ISGS - June 2009 Activity Highlights
ISGS - Home Page of the Illinois State Geological Survey
Groundwater Protection Award Received
The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) received the 2009 Groundwater Protection Award at the 15th Annual Groundwater Protection Awards banquet of the Central Region Groundwater Protection Committee. The ISGS, and award co-recipient Illinois State Water Survey, were honored for research and modeling of the Mahomet aquifer. Director Donald McKay received the award on behalf of the ISGS. In his acceptance remarks, McKay presented a brief history of ISGS research of the Mahomet aquifer based on a list of publications compiled by David Larson. (Contact: David Larson)
Best Paper Award Received
John Atkinson, Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Illinois, was awarded first place in the Ph.D. category for his poster presentation entitled Synthesis and Characterization of Carbon-Based Iron Catalysts Prepared by Ultrasonic Spray Pyrolysis at the 102nd Annual Air and Waste Management Association Conference and Exhibition, held in Detroit, Michigan, June 15-19, 2009. Atkinson's advisors are Seyed Dastgheib, Illinois State Geological Survey, and Professor Mark Rood, University of Illinois. The poster presented the ongoing research on the development of advanced carbon-based iron catalysts for environmental applications by the Advanced Energy Technology Initiative, Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability. (Contact: Seyed Dastgheib)
Eight Maps of Abandoned Mines Completed
Mapping of abandoned mines has been completed for nine 7.5-minute quadrangles in Jackson, Perry, Randolph, Williamson, Franklin, Johnson, Gallatin, and Jefferson Counties. These Illinois State Geological Survey maps, accompanied by directories containing detailed information on the mine histories and sources of information, have been delivered in paper and digital formats to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the project sponsor, and are released to the public at this time. The mapped quadrangles are Ava, Vergennes, Elkville, Makanda, Goreville, Stonefort, Saline Mines, and Mount Vernon. These maps and directories will help government planners, developers, and private citizens identify areas that have been undermined. (Contacts: C. Chenoweth, Alan Myers, and Jennifer Obrad)
LiDAR Imagery Identifies Karst Features
As part of the Illinois Height Modernization Project, the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) is receiving high-resolution LiDAR elevation data on a county-by-county basis ( http://www.isgs.illinois.edu/nsdihome/webdocs/ilhmp/). LiDAR (an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging) is an imaging technique that incorporates pulsating laser light from a low-flying aircraft to the ground surface. The reflected light pulses are detected by instruments that record their location in three dimensions. The "first return" recorded by a LiDAR sensor is the first object contacted by a laser pulse, such as a tree, building rooftop, or a ground feature. When a laser pulse encounters a soft target, such as forest canopy, a portion of the laser beam continues downward and reflects from the underlying tree branches and trunk providing a "second return." If conditions are ideal, the last return represents the ground or "bare earth" surface. To maximize the probability of acquiring the bare earth return data, LiDAR is collected during the portion of the year when leaves are off the trees(leaf-off season).
The ISGS scientists are using LiDAR elevation data acquired in 2008 to better understand the fabric and geometry of the crevice karst aquifers that underlie Jo Daviess County, Illinois, and constitute its groundwater resources. Figure 1, (at right; view full image), is a portion of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) digital orthophotograph acquired in early April 2005 over the southeast quarter of the Bellevue, Illinois, Quadrangle in western Jo Daviess County. The 1.5-square mile area is characterized by 400 feet of local relief, and the steep slopes are dominated by dense forest cover. The underlying bedrock is dolomite of Silurian age. This type of landscape obscures the surface topography and makes detection of geologic features difficult or impossible using traditional aerial photography or topographic maps.
Figure 2, (at left; view full image), is a color relief-shaded image of the same geographic area produced from the LiDAR bare earth return data. Note the distinctive, roughly circular features situated below the crests of several of the slopes, which are completely obscured in the aerial photograph. These are cover-collapse sinkholes, which range from approximately 20 to 70 feet in diameter. The sinkholes are positioned en echelon (in a step-like manner) along nearly east-west–trending lineaments in sediment overlying the Silurian dolomite. Road cuts in the area reveal that these aligned sinkholes probably formed along nearly east-west–trending crevices that range from one to more than six feet in width. Collapse of sediment into these large crevices creates the sinkholes that can be directly observed on the LiDAR imagery. Many of the sinkholes are 10 feet or less in depth and therefore are not shown as depression contours on the existing USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps for the area. However, these features are highly visible on the bare earth LiDAR imagery because of the high vertical resolution of the elevation data. Figure 3, (at right; view full image, merges the USGS digital orthophotograph and the LiDAR imagery showing the location of the sinkholes beneath the forest cover. (Contacts: Donald Luman and Samuel Panno)
Technique Developed to Date Bone Collagen
Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) researcher Hong Wang and colleagues in the ISGS Radiocarbon Laboratory have developed a technique to date bone collagen using a pyrolysis to separate volatile components from larger molecules in organic samples submitted for radiocarbon dating. Only a few radiocarbon (14C) dating laboratories perform high-resolution bone collagen dating. Radiocarbon dating of bone collagen is challenging because its preservation is influenced by many environmental factors, including temperature, moisture, pH, and microbial activity. Bone organic matter could be altered physically and chemically through absorbing dissolved organic carbon and "fusing" humic substances with collagen compounds through humification processes. These contaminants could cause 14C dates of bone collagen to be either too young or too old, depending on variations of local environment and soil chemistry. To completely remove molecular contaminants is cumbersome and expensive.
Since 2003, the ISGS Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory has applied the high-temperature (800°C) pyrolysis combustion technique to separate pyrolysis-volatile (Py-V) or low molecular weight compounds and pyrolysis-residue (Py-R) or high molecular weight compounds for 14C dating of wood, peat, cave sediments, and soil organic matter. This technique also has been applied to human bone collagen to examine the significance of age differences between fractions.
The preliminary results from the ISGS analysis of large numbers of human bones collected from Illinois show that Py-V and Py-R fractions yield identical 14C dates for recent prehistoric and earlier Woodland Period, but significantly different 14C dates for Archaic human bones. The results suggest that in relatively recent archeological burial sites, human bones are not significantly altered chemically or contaminated by mobile soil organic compounds that differ in 14C content from the collagen. However, at the older Archaic sites, the thermally volatile fraction of human bone collagen is apparently contaminated by older, probably humic, contaminants.
An older age for contaminants seems counterintuitive if one assumes that the humic contaminants that combine with collagen came mainly from soils that formed after burial of the bones. However, because these bones were obtained from human burials, the bones are likely to have been interred well below the penecontemporaneous soil surface in soils that were formed before burial. The skeletons would, therefore, have been exposed to older soil organic carbon compounds than the bones that were buried by natural sedimentation processes. Experiments by others show that collagen absorbs humic acids very rapidly, becoming saturated within four days. Therefore, intentionally buried human bones would most likely absorb contaminants that were mainly controlled by the age of the soil horizon in which they were buried. (Contact: Hong Wang)
Geophysics Support of Mapping and Student Training
Teams consisting of Illinois State Geological Survey geophysics staff and college students have been collecting field data in support of several Survey projects. Tim Larson led one team collecting one mile of resistivity data in northern Champaign County and more than 2.5 miles in McHenry County. Ahmed Ismail and Steve Sargent led another team collecting three miles of seismic reflection data in Champaign County. Ismail and Mark Hart also worked with a team to acquire downhole seismic data in six boreholes in Champaign County. The five students, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University, are rotating from one team to the other to gain experience in the different geophysical methods. The Champaign County resistivity and reflection work is in support of the Mahomet aquifer mapping project led by William Dey and Andrew Stumpf. The McHenry County work will provide information to the McHenry County mapping project led by Jason Thomason. The borehole work supports various Champaign area mapping initiatives and adds information to the geotechnical database maintained by Robert Bauer. The field teams will continue working through July and possibly part of August. (Contact: Timothy Larson)
Carbon Dioxide Sorbent Project Funded
The U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) selected the URS Corporation-Illinois State Geological Survey (URS-ISGS) team to develop advanced carbon dioxide (CO2) capture sorbents for coal gasification plants. A three-year, $2.7 million proposal, entitled "Evaluation of Dry Sorbent Technology for Pre-Combustion CO2 Capture", was submitted by the team, and funding was recently awarded by the DOE/NETL (DE-PS26-08NT00699-03). The ISGS will receive $1 million from DOE and $448,000 from the Illinois Clean Coal Institute to develop advanced adsorbents for a novel concept that combines water-gas-shift reaction with CO2 capture in coal gasification systems. Yongqi Lu will serve as the principal investigator of the project. (Contact: Yongqi Lu)
Two Talks Presented at Wetlands Meeting
James Miner presented results of research at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists, held in Madison, Wisconsin, June 22-26, 2009. He presented a comparison of wetland hydrology identified using the traditional 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual versus an update to that manual, which suggests that an expansion of wetland acreage is likely under normal precipitation conditions. At the same meeting, Geoffrey Pociask presented results of research of a study at a wetland in southern Illinois, finding that reducing conditions continued for a long duration after inundation due to tension saturation. (Contacts: James Miner and Goeffrey Pociask)
Two Carbon Sequestration Talks Presented
Ed Mehnert presented the talk, Safeguarding Groundwater Quality at Geologic Carbon Sequestration Sites — An Illinois Basin Example, at the American Water Works Association Annual Convention and Exposition in San Diego on June 16. His presentation was part of a special session, "Water Research Foundation: Potential Groundwater Quality Impacts Resulting from Geological Carbon Sequestration," which was organized by Kenan Ozekin. The abstract of the talk was co-authored by Ivan Krapac, Bracken Wimmer, Abbas Iranmanesh, and Randy Locke. Approximately 20 people attended the session. (Contact: Ed Mehnert)
Yongqi Lu presented a paper related to a generic analysis of the adsorption processes for the post-combustion CO2 capture at the Air and Waste Management Association's 102nd Annual Conference & Exhibition in Detroit, Michigan, June 16-19. The paper assessed the technical feasibility and energy use performance of various adsorption process configurations. (Contact: Yongqi Lu)
Paleontology Talk Presented
Donald Mikulic gave a talk, Trilobites and Reefs; Biotic Response to Changes in Large-Scale Cyclic Depositional Sequences in the Silurian Rocks of the Central United States, at 9th North American Paleontological Convention, June 21, 2009, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Contact: Donald Mikulic)
ISGS Assists in Hydrology Field Course
Scientists and technical staff from the Coal, Geophysics, Hydrogeology, Quaternary Geology, and the Drilling, Shop Services and Vehicle Operations Sections at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) provided students from the University of Illinois Department of Engineering and Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering hands-on experience in the acquisition and interpretation of geological, geophysical, and hydrogeological information as part of a hydrology field course conducted at the University of Illinois Phillips Tract Research Plots. The field course was led by Art Schmidt of the Department of Engineering with support from Pat Mills of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Geologists from the ISGS provided the students with an overview of the glacial and bedrock geology of the region, led in-depth discussions on the geology observed from continuous core taken at the site, and described how this new information supports ongoing research to determine the availability of water and mineral resources in Illinois. As part of the field component, a stratigraphic test hole was drilled from the land surface to 40 feet into bedrock, reaching a total depth of 211 feet. Glacial sediments and bedrock spanning the last 350 million years were uncovered during the drilling. The drilling support staff provided the students with technical information detailing the methods of drilling and installation of monitoring wells. Scientists from the ISGS Hydrogeology Section installed a groundwater monitoring well in the borehole at a depth of 110 feet. Staff from the ISGS Geophysics Section, with the assistance of several students, conducted a vertical seismic reflection survey in the borehole. A geophysicist explained to the students how downhole geophysical data can be used to characterize subsurface geologic materials. (Contacts: Andrew Stumpf, Scott Elrick, Christopher Korose, Ahmed Ismail, and William Dey)
Coal Education Conference
Members of the Illinois State Geological Survey Coal Section and the Advanced Energy Technology Initiative assisted the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Office of Coal Development at its 2009 Coal Education Conference, June 16-19, 2009, giving conference presentations and helping to lead tours of coal mines in southern Illinois. Approximately 120 teachers, from elementary through high school levels, attended the conference to learn about coal and to obtain continuing-education credits by incorporating coal-based lessons into their teaching plans. The presentations included talks on coal formation and Illinois Basin stratigraphy, coal bed methane, and geological sequestration of CO2. Posters, maps, demonstrations, and other visual aids were provided. Staff also helped lead tours and answer questions during visits of surface and underground coal mines and coal-fueled power plants in southern Illinois. (Contacts: David Morse, Scott Elrick, Sallie Greenberg, Christopher Korose, and Elizabeth Curtis-Robinson)
Illinois State Geological Survey hydrogeologist David Larson gave a one-hour presentation, Hydrogeology of the Sankoty and Tampico Aquifers; Lee, Whiteside, Bureau, and Henry Counties, as part of the program for the Source Water Protection Training Meeting in Rock Falls, Illinois, on June 19, 2009. The meeting was sponsored by the Illinois Rural Water Association; about 24 people attended.
Edward Mehnert presented an overview of Midwest Geologic Sequestration Consortium activities and Mahomet Bedrock Valley aquifer efforts at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) in Hannover, Germany on June 2, 2009. Approximately 25 BGR staff attended this overview. Mehnert also met with BGR staff the following day to discuss various aspects of geologic carbon sequestration. The BGR may become the lead regulatory agency in Germany for geologic carbon sequestration. (Contacts: David Larson and Edward Mehnert)
Public Field Trips Draw Large Crowds
C. Pius Weibel led two very successful ISGS Science Field trips to the Mackinaw River watershed on April 18 and May 2, 2009. Each trip had 100 or more participants. Highlights of the trip included driving through a recently built wind farm; stops along the Mackinaw River, including a ford that was traversed by Abraham Lincoln as a member of the 8th Judicial District of Illinois; and visits to two sand and gravel pits. (Contact: Pius Weibel)
ISGS Contributes to Chicago Celebration
The summer of 2009 is the centennial celebration of the 1909 publication of Plan of Chicago. This historic document presented a stunning vision for the twentieth century development of Chicago. Commonly known as "The Burnham Plan," one of the legacies of this vision is the parkland and unique urban aesthetics of the Chicago lakefront. During summer 2009, the Illinois State Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Chicago Friends of the Parks, is conducting Saturday morning public bus tours along the Chicago lakefront to tell the story of how this urban shoreline was designed, engineered and built. The summer tours occurred May 16, June 20, and July 18, 2009. (Contact: Michael Chrzastowski)
Material Provided for Geocache
The Illinois State Geological Survey, through its outreach efforts, has supplied 100 small packets each of coal and fluorite samples for a geocache in Metropolis, Illinois, set up by the Central United States Earthquake Consortium and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The cache is one of nearly 900,000 geocaches in the world. People interested in the geocache find the location using a GPS device, register that they found the cache, take out an item from the cache, and leave an item in the cache. (Contact: Robert Bauer).
Updated 07/03/2012 SLD