Western Geology Students and Professor Dig Deep Under Frozen Lake for Science

A group of Western State Colorado University Geology students in February took a trip to Utah to help retrieve sediments from a large tectonically formed lake. The Western team, who worked beside students and researchers from six other institutions, were instrumental in much of the hard work required to retrieve ancient mud from the lake’s floor.

Dr. David Marchetti, professor of Geology at Western, has since 2005 studied the geology, geomorphology and environmental history of the Fish Lake area. The lake sits at 8,800 feet in northeast Utah, in a structural graben, which is a depression between parallel faults. The lake is roughly 6 miles long, 1 mile across and the largest natural water body in Utah.

The team’s coring work follows several years of planning, background science and professional collaborations. Joining the Western contingent, were earth scientists and students from the University of Pittsburgh, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Illinois State Museum, the University of Utah, the College of Charleston and the College of William and Mary.

Marchetti says, “Obtaining and analyzing several hundred feet of lake sediment is a massive undertaking and requires complex coring equipment, a dedicated storage facility, a huge amount of analytical supplies, as well as thousands of hours of expert scientific labor and examination.

“We’re coring in the winter, so we can set up our coring system directly on the lake ice, this is actually much easier than coring from a boat in the summer. The coring itself involves driving large sections of steel tubing, fitted with a sophisticated piston system, into the sediment at multiple sediment depths.”

After retrieving the cores from the lake, team members carried their samples to Oregon State University, where they are now housed in a giant refrigerator to keep them from rotting. It will take several years to analyze what they collected.

“This was a great experience for all the students and researchers involved,” Marchetti says, “and we hope to advance our scientific understanding of this fascinating lake and the long-term paleoclimatology of the Western U.S.”

Learn more about Western's geology program here.

By Brian Barker, Director of Marketing & Media Relations.

Friday, March 7, 2014 - 10:30am