Kansas State University


Department of Geology

Author: Brice LaCroix

Highlight on Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate student Mikaela Raeder first became interested in Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating during her Fall 2016 Geomorphology course, instructed by Dr. Joel Spencer. During this course, she had the opportunity to carry out a small-scale project on the dating of quartz crystals collected from the exposed fluvial terraces along Kings Creek on Konza Prairie Biological Station (Figure 1). This experience sparked her interest in undergraduate research and her current project on phytoliths. Continue reading “Highlight on Undergraduate Research”

KSU Geologist Saugata Datta Receives Prestigious NASA PSTAR Grant

Humans have looked for extraterrestrial biosignatures on the surfaces of other planets and moons. These surfaces are often exposed to conditions and processes that exceed the physical limits of life, e.g., intense cosmic radiation, impact events, and large thermal extremes that would render difficult the preservation of biosignatures over geologic time. Planetary caves provide protection from cosmic radiation, small-scale impact events, and have relatively stable thermal environments. These characteristics may well permit preservation of biosignatures over long periods of time and make them a prospective astrobiology target for biosignatures beyond Earth (Boston et al., 2001; Léveillé & Datta, 2010; Martins et al., 2017). A cave (here more specifically basaltic lava tube caves) with natural openings offers direct access to the subsurface without drilling and deeper penetration into subsurface materials than could be obtained from a rover, landed platform, or penetrator launched from orbit. The purpose of this project is to develop the technology needed to enter a planetary cave with a scientific payload for deployment. The proposal, funded by NASA PSTAR [Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research] 16-PSTAR16_2_0015: Biologic and Resource Analog Investigations in Low Light Environments (BRAILLE) NNH16ZDA001N- funded through Aug 2020, is headed by Saugata Datta from the Kansas State University side and is in collaboration with NASA AMES, Northwestern U, Desert Research Institute, New Mex Tech.  The research will focus on: 1) the identification of planetary lava caves, 2) development of subsurface exploration vehicles with advanced subsurface communications/operations techniques, and 3) development of sensor systems for biosignature identification. Dr Datta and colleagues will also focus on understanding the hydrochemistry of the cave waters, microbiome of lava caves on Earth; and focus on microbial colony morphology and association with secondary mineralogy, 16S rDNA of bacteria and identifying potential energy/chemical nutrient pathways to support microbial life.

K-State Geology collaborating on a $2.65 million grant to study water, plant and soil microbiomes

One of the major challenges facing society is the need to increase food production while simultaneously minimizing environmental degradation that threatens agricultural sustainability. A new $20-million-dollar multi-institutional project funded by the National Science Foundation aims to contribute solutions to this challenge through cutting-edge microbiome research. Microbiomes comprise all of the genetic material within all of the microorganisms in a specific niche (e.g., soil, etc.). The project will use fundamental interdisciplinary research on Microbiomes of Aquatic habitats, Plants, and Soils (MAPS) to enhance ecosystem productivity, mitigate environmental degradation in agriculturally-dominated landscapes, and conserve native grasslands. Researchers at Kansas State University led by distinguished professors Walter Dodds (Biology) and Chuck Rice (Agronomy) will receive $2.65 million of the total award. Within the project team, Dr. Matthew Kirk will represent the Department of Geology and serve as a group leader for team members who will examine soil microbiology and biogeochemistry. Field work for the project is starting this summer. Just after the semester, the soils team will collect soil cores from the main field sites. This summer they will also install soil monitoring arrays that will track hydrologic and geochemical parameters for years to come. This project is collecting a wide range of data and is expected to provide some exciting results so please stay tuned for updates!

Hello Wildcats!

Hello Wildcats!

The Department of Geology at Kansas State University is pleased to announce the publication of its Fall 2017 e-Newsletter.  This is one of the ways we are trying to keep you up to date on the latest developments in our department.  Please read the newsletter and learn about our new faculty member and to hear the story of one of our undergraduates who had an “out-of-this-world” internship last summer.

This year we’re also keen to update our Alumni Directory so that we can stay in touch with you better.  To provide us with this information, we have developed a short survey.  It should only take a few minutes, so we hope you will take a few moments to complete it.  The survey can be accessed from the link below:


With Purple Pride,

Pamela Kempton

Professor and Head

Department of Geology
Kansas State University
108 Thompson Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506

Geology faculty invited to participate in IODP cruise to the southern Kermadec arc

K-State Geology faculty member, Dr. Aida Farough, has been invited to participate as a Petrophysics (Physical Properties) Specialist on the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Brothers Arc Flux Expedition (376) that will take place in summer 2018 (Figure A).

Continue reading “Geology faculty invited to participate in IODP cruise to the southern Kermadec arc”

Student Story: Focus on Sarah Lamm’s Research

K-State Geology undergrad has “out-of-this-world” internship

What did you do with your summer vacation?  Well K-State Geology undergrad, Sarah Lamm, had an experience that was out of this world! She had the opportunity to work as a summer intern at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) alongside planetary scientist, Dr. Nina Lanza, on the ChemCam team. The ChemCam is an instrument on the Curiosity Mars Rover and it can determine rock compositions by using laser pulses to excite rock material into a plasma. As the plasma cools, it releases light at characteristic wavelengths. The goal of her work was to learn more about the manganese oxide minerals the rover found on the martian surface.

Continue reading “Student Story: Focus on Sarah Lamm’s Research”