ISGS - August 2007 Activity Highlights
ISGS - Home Page of the Illinois State Geological Survey
Staff member Seyed Dastgheib at the ISGS Applied Research Lab
Seyed Dastgheib of the Energy and Environmental Engineering Section was co-author of two papers (one oral and one poster) presented at the Carbon 2007 Conference in Seattle in late July 2007. The papers were based on Dastgheib's contributions to a research program while he was a visiting research engineer at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, in Spain. The poster presentation won the Walker Award for the best poster presentation by a graduate student.
Illinois' Ice Age Legacy Updated
Text, maps, and photographs have been updated in the 2007 revision of the ISGS classic, Illinois' Ice Age Legacy, Geoscience Education Series 14, by Myrna M. Killey. The 74-page book serves as an excellent introduction to the legacy of the glaciers that advanced and retreated across most of Illinois within the past 1.8 million years. During that time, the glaciers endowed the state with deposits that today provide a wealth of natural resources: fertile soils, water, sand and gravel, natural gas, and peat. The book describes the glacial processes and events of the Great Ice Age and details the kinds of evidence geologists study to learn about the glaciers and their deposits. Understanding the nature and extent of these deposits is essential to addressing societal issues related to land use, water quality, mineral resources, and geologic hazards. Illinois' Ice Age Legacy is the initial volume of a published trilogy that includes two companion publications, Illinois Groundwater: A Vital Geologic Resource and Land-Use Decisions and Geology: Getting Past "Out of Sight, Out of Mind." The latter two books illustrate how geologic information about the glacial deposits can improve societal decisions related to groundwater and land use. (Contact: C. Nimz)
Fossil Forest Paper Draws Discovery Channel Interest
A fossilized tree limb and branches with leaves.
The Discovery Channel plans to produce a television program on fossil plants in coal-bearing rocks, starring a scientist from the Smithsonian Institute and two Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) geologists. This production was stimulated by the widespread publicity generated by their recent paper in Geology on the underground fossil forest in Vermilion County, Illinois, as currently featured on the Survey's Web site.
ISGS staff met two agents from the Discovery Channel at coal mines where filming is being proposed. The mines are Five Star Mining Company's Prosperity Mine, an underground mine near Princeton, Indiana, and Vigo Coal Company's Friendsville Mine, a surface mine near Mt. Carmel, Illinois. The overall theme of the production is the ecological change that took place during the Pennsylvanian age. At the time of the Springfield Coal, as seen in the Prosperity Mine, the peat-forming forest was dominated by giant lycopod trees. Roughly 5 million years later, when the Upper Pennsylvanian coal beds being mined at Friendsville were formed, the giant lycopods had disappeared from North America, and tree ferns became dominant. The show will revolve around climate change and other factors that might have brought about this change in vegetation.
The Discovery Channel people visited the Survey, where staff members discussed using a long (800 to 1,000 feet) drill core from the ISGS Geological Samples Library to illustrate the occurrence of multiple coal beds in cyclical succession. The Discovery Channel plans to film during the week of September 4, 2007, including one day at the ISGS and the rest at the mines. (Contacts: J. Nelson and S. Elrick)
Mapping the Land Beneath Our Feet: A Field Demonstration of Data Collection Techniques
Attendees watch a seismic demonstration.
On August 15, 2007, the Bondville Road Station, a research facility maintained by the University of Illinois Department of Electrical Engineering and the Illinois State Water Survey, was the venue for a field demonstration given by the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) to the Board of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium Board and committee members, and other dignitaries. Forty-five guests attended.
The demonstration provided an opportunity for the Survey's guests to view many of the techniques and equipment used by Survey scientists to collect subsurface information. Chief William Shilts welcomed the guests and indicated that the purpose of the trip was to familiarize everyone with many of the field tools and techniques the Survey uses to reveal the geology beneath our feet. Donald Keefer, Director of the Geologic Mapping and Hydrogeology Center, presented an overview of ISGS mapping and hydrogeologic programs, including the Governor's Water Supply Initiative. William Dey, Hydrogeology Section, spoke about studies of the Mahomet aquifer and reasons for being at the Bondville Road Station. The speakers emphasized the value to Illinois' citizens of the information gathered using the techniques and equipment being demonstrated and the reports, maps, and analyses that present the information.
Chief Bill Shilts explains the demonstration to attendees.
Using core obtained from a nearby borehole, Andrew Stumpf, Quaternary Geology Section, described the ISGS drilling program and the high value of direct observations from continuous cores for characterizing sediment properties and interpreting environments of deposition and the geologic history of Illinois. Jack Aud, ISGS driller, and his crew demonstrated the drilling and core retrieval technique using the Survey's CME drill rig.
David Larson, Hydrogeology Section Head, used a cut-away model of an observation well to describe how such wells are constructed. The observation well provides a means to measure properties such as hydraulic head and hydraulic conductivity and to collect groundwater samples for analysis. Larson gave an overview of the significance and value of information that can be obtained from observation wells.
Timothy Young, Geophysics Section, exhibited some of the ISGS borehole geophysical logging tools and demonstrated their capabilities. He explained that certain physical and chemical properties, such as density and natural emission of gamma radiation, vary with different types of earth materials. He described how those properties are measured with different tools to determine the type of geologic materials that are present in a borehole.
Two surficial geophysical techniques, one old and the other new, were described by Timothy Larson, Geophysics Section. Use of the old technique, electrical earth resistivity (EER), dates from 1931. The updated version of this technique, high resolution electrical earth resistivity (HREER), is used at the ISGS primarily to distinguish sand and gravel from silt and clay. The results of an HREER survey can help geologists map the location and extent of aquifers. Larson then demonstrated how ground penetrating radar (GPR) uses radio waves to detect changes in earth materials or buried objects in the shallow subsurface.
Seismic reflection was another surficial geophysical technique highlighted at the field demonstration. Timothy Larson explained the process as Steve Sargent, Geophysics Section, assisted by students from the University of Illinois and Illinois State University, demonstrated the operation of the ISGS landstreamer, the equipment used to collect the seismic data. The landstreamer, developed and built by researchers and staff at the ISGS, allows for the rapid collection of high-resolution reflection data.
Robert Scott, Illinois State Water Survey, discussed the range of research projects being conducted at the Bondville Road Station by a variety of state, national, and international governmental agencies as well as various academic institutions. His presentation included a highlight of the Water Survey's long-term monitoring program, the Weather and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring (WARM), which is also on site. (Contact: D. McKay)
Wells Drilled for CO2 Injection Into Illinois Coal
In July 2007, the first two wells were drilled for the U.S. Department of Energy sequestration project involving injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) into Illinois coal. Excellent recovery of coal core from multiple seams ensures that a broad spectrum of analyses can be completed prior to the actual injection of CO2 in May 2008. Both the Springfield Coal, the main target, and the Seelyville Coal were over six feet thick. Coal samples have been distributed to partners at the Indiana Geological Survey and Southern Illinois University for specialty analyses. Gas desorption measurements were initiated at the well site and will continue for several months at Illinois State Geological Survey. Gas samples from the coals have been analyzed for their chemical composition. Drill stem tests in each coal indicated less permeability than anticipated, which may warrant that the remaining one or two wells be placed closer to the existing wells in order to "see" CO2 move from the injection well to the monitoring wells. (Contacts: D. Morse and S. Frailey)
Ira Sasowski researches earthquake-related speleothem damage.
Geologists at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) are taking a multidisciplinary approach in their investigations of the origin and evolution of long, branchwork type caves and their deposits in southwestern Illinois. Fogelpole Cave and Illinois Caverns are Illinois' longest caves. Both caves have active streams flowing through them. The caves also contain abundant fluvial sediments, flowstone, speleothems (stalagmites and stalactites), and breakdown, thus showing evidence of past climate change, large floods, and major earthquakes. By systematically mapping and dating these deposits, the geologists are beginning to see correlations among groups of deposits and their relationships to specific historic and prehistoric climatic and seismic events. From these results, the geologists are developing a conceptual model of the timing and mode of cave initiation, development, and deposition of sediments and speleothems within the caves and their relationship to paleoclimate conditions.
The results obtained to date suggest that the large caves in southwestern Illinois were initiated by glacial melting between 140,000 and 170,000 years ago (sometime near the end of the Illinois Glacial Episode and the beginning of the Sangamon Interglacial Episode). Cold, glacial meltwaters probably began infiltrating into vertical fractures and flowing along horizontal bedding planes within the calcite rich St. Louis Limestone. The present cave ceilings mark the top of the water table during that period. The continuous flow of water through these developing crevices and conduits result in additional dissolution of rock and downcutting of the caves that continue today (incision rates appear to have ranged from 0.032 to 0.048 cm/yr). Remnants of flowstone near the cave ceilings and stalagmites on benches recorded the time of exposure of these cave levels, as well as timing of wet and dry periods in Illinois. Side passages filled with fine grained sediment are evidence of a major flood or series of floods that nearly filled the caves about 42,500 years ago. This event was also recorded in the stalagmites that have been sampled. Finally, the presence of many small, white stalagmites have been dated; these are thought to have initiated at two distinct times, about 90 and 190 years ago, which correlate with two major earthquakes in the region, one that occurred in 1917 and another in 1811 1812, the latter being generated by the New Madrid Seismic Zone. These results indicate that caves contain a wealth of paleoclimatic and possibly seismic information that the ISGS geologists are only beginning to uncover. (Contacts: S.V. Panno and B.B. Curry)
County Coal Maps for Illinois State Fair
A full set of the 80 county coal mine maps, which are part of the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) County Coal Map Series, were compiled, printed, and given to the Office of Mines and Minerals for display at the Illinois State Fair. These maps (1:100,000 scale) display known underground and surface mines and include the most up-to-date mined-out areas for active mines. The mines were a feature at the Office of Mines and Minerals booth where visitors could check their own property for the presence of mines. (Contacts: A. Louchios and S. Elrick).
ISGS Scientists Provide Fossil Dig Materials to Argyle Lake State Park
Eric Plankell, Daniel Adomaitis, Cynthia Briedis, and LeAnn Benner provided fossils, posters, and literature to Bridget Napolitano, the natural resources coordinator for Argyle Lake State Park, near Macomb, Illinois. The materials will be used to construct a small-scale fossil dig at the park's visitor center. The visitor center features numerous hands-on displays, such as a track table, touch box, and animal pelts. The fossil dig materials provided by the Survey will give visitors to the park an additional opportunity for hands-on science learning. (Contact: E. Plankell and D. Adomaitis)
Developing a Master Plan for the Evanston Lakefront
Last winter, the City of Evanston completed the Evanston Lakefront Vision, a framework document outlining the community visions, goals, and objectives for the future of the Evanston shore along Lake Michigan. In July 2007, the City of Evanston took the next step toward developing a master lakefront plan. A Stakeholder Open House was held on July 27 at the Evanston Civic Center to refine further the concepts for this lakefront plan. An ISGS coastal geologist participated in the Stakeholder Open House, providing technical information related to erosion management and opportunities for parkland construction along the Evanston shoreline. The next phase of this planning effort will occur on September 19, 2007, when the City of Evanston will host the first of three public workshops to present and discuss alternative approaches for the master plan. With the assistance of the Illinois State Geological Survey, an element of the existing Evanston lakeshore that is being discussed is a means to eliminate the functional but "aesthetically challenged" rubble-mound revetments that protect the parkland of the Evanston lakeshore from wave attack. These structures have high crest elevations and block views to the lake from the lakeshore parks. Construction of submerged reefs, offshore breakwaters, and even offshore islands are being considered as means to retire the rubble-mound revetments that have served for well over a half century. (Contact: M. Chrzastowski)
Updated 07/23/2012 SLD