News from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey
May 2023

Core to map: Mining historic data

Editor’s note: The E-Geo News has been walking readers through the various steps required to turn physical data such as core samples into a functional geological map. This is the fifth installment in this series; core collection was covered in September, core describing in November, lab analysis in December, and outcrop scouting in February.

If geological mapping were a treasure quest, Robin Rupp would be a guide and translator.

A veteran IGWS staffer, she knows what data exist from the past several decades of projects and where it’s buried. A master’s-level geologist, she also knows how to decipher that data and can judge whether it contains reliable information.

Robin Rupp shows some of the many historic data points she can use to digitally model the bedrock surface on a geological map. Sara Clifford | IGWS

While the Jasper bedrock mapping team, led by Don Tripp, has been in the field and core library for months gathering new data from rock cores and outcrops, Robin has been stationed at the IGWS office digging up older information stored in multiple databases and filing cabinets. Both are working to create digital maps of bedrock, but from different angles. Don’s team is looking for data on how the different rock types within the bedrock crop out along hillsides, road cuts, slopes, and valleys, and how those project downward, while Robin is searching for data on where the buried bedrock surface starts under soil, clay, and other “unconsolidated” (non-rock) sediment. Put together, their data will give as complete a picture as possible of what the bedrock in that area looks like.

This work is an example of how the IGWS’s long history of geological information-gathering serves the state well. Over its 186-year history, the Survey has amassed literal tons of physical data like rock and sediment cores, and paper or digital data like maps and databases. It may be older information, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful.

Robin’s task is to mine decades’ worth of paper and digital sources for data points that could shed more light on what’s going on underground in a project area. The vast majority of the data that goes into a bedrock map is from historical sources like these, she said.

Do all these data sources sometimes contradict each other? “Of course,” Robin says with a rueful smile. “That’s the challenge."


Why do we map?

That may seem like a silly question, but it’s a fundamental one when IGWS staff members describe their jobs to non-geologists, be they friends or potential funders.

Users of IGWS maps and other research projects come from several sectors – private industry, local and state government, consulting groups, health departments, and others – and as a result, the ways geologic information is used vary quite a bit.

Recently, the IGWS was asked to compile “success stories” that have resulted from federally funded programs. Here are some excerpts from map users in the vein of “why we do what we do.”

If you have thoughts about what maps or other geologic data could be useful to your area of work or study, feel free to email IGWSinfo@indiana.edu.


“The (Bartholomew) county geologic map, derivative maps, and digital data provide a level of natural resource information previously unknown in the county or in neighboring counties. Growth in Bartholomew County is dependent on providing services to new businesses and developments such as water. The municipal and non-profit water utilities are excited about the availability of this geologic data. … This will have a positive financial impact on the utilities and ultimately the customers. … Our county highway department is excited to have this (cave) data as it relates to new bridges and any required pilings.”

– Jeff Lucas, GIS Mapping Division head, Bartholomew County (2017)


“When a water source has become contaminated, IDEM must react quickly to prevent impacts to human health and the environment. Having accurate information is crucial to that effort. Geologic maps and aquifer studies provide important information that would otherwise be unavailable to our staff as they work to determine the extent of contamination and the remedial/emergency efforts that will be required. In the event of an emergency such as a spill, Indiana Geological Survey mapping products may be the only source of information available to aid our response effort.”

– Marsha Clark Mettler and Peggy Dorsey, Indiana Office of Water Quality and Indiana Office of Land Quality (2014)


Remembrance: Richard L. 'Dick' Powell

Richard L. “Dick” Powell, a geologist and avid caver who was associated with the Indiana Geological and Water Survey for 70 years, passed away April 23, 2023, in Bloomington at the age of 87. His celebration of life service was April 29.

Powell, a 1953 graduate of Evansville Central High School, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geography from Indiana University in 1959 and 1961, then a doctorate in geosciences in 1972 from Purdue University.

He was first hired at the Survey as a college freshman, working as a draftsman for the coal section headed by Charles Wier at 75 cents per hour, seven hours a week. In 1957 – after dropping out of IU, getting married (to Marion in 1956), and becoming a father (to Margaret Anne the same year) – Powell was washing dishes in the IU Memorial Union when Wier asked him if he wanted a job with the coal section as a geologic assistant. He said yes.

Thus began his professional opportunity to study a subject that had fascinated him since a boyhood trip to Spring Mill State Park: caves.

Read the rest of Dick's IGWS obituary at this link.

Dick's longtime field partner, Henry Gray (age 101), wrote the following remembrance:

Dick Powell became my field assistant in the summer of 1956. We worked well together, mapping the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian disconformity and describing measured sections. In the evenings, in our motel/hotel/rooming house room, as I cleaned up my field notes he cleaned up and inked the observations I had made on my field maps. His cartographic ability grew and he became skilled in sketching physiographic features. He was my field assistant again in the summer of 1957, and later, as he gained status, we became closely associated as field partners. Many days we worked until dark, although in southern Indiana at that time this could lead us to difficulties finding dinner. Besides working part-time in the coal section’s labs, Dick enrolled at Indiana University and carried out studies that led to a degree in geography. He also studied caves, springs, and karst physiography and hydrology, in which he amassed a vast store of data. Often he was called to assist in cave rescues.

As I think over my experiences with Dick, one amusing occasion stands out. He evidently had not had enough breakfast, and as we approached my mid-morning coffee stop, he listed all that he wanted to eat: Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, a pile of cakes, maybe biscuits and gravy. We were working near English, the old town down by the river, and when we stopped at 10 o'clock at the best that English had to offer, there shuffled out of the kitchen an elderly lady, oh gosh, she must have been all of 60, and she was all gray from the tips of her toes to the top of her head. “What do you 'uns want?” she asked. I wanted my usual cup of coffee; Dick took one look and said, “Gimme a Coke, and leave the cap on!”

We both survived.

Come to the spring plant event

The semiannual IGWS Plant Event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, in Room 2022 of the IGWS/Geology Building. Landscaping plants, including ostrich ferns, beardtongues, lilies of the valley, bleeding hearts, irises, and canna lilies, as well as some house plants, will be available.

Donations generated from the event will support the IGWS Graduate Research Scholarship Fund. Last year’s spring plant event raised almost $600.

Anyone wishing to donate plants or cuttings should label them and bring them to Room 2022 between 1 and 2 p.m. Monday, May 8, or between 8 and 9 a.m. the day of the sale. Donated flowerpots are also appreciated.

Save the date: Limestone Fest 2023

Last June, nearly 200 people attended the inaugural Limestone Fest at the IGWS. This year, the event – with more activities, more exhibitors, and hopefully more attendance – has been scheduled for a less-busy date: Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will be mostly outside on the grounds of the new, grassy Northwest Quad on Cottage Grove Avenue, but the IGWS Learning Lab – which will mark its first birthday on June 3 – also will be open for exploration.

Since June is Limestone Month in Monroe County, activities will revolve around the geologic, cultural, recreational, and artistic heritage of Indiana limestone. So far, offerings include limestone carving, a climbing wall, fossil crafts, cave critter education, and historic preservation info, with more activities to be added.

“The story of Monroe County is intertwined with the dimension stone industry. We are excited to highlight the significance of Indiana’s state stone to the local region with this family-friendly event,” said Outreach Coordinator Polly Sturgeon.

Confirmed exhibitors include Bloomington Parks and Recreation, the Monroe County History Center, Blue Aster Studio, Sycamore Land Trust, the Monroe County Historic Preservation Board of Review, University Collections, Southern Indiana Sentinel Landscape, Artisan Experience, Visit Bloomington, the Indiana Karst Conservancy, the Indiana Limestone Institute of America, 500 Earth Sciences, and scientists from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey. Local Master Naturalists will assist with activities in the Learning Lab.

All ages are welcome, and most activities will be free. A small fee ($25) will be charged for limestone carving through Artisan Experience. Free parking is available in the IU Forrest Avenue garage, one block north of the festival.

Check https://igws.indiana.edu/events for event updates as they become available.

Staff notes

• IGWS Lab Technician Garrett Marietta, an IU master’s degree student in quaternary geology, received the John Barrett Patton Award for 2023. Named for the former IU Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department chair and state geologist, the award is meant to promote research on the geology of the state of Indiana. Marietta will use the award money to fund geochemical analysis work for his thesis.

• Marietta has joined the Student Committee of the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes (EPSP) Section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

• Education and Outreach Coordinator Polly Sturgeon attended a U.S. Geological Survey workshop on geoheritage last week in West Virginia to work on a nationwide inventory of geoheritage sites in the United States.

• Research Scientist Dr. Maria Mastalerz visited the Center for Biomass Research and Education at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, in mid-April to work with colleagues Dr. Agnieszka Drobniak, Dr. Iwona Jelonek and Dr. Zbigniew Jelonek on ongoing projects related to biomass utilization, discuss future projects, and plan for the general direction of the center. She also visited Wroclaw University in Poland and was able to reunite with former students who earned their PhDs at IU and spent many years around the IGWS. Pictured in the photo at top right are Dr. Grzegorz Lis (second from right), now assistant professor at Wroclaw University, and Dr. Dariusz Strapoc (far right), research scientist at Schlumberger in France. Drobniak reported that “Grzegorz surprised Maria with her original MSc dissertation. He found it a few months ago cleaning an old cabinet. It was there for 40 years! We admired the text typed on the typewriter, and beautiful maps she made by hand and colored with crayons!”

• Research Scientist Ashley Douds attended the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (AAPG CCUS) Conference in Houston in late April. Attendees came from federal and state governments, oil and gas companies, and small start-ups to share information related to understanding the geology of subsurface CO2 storage. She also attended a pre-conference fieldtrip to Premier Corex’s lab where they demonstrated the process of analyzing subsurface core to obtain data used in the Class VI CO2 injection permit application.

• The IGWS Advisory Committee met for its quarterly meeting virtually on April 19 and heard presentations from staff members about publications (Sara Clifford), map-making (Casey Jones), Center for Energy research (Ashley Douds) and Center for Water research (McKailey Sabaj).

Outreach efforts

• The IU Bloomington Staff Council will host a “Get to Know Your Campus” event at the IGWS Learning Lab from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 24. IU staff are invited to visit for a guided tour of the 1-year-old Learning Lab where learners of all ages can explore 450 years of Hoosier history through geologic specimens. Register at this link.

• Research scientists Dr. Isaac Allred and Henry Loope and IGWS Director Dr. Todd Thompson are attending the Geological Society of America (GSA) North-Central Section Meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., through May 5. Loope’s presentation topic is “Last Glacial Maximum and Late Glacial Stand Activity, East Fork White River Basin, Indiana, USA.”

• GIS Developer Ben Romlein and GIS and Cartographic Specialist Casey Jones will present at the Indiana GIS Conference May 10-12 in Evansville. They will talk about designing the Indiana Springs dashboard, which was featured in last month’s E-Geo News. GIS Analyst Dana Bissey also will attend.

Polly Sturgeon, education and outreach coordinator, and Dr. Todd Thompson, IGWS director and state geologist, will give a presentation about the limestone industry in Monroe and Lawrence counties at the Indiana Lions Club’s State Convention on Friday, May 12, at the Monroe Convention Center.

• Research Scientist Ginger Davis will share findings and recommendations from a study about tap water systems in Crawford, Lawrence, Martin, and Orange counties at the IU Rural Conference in French Lick May 18-19.

• Research Scientist Dr. Maria Mastalerz (with IGWS Volunteer Affiliate Dr. Agnieszka Drobniak and others) published three papers recently in the International Journal of Coal Geology: “Residential gasification of solid biomass influence of raw material on emissions”; “Geocatalytically generated methane from low-maturity coals and shale source rocks at low temperatures (80?120 °C) over 52 months”; and “Variations in microscopic properties of biomass char: implications for biochar characterization”.

• The Limestone Heritage teacher’s workshop is open for registration. Through a partnership between the IGWS and the Monroe County Historic Preservation Board of Review, educators from Monroe County will learn about the geoheritage of Indiana limestone and make connections to the classroom. The workshop will take place June 21-23. See flyer below for details and a QR code to the registration link or click here.

Contact us

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey, a longstanding institute of Indiana University, conducts research; surveys the state; collects and preserves geologic specimens and data; and disseminates information to contribute to the mitigation of geologic hazards and the wise stewardship of the energy, mineral, and water resources of Indiana.

• To join the monthly E-Geo News mailing list, please click here.

• To ask a question of IGWS staff or suggest an E-Geo News topic, email scliffo@iu.edu.