Utah has kept busy.  He assisted in the transfer of the Natural History Museum from Union Station in Ogden the Ecoles Dinosaur Park. Lots of cleaning, cataloging, inventory but the job is finished.  He’s a volunteer guide on Thursdays so stop by.  He and Belva celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and had their 1st great grandchild – Ellie in 2007.  He is doing field trips with elementary and high school kids. Richard says, “We are pleased about our scholarship grant to your department – It is a pleasure to realize it might help a bit to further geology at Western.”  We wholeheartedly agree thank you Richard and Belva!

            Active (currently employed) Division:
            -note who has time to do interesting things.

             Jim Coogan – Moving from the morning headlines to the young geologists in my 8:00 class, I’m struck by the connection between boardroom and classroom. This is no ivory tower operation here in Gunnison, and the uncertainties that pervade our profession in Denver, Houston, and Washington are starting to show up on the faces of our majors. It is interesting that, at a time when all sectors of the profession are taking a “wait-and-see” posture toward hiring young geologists, Western students are streaming into our ever-more dynamic program. Our classes have been full over the past few years. This semester, the demand for our upper-division geophysics class exceeded the supply of computers and software licenses. Not bad in a major that used to be marked by an avoidance of math and physics! So, I’m starting out with a pitch to all of our loyal alums: when you see a part-time or full-time opportunity that might be filled by a Western Geology student or recent alum – let us know! The constant feedback from employers is that they are continually surprised that our majors out-performstudents from all other undergrad (and some M.S.) programs in the state and region. Let’s put a larger sample out there and prove them right!

            On a personal note, I’m enjoying the great snow that the last two winters have blanketed over the Gunnison Country. I now understand what you ‘70’s graduates have been raving about all of these years. I’m also enjoying the camaraderie that Dave Marchetti and Denny Newell have added to already congenial tradition that Allen, Rob, and I inherited from Bruce and Tom. The irreverent humor is still alive, though the material is necessarily updated from Bruce’s pre-P.C. repertoire.

            When not in Gunnison, I’ve enjoyed running into many of you on 17th Street where I still maintain a healthy connection to industry in the “off-season”. Alisa is still doing great work for the USGS, and we’ve been compensating for the commute over Monarch and Kenosha passes by taking some extended vacations in the past few years. We try to get up to the Selkirk Mountains of BC every spring for some steep, deep skiing at backcountry lodges. We enjoyed a three-week Grand Canyon kayak trip in ’07, as well as a “summer” ski trip visiting friends in Argentina and Chile.

            I keep a hand (sometimes two) in research – with yet another geologic map coming out last year from my work with the Utah Survey. I also participated in an NSF-funded scoping conference for and International Continental Scientific Drilling Program proposal to drill the Sevier Desert detachment of central Utah. Closer to Gunnison, I’m still intrigued with following up on the 7.5’ maps that Allen, Rob, and I have been able to put out with the help of student coauthors, and we hope to begin cooperating in the next year with a proposed USGS initiative for completing the Gunnison and Leadville 1:100,000 quads.


            Jim drawing structure contours on the “vanboard”

            Casey Dukeman I’m still teaching Geology and Anthropology at WSC. My wife, Ruth, is working with the County and son Jacob, now 13, is in Gunnison Middle School. I’m also the Field Director at the Mountaineer Archeology site, a 10,450 year old (carbon years) Folsom Occupation on top of “W” Mountain.

            Robert Fillmore ‘ 86 – I am still thoroughly enjoying teaching and living here, and watching my boys grow up, little time lines that they are.  Everett (11!) is in the 5th grade and Henry (8) is in the second grade.  I am amazed at how quickly 11 years can pass.  In fact, as fast as those years have passed, it makes me think that maybe a million years isn't all that long after all.  This happens, I think, as you get older.

            I finished my book on Canyonlands and Arches last spring - many of you may remember me working on it.  It took me seven years to finish the damned thing.  The first book only took three years.  I guess I'm slowing down in my old age - or something.  It may also have something to do with kids, and the abundance of wonderful meetings we have here at Western.

            I continue to work on the Moenkopi Formation and the effect of salt uplift on its sedimentation in the salt anticline region of Colorado/Utah.  The more work I do on it, the more cool things I'm finding.  This spring (09) the Research in Basin Analysis class will again be working on it, although after this year, I think we will have exhausted all the good exposures and it will be time to write something up.

            Things are hopping in the department student-wise.  Our enrollment has grown considerably.  Many students are coming in specifically to study Petroleum Geology, and it appears that the word has gotten out.  For instance, last year both Sed/Strat and Mineralogy were forced to offer two lab sections.  It looks like this summer's Field Geology course will also be divided into two sections.  We'll see if it continues. 





            Allen Stork – I’m still teaching and having a great time.  It’s been fun integrating X-ray diffraction and microanalytical techniques into the Mineralogy and Petrology classes – more stuff to hurt their brains with.  Rob and I are also teaching new classes designed for elementary school teachers as part of a college-wide reform in education.  Maybe someday your kids will have a teacher who knows minerals, rocks and fossils.

            I’ve continued my research on local volcanic rocks.  The mapping we did for the Gunnison and Signal Peak quadrangles produce fascinating patterns of interbedded gravel and ash flows as the San Juan volcanism continuously disrupted the Tomichi Creek and Gunnison River drainages.  The exposure is good enough to produce a detailed topographic map of the pre-volcanic surface with 40’ contours. The maps are spectacular!  My last Research in Volcanology and Petrology classes continued studies of the post San Juan basalts.  In 2006 we studied 9-Mile Hill volcano – on the Lake City road and in 2008 studied sections of West Elk volcano exposed on West Elk Peak.    I am also still working on Fijian plutons with Jim Gill and his collaborators in Japan. 

            Judy and I are now empty nesters.  Peter graduated in 2006 and is attending classes at Western but out of the house living with friends. He’s working part time at the Gunnison Brewery.  Right now he is majoring in anything but geology – I still have hope though. Judy is doing “art quilts” and keeping active working in the yard and around the house.  We hope you will stop by if you are ever in town.