Kansas State University


Department of Geology

Month: September 2019

Grants and Awards

High-Resolution Sequence Stratigraphy in Mudrock-Dominated Successions: The Chattanooga/Woodford Shale

Dr. Karin Goldberg has received a grant from the American Chemical Society (Petroleum Research Fund) to study the environmental conditions on accumulation of organic matter in mudstones, using the Woodford/Chattanooga Shale in Kansas as a natural laboratory. Such rocks have long been recognized as potential sources for hydrocarbons but only more recently become directly exploitable as actual petroleum reservoirs, leading to renewed interest in the controls on their hydrocarbon potential. The purpose of this research is to better understand the nature of the depositional environments and paleogeographic settings that are most conducive for accumulation of high concentrations of organic matter in mudstones, thus providing a predictive tool for the spatial and temporal distribution of these rocks types. If we understand how the environment controls composition and texture of sediments, we can predict where to look for source rocks, as well as where in these rocks it is easier to fracture in order to extract petroleum.

Tracking water movement in plant stems

Dr. Behzad Ghanbarian from Geology department and his collaborators from Agronomy and Electrical Engineering Departments have received $300,000 from the National Science Foundation for a two-year project to build a tool for measuring sap flow – or the movement of a liquid through plant stems. “The core idea behind this project is that water matters, no matter if you live in Kansas, Texas, New York or anywhere else,” said Behzad Ghanbarian. “Given that the world’s population is getting bigger everywhere, we need to practice in a way that we make sure we will have water in the following decades for our kids and grandkids.” The K-State team hopes to find out how much water moves through plant stems during various growth stages. This uncovers a better picture of how much water requires to be provided through irrigation. What makes this project unique is that the proposed tool based on concepts from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is non-invasive and never touches the plant. It would be capable of measuring sap flow in the plant the entire day.

Geoscience Career Ambassador Training (GeoCAT) Workshop

Dr. Aida Farough, has received a National Science Foundation grant for her project, the GeoCAT workshop, which aims to increase participation of underrepresented populations in geosciences.

One of the main hurdles to geoscience student recruitment is lack of awareness of geoscience career options. To increase awareness of geoscience career opportunities among educators and students, Farough and her co-PIs Pamela Kempton, and Jackie Spears, propose to increase participation in geosciences by hosting the GeoCAT Workshop for educators from minority-serving high schools and community colleges in Kansas as well as Kansas 4-H Youth Development educators and volunteers.

The emphasis on recruiting and supporting underrepresented students is important to building a strong geoscience workforce in the future, particularly in Kansas, with industries that depend heavily on the existence and effective management of water, energy and other natural resources. The long-term economic health of Kansas depends on strengthening the knowledge of STEM careers and successfully integrating minority students into the STEM workforce.

To learn more about the GeoCAT project, visit www.ksu.edu/geocat or follow on Twitter @geoCAT_nsf. Any questions can be emailed togeocat@ksu.edu.

Prof Saugata Datta moves to University of Texas at San Antonio

Prof Saugata Datta, faculty member in Department of Geology for the past 11 years, has left K-State to take up the Weldon Hammond Chair in Hydrogeology at the University of Texas, San Antonio.  Dr. Datta is well known for his outstanding reputation in research, having a long record of publicaton in high impact journals and winning research grants worth nearly $1.5 million over the past 10 years.  His work on water quality issues around the world has significant societal relevance and impact.  His students will miss his infectious enthusiasm, breadth of knowledge, seemingly boundless energy, and unwavering support.  We wish him well in his new role.

Spotlight on undergraduate research

Undergraduate student Lindsay Gutierrez is currently working with Dr. Goldberg on a senior thesis entitled Paleocurrent and provenance analysis of an incised-valley fill at Echo Cliff, KS. Echo Cliff, located southwest of Dover, KS, is a 75-foot exposure of channel-fill deposits accumulated in incised valleys that cut down into the Pennsylvanian marine succession during a sea-level fall. Much of the material filling the channel is believed to have come from the uplands to the north and northwest, but to date no systematic study of the provenance of these sediments was carried out. The purpose of Lindsay’s study is to reconstruct the sediment pathways and to identify potential source areas. During summer 2019, she carried out a detailed facies analysis, with construction of a sedimentary log that included facies attributes and systematic measurement of paleocurrents, and also collected sandstone samples for further petrographic analysis. Lindsay has identified 7 lithofacies deposited in a meandering fluvial environment and a provenance analysis. The integration between paleocurrent and compositional analyses in the sediments exposed at Echo Cliff, with the analysis of regional geological maps, pointed to potential source areas upstream for fluvial deposits. Lindsay’s research identified that the sediments that filled the incised valleys at Echo Cliff probably came from low-grade metamorphic terrains in Washington or Oregon, travelling southeast through Idaho, Wyoming/Montana, Colorado/Nebraska, and finally Kansas. The long distance of transport (about 2,000 miles) is compatible with the fine grain size, good sorting and quartzose composition of the sediments. Lindsay presented her results in a poster at the GSA conference in Phoenix, AZ.

Geology Outreach and Agriculture

Gonzalo Alcantar was one of three students in the KS-LSAMP program sponsored by the Kansas NSF EPSCOR RII Track-1 Award OIA-1656006:  Microbiomes of Aquatic, Plant and Soil Systems across Kansas (MAPS).  His mentor, Dr. Matt Kirk is an Associate Professor of Geology at Kansas State University (KSU) and MAPS Soils Team leader.  The title of Gonzalo’s research project is Variation in contribution of groundwater discharge to streams across the Kansas precipitation gradient. He said that he picked this particular topic because “I am interested in everything that goes into agriculture/farming and aquaponics/vertical farming, hence the water research.”

Featuring Faculty Research: When gold meets landslides

With about 75% of the gold produced coming from “orogenic gold systems” (i.e. gold formed during orogenic processes and deformation), it’s not surprising we want to understand how these deposits form. One important part of Brice Lacroix’s research consists of defining the geometry of Au-deposits, and to link the mineralization to the different tectonic events that the area experienced in the past. Such an approach generally uses field investigation through structural and geological mapping coupled with cutting-edge petrography (e.g. fluid inclusion microthermometry, and geochemistry techniques). Continue reading “Featuring Faculty Research: When gold meets landslides”