Skip to main content
Western Kentucky University

Media Relations

WKU Geomorphology students learn about landscape processes in the Ozarks

WKU Geomorphology students learn about landscape processes in the Ozarks

A group of WKU geography and geology students braved snowy weather at the beginning of March to participate in a field trip to the Ozarks, including the Salem Plateau and the St. Francois Mountain area of southeastern Missouri as part of a Spring 2013 course in Geomorphology taught by Dr. Jason Polk.

Hoffman Institute staff member Benjamin Miller (second from left) explains how the Elephant Rocks formed millions of years ago to WKU students (from left) Michelle Foley, Adam Aldridge, Brent Eberhard, Brian Ahlers, Paul Shively and Ben Rafferty.

Hoffman Institute staff member Benjamin Miller (second from left) explains how the Elephant Rocks formed millions of years ago to WKU students (from left) Michelle Foley, Adam Aldridge, Brent Eberhard, Brian Ahlers, Paul Shively and Ben Rafferty.

The trip was co-led by Hoffman Institute staff member Benjamin Miller, a Missouri native who has worked extensively in the Ozarks in cave and karst research projects, including hydrology and cave survey, among other geological endeavors.

The purpose of the trip was to engage students in fieldwork related to fluvial, glacial, climatic and karst geomorphological processes and landforms, along with weathering and tectonic processes. The trip provided them with hands-on experience in studying and understanding these complex landscapes in a region that provides a natural classroom with diverse examples of geomorphology from 1.4 billion years of Earth’s history.

Nine undergraduate students participated in the course — Brian Ahlers of Louisville, Adam Aldridge of Bowling Green, Dane Black of Bowling Green, Brystal Dennis of Bowling Green, Brent Eberhard of Brentwood, Tenn., Michelle Foley of Salvisa, Ben Rafferty of Greensburg, Paul Shively of Owensboro and Brandon Thomas of Bowling Green.

The group also visited Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas. Front row (from left): Ben Miller, Dane Black, Ben Rafferty, Brystal Dennis, Michelle Foley and Brent Eberhard; back row (from left): Paul Shively, Brian Ahlers, Brandon Thomas and Adam Aldridge.

The group also visited Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas. Front row (from left): Ben Miller, Dane Black, Ben Rafferty, Brystal Dennis, Michelle Foley and Brent Eberhard; back row (from left): Paul Shively, Brian Ahlers, Brandon Thomas and Adam Aldridge.

The group visited several distinct regions to gain a comparative understanding of various geomorphological processes and landforms. One major theme was visiting the karst region of the Salem Plateau, which formed in sedimentary rocks, to examine fluvial (river) and karst processes. The stops included Missouri’s largest spring and several smaller springs, the large losing stream of Logan Creek, and a visit to Onondaga Cave State Park to tour the spectacular evolution of an iconic Missouri cave system. Another stop for a different type of geomorphology included a long hike through the Pickle Springs Natural Area to see arches and canyons that formed in sedimentary sandstone bedrock.

The group’s other theme included the igneous geomorphology caused by volcanic and tectonic activity, which included several “shut-ins,” or constricted areas, that occur in streams when the harder igneous rock erodes away more slowly than surrounding rocks. The students also visited Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri, to learn about igneous glades and observe lichens, frost wedging and other erosive processes. A favorite stop was Elephant Rocks State Park to observe a large granitic exfoliation dome where elephant-size rocks remain after millions of years of erosion and weathering has rounded them out as they erode along weaknesses in the rock caused by “unloading” when pressure is released through tectonic uplift.

“It is sometimes hard to grasp concepts when you can’t physically observe those features,” said undergraduate geology student Michelle Foley of Salvisa, “but this trip allowed for the use of concepts taught in the classroom.”

Brystal Dennis, an anthropology major from Bowling Green, noted: “The trip to the Ozarks gave me a real-world view of dozens of geomorphologic features and the processes that cause them.”

WKU students at the bottom of Grand Gulf, a large collapsed cave system in Missouri. From left: Michelle Foley, Ben Miller, Brent Eberhard, Adam Aldridge, Paul Shively; back: Brandon Thomas.

WKU students at the bottom of Grand Gulf, a large collapsed cave system in Missouri. From left: Michelle Foley, Ben Miller, Brent Eberhard, Adam Aldridge, Paul Shively; back: Brandon Thomas.

Part of the course emphasis is to understand the linkages between the cause and effect relationships that occur in the landscape, such as feedback systems. Undergraduate Paul Shively of Owensboro said: “We paid close attention to the rates and processes, driving and resisting forces, and the resulting landforms,” which are all integral parts of understanding landscape evolution through the study of geomorphology.

“The students were engaged during the entire trip, as the Ozarks offers a rich and diverse natural classroom to teach about a variety of geology, hydrology, and environmental components that are fundamental to geomorphology and exciting to experience in the field,” said Dr. Polk.

“For a subject like geomorphology, getting out of the classroom and into the field is necessary truly to appreciate and understand the concepts. At each stop, we also discussed the human aspects of geomorphology in shaping our environment, which produces critical thinking about applied geomorphology in

Categories
All News  Now Viewing Category: All
School of Journalism & Broadcasting
CEBS
Media Relations
Academic Affairs
Augenstein Alumni Center
Instruments of American Excellence
Transportation
Emergency Preparedness
Police
Department of Music
Department of Theatre & Dance
Library News
Office of Sustainability
Office of International Programs
Office of Research
Ogden News
PCAL
WKU Greeks News
WKU Parent and Family Weekend
Parent's Association
Student Activities and Organizations
Scholarships Student Financial Assistance
Student Government Association News
Van Meter Auditorium
Teaching News
Study Abroad
Student Research Council
Student Employment
WKU Joint Admissions
International Student Office
Human Resources News
Cultural Enhancement Series
CHHS News
The Confucius Institute
Campus Activities Board
GFCB
WellU
The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky
Development and Alumni Relations
Downing Student Union
Health Services
Hardin Planetarium
News from The Center for Gifted Studies
Student Financial Assistance
Downing Museum
Etown & Fort Knox
Facilities
Employee Wellness
Latest Headlines
Energy Conservation and Parking Lot Closures

November 26th -November 30th

Thanksgiving Break Parking and Transit

November 26th - November 30th

Basketball Event Parking Reminder

Lady Toppers play Thurs 11/20. Hilltoppers play Sat 11/22

Featured Articles
WKU hosting FIRST« LEGO« League Qualifying Tournament Nov. 22
Topper Tank Awards $1,500 to Student Entrepreneurs
Dr. Susan Baum Presents at the 2014 Twice-Exceptional Seminar

Forty parents, educators, counselors, and administrators came to Bowling Green November 5 to hear a leading authority on twice-exceptional education at the 2014 Twice-Exceptional (2e) Learners Seminar.

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
download excel.

Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
download word.

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
download quicktime.

 
 Last Modified 9/24/14