Geology Alumni Newsletter 2004

Read about fellow Geology graduates in the Alumni News Notes.



It’s been two years since our last Newsletter and we have lot of important and interesting news to share with you.

The department has settled into our new home in the “state of the art” addition to Hurst Hall. If you haven’t been here for a while please consider a trip back to look around. You will be pleasantly surprised.
The biggest news is that our new Petroleum Geology position (funded by Paul Rady’s generosity) was filled by Dr. Jim Coogan, whose profile is featured on this page. We are excited about this new program.

Western State College now has its own set of trustees and independent governance, rather than being under the jurisdiction of the State College Trustees that represented Adams State, Mesa State, Metro State and Western. Best of all for us is that two of our new trustees are none other than Peter Dea (’76) and Paul Rady (’78). It turns out that another of our new trustees, Stephanie Foote, has strong oil industry ties, so geology is well represented. We are optimistic that this new governance will be beneficial to Western.

This fall we had another very successful geology homecoming event honoring the classes of 1967/68, 1977/78 and 1987/88 for their 35th, 25th and 15th anniversaries, respectively. See the article on page three.
Finally, after reading your letters, I know that many of you have had a rough time in the past few years but that in most cases the situation has improved recently (like with permanent positions and benefits!) I can only offer you my best and hope things continue to improve. Don’t forget, we have a large network of alums, some of whom might be able to help you. Let us know and we’ll do what we can to put you in touch with the right people.

New Geology Faculty

Dr. Jim Coogan

Jim won out in a highly contested race for our new Petroleum Geology position out of a field of nearly 60 candidates. Jim has an impressive resume consisting of over 11 years working in exploration in the Rockies including a considerable amount of field mapping in the western overthrust belt.

His education consists of a B.S. from the College of William and Mary and a PhD from University of Wyoming in 1992. Before grad school, Jim landed a walk-on job with Sohio doing helicopter reconnaissance in the Rockies. Jim has worked for Mobil, Chevron, and Arco Alaska and spent his last few years with Anschutz before coming here.

Jim started here in the fall of 2002 and solicited over $700,000 of donated petroleum software and data sets for new courses in Petroleum Geology, Applied Geophysics, Subsurface Geology, and for his specialty in Structural Geology. Western State geology students are now poised on the “bleeding edge” of industry technology.

Jim’s current focus is on getting word of Western’s new Petroleum Geology Emphasis out to high school students, grad schools, and employers. He has developed a presentation for high school Earth Science and Physics students that received good reviews from two Front Range classes during fall, 2003. In addition, four of our students accepted industry internships in Denver during 2003. By all means, if you know of any promising high school students with an eye toward industry or companies in need of skilled summer or entry-level labor, give Jim a call.

Personally, Jim is an accomplished kayaker, back-country telemark skier and mountain biker, who fits in quite well with our environment here. His wife, Dr. Alisa Mast, is a hydrologist with the U.S.G.S. specializing in the geochemistry of high alpine watersheds. Alisa will begin telecommuting half time from Hurst Hall in January, 2004. We look forward to having a U.S.G.S. presence in the Department, and we understand that she is a better telemark skier than Jim.


Jim discovers a new use for the vans on our spring Field Trip to New Mexico in 2003


Geology Alumni Trip to Canyonlands

In spring 2003, geology alumni gathered in Canyonlands National Park, Utah to mountain bike the White Rim Trail. For much of its 100 mile length, the White Rim Trail follows exposures of the White Rim Sandstone, a Permian dune deposit. The ride was a four day trip from March 15-18. The biking was fun, evenings in camp were relaxing, and the food was great!! Faculty on the trip included John Stamm and Bruce Bartleson (Jim Coogan tried to make it but got sick at the last minute! Bummer!!). Keri Nelson (‘03), a geology undergrad joined us and was incredibly helpful. The alumni and friends were: June Just, Maryjean Schwarzwelder, Jill Norton, Gary Skipp (’81), Fred Conrath (’75), Mike Cole, Carol Quinn, Lisa Starkebaum (’86), Lauren Wolfe (’77), and Dave Kozlowski.

On the first day, we descended from the Island in the Sky, down to the Green River at Mineral Bottom. After about 36 miles of biking, we camped at Potato Bottom and enjoyed stir-fried chicken and a rousing game of cheek darts (if you’ve never played, you’ll have to learn about it on the next trip). On the next day, we climbed up Murphy’s Hogback and camped at the Murphy Campground. It was a short ride, only 21 miles, so we had time to hike. We were treated to spectacular views, a discussion of the geology of Canyonlands by John, Bruce and alums, and a great chili dinner. On the third day, we got a little wet and enjoyed beautiful views of spectacular dry falls (it’s a lie – they all had water in them) and desert pineapple burgers. The fourth day was very wet,erosion features. We covered 27 miles and were treated to Bruce’s special dinner, ham and but a group of hard-core bikers were able to ascend 20 miles up the Shafer Trail in the snow and rain. The rest of us rode the vehicles out and enjoyed the scenery.

Some alumni had an adventure getting back home because we ended the trip on the day that the huge snowstorm hit the Denver area! Several mountain passes in the Front Range were closed for days! Overall, it was a great trip with lots of new friendships and lots of stories to share at the geology Homecoming party. Look for emails about a trip next spring – hope you can join us.


On the top of Murphy’s Hogback
Left to right: Maryjean Schwarzwelder, June Just, Bruce Bartleson, Lisa Starkebaum, John Stamm, Lauren Wolfe, Fred Conrath, Jill Norton

Homecoming Bash

We had another great Homecoming Bash on the weekend of September 19 – 21, 2003. Friday night found many alums at the all-school party held at the Aspinall-Wilson Center featuring the lighting of the W on a fine fall evening. Saturday after the game Neal and Lisa Cole-Starkebaum(’86) kindly (and foolishly) offered to host our geology party at their house on a ridge overlooking Cranor Hill ski area. About 60 alums, friends and dogs showed up for a really nice time which went well into the evening hours, followed by a small bonfire and then a secondary “winding-down’ party at the new wine & martini bar next to the old Columbine. Alums from the 60’s to the 00’s showed upCommemorative WSC Geology T-shirts were presented to members of the classes of 67/68, 77/78 and 87/88 for their 35th, 25th and 15th reunions.

A welcome surprise guest was Richard Moyle, who taught geology here in the early 1960s and was Tom and Bruce’s immediate predecessor. Former faculty Fred Menzer also came as well as the more recently retired Tom Prather and who else but Bruce Bartleson, who always seems to be where there are free drinks and food. Of course, all of the current faculty; Allen Stork, Rob Fillmore, John Stamm and Jim Coogan were present.

Here is a list of the alums attending (by seniority):
Gary Christopher (’67), Dan Pavey (’68), Gary Dow (’72), Bob & June Just (’74), John Danehy (’75), Don Graham (’75), John Murphy (’75), John Brunel (’76), Peter Dea (’76), Colleen (McShane) Cope (’77). Bob Dickerson (’77), Fred Frankel (’77), Gregg Smith (’77 –’87) (long story), Lauren (Hart) Wolfe (’77), Eric Bard (’78), Steve Reynolds (’78), Kevin Taylor (’79), Scot Donato (’81), Dale Marcum (’81), Bob Twiddy (’81), Lisa Cole-Starkebaum (’86), Phil Price (’88), Mark Templeton (’88), Bob Richardson (’93), Kelli Trujillo (’94), Sean Hlousek (’97), Jason Eliason (’03) and Kain Leonard (’03).

Various friends, spouses, brothers and strays (Kevin McShane, Lorenzo Bonvicini, Mike Cole, Carol Quinn, Linda Crouse, Paul Herz, Steve Mills, Susan Reinhart and Lynn Sweitzer) also showed up making for a most enjoyable night.

Sunday morning, September 21st found a large contingent of 27 survivors (some with tequila hangovers – didn’t you learn years ago?) and even some parents of a current student, ready for a great field trip to the Dillon Pinnacles area west of Gunnison along Blue Mesa Reservoir. Allen Stork filled us in on some of the recent research in the area and most of us hiked to the base of the Pinnacles being entertained along the way by Bruce, Tom and Jim Coogan. Allen led a small but hardy group to the top of the Pinnacles. Peter Dea (’76) skipped out on Saturday night and climbed Stewart Peak on Sunday am – a fine alternative.
Finishing off the entire weekend of festivities on Monday afternoon, Dale Marcum (’81) presented an informative and interesting discussion of mass wasting hazards and mitigation procedures in California where he has been working for nearly 20 years (time flies- Dale! We will never forget Redwood – especially since he has been immortalized in our slide collection!).

 Alumni Ready (?) for the West Elk Hike (photo by : Kevin Taylor (’79))

Annual Geology Awards

We have held two geology banquets since the last newsletter. In 2002, we graduated eight new alumni and had our banquet in Rob’s backyard. In 2003, thirteen students graduated and the banquet was at Jim’s new party house -- he doesn’t have much furniture yet so there’s lots of room!

At both banquets we handed out our annual awards, The VAL MITCHELL MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP awarded to our outstanding junior went to Jen McHarge (’03) in 2002 and Paul Maniaci (’04) in 2003. The recipients of the RMAG “Hammer”, awarded to our outstanding senior went to Jan Spurkland (’02) in 2002 and to Keri Nelson (’03) in 2003.

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

Bartleson and Prather 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. The program is funded through donations from you. To date 26 different alumni have donated approximately $61,000 to this fund. Alumni from the late ‘60’s up to the late ‘90’s have donated to the fund. About $29,000 is currently in an endowed fund. We have set a $150,000 goal for this endowment. When we meet this goal the program will be guaranteed to be a permanent a part of the student experience at Western. If you or your company might be interested in contributing to the fund let us know (see form on the back of the newsletter).

Projects announced in the last newsletter have been completed. Drew Lockman (’02) completed his structural study of the Elk Mountain Thrust on Double Top southeast of Crested Butte. Jeff Jackson (’03) completed his project on ash stratigraphy in the Cochetopa Caldera moat and successfully dated the moat and dome eruptions at 26.75 ± .1 Ma.

We awarded three scholarships last year. Keri Nelson extended Drew Lockman’s work to the south on Cement Mountain. Monica Stoeber studied the composition of gravels in the drainages of the Gunnison Basin in order to help us understand source areas for older gravels. Andrew Wood mapped and sampled the basalts that cap Flat Top.

Geoarchaeology News


Mark Stiger -For the last three years Western anthropology and geoarcheaology students have been excavating the Mountaineer Site atop the College-owned Tenderfoot Mountain (aka “W” Mountain). Geoarcheaology alumnus Erik Bjornstad (’97) has been the Field Director on this project all three years. This site has proved to be a highly significant Folsom site and has gained national attention. The project was reported as #75 of the top 100 science news stories of 2003 in the January 2004 issue of Discover magazine. The students have uncovered a Folsom structure or house probably dating 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. This structure is one of the oldest houses in North America.

Prior to Western’s work on the hill, most archaeologists believed Folsom occupation was mainly on the Plains and Rio Grande Valley and mainly by highly mobile populations. The Mountaineer Site has demonstrated that there was a substantial occupation in the Gunnison Basin and at least some of the time they were constructing and living in houses. Western will return to the site next summer for more discoveries

Faculty News

Inactive (old, retired or escaped) Division:

 Bruce Bartleson is now in his 5th year of retirement but not slowing down too much. Highlights of the past two years include: being involved in the search for the Petroleum Geology position that Jim Coogan filled; a trip to New Zealand with Deirdre at spring break, 2002, including a never-to-be forgotten twilight helicopter tour of Fox Glacier and Mt. Cook; an epic, very tough, four day backpack trip in August, 2002 over famed Chilkoot Pass – (the route of the Klondike gold rush in 1897/98 from Skagway, Alaska into the Yukon) – you may have seen the famous picture of all those miners in a line, trudging over the pass in the snow; recruiting for Western in Reno again in the fall of 2002 – special thanks to Anne (Bouchet) Shrake who went with him (alone this fall) to various schools and college fairs; leading high school counselors on all-day, all-department tours of the college (free cocktail party afterwards to keep Bruce interested; riding on and helping organize the alumni White Rim bike trip in March, 2003; going to Alaska in June and visiting a bunch of WSC alums (Dan and Linda Pavey (‘68), Dan Vogel (’85), Rebecca Bailey (’99) and Pete Stelling (’94) and also accidentally ran into (in front of a bar – where else?) Eric Larson in Talkeetna, who is Kathleen Kelly’s (’93) husband. Finally, Bruce and Deirdre just got back from Switzerland where they saw Bruce’s daughter Kris (who is now 37 for you old-timers who remember her as a little girl) perform with her neo-folk band to a sell-out crowd and then tour some spectacular Alpine country in the Eiger area.

Mary Lou Bevier sends the following: “Mary Lou Bevier continues to teach geology at The University of British Columbia. During her 2003-2004 sabbatical leave, she is writing a new field geology textbook for McGraw-Hill, which should be published in fall 2005. Watch for it! In February 2004, she and her husband Jim Mortensen (also on sabbatical from UBC) plan to take a three month trip to New Zealand and Australia to see the geology!

Richard Moyle We were very pleased to see Dick Moyle at Homecoming this year. He and has wife took a tour of the new building and attended our Homecoming party on Saturday afternoon. Dick is now retired from Weber State University where he taught for many years after leaving Western in 1965. We want to thank Dick for endowing the Richard W. and Belva R. Moyle Geology Scholarship. Their generous $10,000 commitment to the Geology Department will help deserving students with their education perpetually. Thanks again Dick.

Tom Prather Tom has continued on his very busy recreational lifestyle since retiring. He was in New Zealand for nearly a month in early 2002, first driving around with Duane Vandenbusche and then later on a guided bike tour. Since that time he has been on a series of Elderhostel bike tours in Utah and Colorado, but the really big news is that Tom got married last summer after a whirlwind romance. It turns out that he sold his old Boulevard St. house (across from Lake School and the scene of many geology parties – and my daughter Lynne’s wedding) to his daughter Katie (now married). He moved out near the Dos Rios golf course and next door to a young lady who is the daughter of a very eligible widow.– the plot thickens! They then played golf together. His new bride is the former Shaunalee Petri, the widow of Mario Petri – yes that one – the originator of Mario’s Italian Restaurant and later a plumbing contractor. Tom and Shaunalee went to Nova Scotia for a honeymoon, are now in Tennessee, as I write this in November, and will embark on a several month tour of California and Baja this winter finishing off with a cruise in the Sea of Cortez.

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

Jim Coogan – It took me a year to figure out what makes the Geology Program at Western so successful. I discovered the faculty part of the answer early when I met Bruce Bartleson and Tom Prather and saw the continuity of great teaching by Allen Stork, Rob Fillmore, and John Stamm. The student piece to the puzzle fell into place with last year’s seniors who attacked outcrop and workstation with equal zeal (and sometimes equal poundings). The “aha” moment finally came at the Homecoming Bash where I met the eclectic cross section of alums who have made this the “Little Department that Could”. My discovery was that our current students are just like you guys, but with baggier pants and fewer erosional effects. In short, Western State geology remains a magnet for adventurous minds.

With the new Petroleum Geology curriculum in place, I’m focused on getting the word out to high school students, and getting our graduates out to internships before graduate school. I am also gearing up my research in the Wyoming-Idaho-Utah thrust belt with colleagues from the Utah Geological Survey, Weber State University, and the University of Arizona. Last spring, I had the pleasure of co-leading a Utah thrust belt field trip for the AAPG national convention, with Keri Nelson (’03) and Justin Tully (’03) as drivers (“Home, Justin” had a nice ring to it at the end of each day). After assigning the 2003 field camp the Taylor Dam area (you know the outcrop), I am completely challenged by the structural complexity of the Gunnison Country and I plan to switch my field research here during Summer, 2004.

Robert Fillmore ('86) - I am still working hard on my next book on the geology of Arches, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon and the Cedar Mesa/San Juan River areas. This occurs sporadically (spasmodically?) between grading tests, papers, and raising two boys. It is due to the University of Utah Press on October 4, this year. We’ll see about that. I have yet to come up with a name that describes it that is less than two paragraphs long, something they tell me will not work.

Recent field research includes a continuation of work on the Telluride Conglomerate and a new project on the Lower Triassic Moenkopi Formation looking at the effect of salt tectonics on fluvial systems that were draining off the Uncompahgre highlands during that time. My “Research in Depositional Systems” class last spring (2003) found some interesting things in the Fisher Valley area, including a deflection of rivers around the salt anticlines. I’m hoping to continue this work regionally, both on my own and with students.

This last year I received tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor. As near as I can tell, it means that you get to spend more time sitting in meetings and on committees. I had no idea.

On a family note, our oldest son, Everett just started kindergarten. It seemed rather sudden and I’m not sure how it happened, but my wife Hilary tells me its part of the growth process. His little brother Henry (3 years old) informs me that he is going to be a Beatle when he grows up. We can’t wait.

John Stamm - Lots of interesting things have been going on over the last few years. I have continued my work on on-line geology labs, and have a new lab on climate change that will soon be finished. It is called Energy Budget and students study the modern, last glacial, and future climate of the Mono Lake area of California. The lab is based on a computer simulation of the budgeting of energy from the sun into the atmosphere and surface. Students end up estimating temperature and test the model against observed temperatures in the area.

I am also finishing up some research at the Chance Gulch archeological site, located just east of “W Mountain.” I have a paper submitted to The Mountain Geologist that summarizes this research. The paper describes soils at the site and pieces together the Holocene history of the area.

A fun project that is getting into swing is the use of remote-controlled airplanes to take aerial photos. We now have a Senior Telemaster airplane that has a camera installed in the fuselage. The plane is huge! It has an 8-foot wing span. Students love to watch me fly, and nearly crash, the plane. They stay clear when I try to land it (students are smart). I am just starting a research project on the restoration of a section of the East River near the Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery. We plan to use the plane to take photos of the site – and I hope the bald eagles in the area don’t attack the plane!

For fun, I’ve been bicycling lots and playing music. However, a mountain bike crash (out at Hartman’s Rocks) slowed me down for a few months. Last year I participated in Ride the Rockies, and kept bumping into Tom Prather. Several Western alumni were also on the ride. Last spring I organized a four-day mountain-bike trip for alumni on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands (see article above). It was loads of fun! I also have been having fun playing banjo and guitar for a local band called Avalon. Alan Wartes (’96) is in the band, along with his wife Issa Forrest, and Chris Dickey, the editor of the Gunnison Times. We provided the entertainment for Ride the Rockies when the riders passed through– it was a big crowd and lots of fun.

Allen Stork – I’m back to being department chair in addition to teaching and research. I guess I’m not smart enough to say no. I completed my sabbatical in Spring 2002 spending time in Hawaii. I finally got close enough to an active lava flow to touch it (with a stick of course). I recommend the experience to everyone.

I’ve continued my research on West Elk Volcano, the ash stratigraphy on the north slope of the San Juans, and the laccoliths through various independent student research projects. We also successfully completed a group project in our new Research in Volcanology and Petrology class. The class studied the lavas that cap Red Mountain northwest of Almont. The project involved mapping aa and pahoehoe lava flows and the petrography and geochemistry of the basalts. You can check out results on my web site.

Peter is a freshman in high school and taller than Judy (he hasn’t quite caught me yet). Judy is still working on her BFA in art and this should be her last semester. We hope you will stop by if you are ever in town.

Allen explaining maar volcanism at Narbona Pass on the Navaho Reservation on our fall field trip 2003

Check Our Web Site

We are always adding information to our Web pages. In addition to general program information, we archive all Geology Alumni Newsletters at the site. If you missed one you can look it up. The site features photos of recent field trips to Utah, Zion and Toroweap, as well as photos of older field trips.
We welcome your comments on how the page can be improved to better meet the needs of alumni. The URL has changed from past years and is now:

Please update your links.