Earlham College Grant To Train Future Geologists
Earlham College is one of the first colleges in the country to receive a grant for state-of-the-art systems to help with topography maps for geology students. The students are using the Global Navigation Satellite System tools loaned from a national nonprofit research and educational consortium to produce the high-quality maps.
Earlham Geology professor Andy Moore was one of five professors picked for the National Science Foundation UNAVCO Geodesy Tools for Societal Issues field cohort 1. Moore says a goal of the campus project is make maps to optimize operations at Miller Farm, which is the college’s experiential ag program.
“If you grew up farming, you know that every field has problems,” Moore said. “There are some areas that are better suited for farming than others. A lot of it has to do with the drainage that existed long before someone decided to cut down trees and plant crops. These drainages can barely be seen on existing topography maps like Google Earth, but we know they are there.”
Moore’s students are using drones and the new tools from UNAVCO to attempt to create better maps. Moore says the technology has the potential to take images with one-centimeter resolution.
“These students are two years out from graduating and potentially becoming environmental geologists, working out in the field mapping remediation sites, sewer lines and research areas,” he said. “Basic map-making is a big part of what geologists do. It’s important they learn how to use cutting-edge equipment and learning what those tools can and can’t do.”
Geology and biology double-major, Cade Orchard of Muncie, says he’s studying to become a paleontologist.
“This was one of the courses I’ve been looking forward to most here at Earlham,” Orchard said. “I need an understanding of geomorphology and surface processes for my future career and mapping and surveying is an important component of that. Both are crucial skills for any geologist, and I think the way Andy has prepared us will make us standout candidates to any employer or grad program.”
Miller Farm manager Tony Noble says the loaned equipment and images have allowed the farm to roughly double its gross income by quadrupling its growing space.