News from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey
November 2021

Update your address book

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey is no longer housed at 420 N. Walnut St. in Bloomington. That had been the IGWS’ temporary home for a little over two years while the Geology Building on the IU Bloomington campus was being renovated. As of summer 2021, we are back in our longtime home at 10th Street and Cottage Grove.

In addition, the postal address of the Geology Building— 611 N. Walnut Grove, which had been listed on almost all our publications for decades—has changed. That address is no longer valid.

Our current address is: 1001 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405.

Research spotlight

To those unfamiliar with hydrology and geology, “spring water” is often assumed to be infinite and pure—maybe even healthier than water you can get from the tap. But is that image supported by data?

During the fall seasons of 2019 and 2020, IGWS research scientists Tracy Branam, Sarah Asha Burgess, and Lee Florea, along with graduate students from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, collected samples from perennial springs in the uplands of southern Indiana. Their work was supported with a grant by the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement (CRE).

In areas where lakes and rivers do not provide ample supplies of water, springs can be important resources for farmers and the local economy; water can be a limiting factor for businesses, homes, and tourism. Of course, water quality is important in addition to quantity. “We had a lot of spring owners interested in finding out results,” Branam said. “Some of them said they’d been drinking it for years and wanted to know if it was good or not, and others were wanting to develop it for either commercial selling or for livestock use or irrigation.”

IGWS research scientists tested for general chemistry, nutrients, trace elements and coliform bacteria on samples from more than 100 springs in nine southern Indiana counties.

As expected in a limestone-dominated environment, most of the springs are rich in calcium and bicarbonate. Other springs have waters that interacted with dolomite, and therefore have significant magnesium. A small number of highly mineralized springs in the area have historical significance from the early 1900s, when resorts, spas and sanitariums were built to capitalize on the “healing qualities” of these mineral-rich waters.

While none of the springs studied contained priority pollutant trace elements—such as lead, chromium, arsenic or cadmium—in levels above EPA standards for public drinking water supplies, several contain coliform bacteria, and particularly E. coli, some strains of which are related to animal and human wastes.

Data for individual springs was sent to private owners or government agencies requesting it. The IGWS does not have any authority to regulate water quality; it only collects and shares data, Branam told the CRE during a presentation last month.

The IGWS is currently creating a webpage where the data and approximate locations of these springs will be available to the public, subject to privacy restrictions. Springs data will be updated, and viewers will be encouraged to report springs that haven't yet been mapped.

For Burgess—who was a graduate student at the time—the research aligned with her work in caves of southern Indiana, supported by another CRE grant. Unlike the Upland Springs project, the Mitchell Plateau Critical Zone Observatory project was restricted to just Lawrence and Orange counties. It involved groundwater sampling twice a month for two years. With the help of Florea and Branam, Burgess investigated the connections between sulfur in groundwater, rocks, and petroleum, and how those connections relate to cave development and the chemistry of groundwater.

Making connections between Indiana University and surrounding communities has been a driver of the CRE’s work in general. So far, Burgess has created a poster for Owen County springs data, recently displayed at the Owen County Soil and Water Conservation District Water Day in Spencer. That kind of outreach and community information-sharing is what Branam would like to see in every county.

Burgess considers several of the people she met during these projects to be friends. “I think that there are a lot of good relationships to be built down there, and there is a lot of trust and community-building that has been done that we can continue with, if we do more work in these areas,” she told the CRE.

For Branam, the work has deep roots; he has studied groundwater for most of his 30-plus-year-career at the IGWS. Being able to do it in the place where he grew up makes it doubly meaningful. “I was born in this town; my family goes back several generations in this south-central part of the state,” he said. “… I really want to do what I can for the state, as much as I can to help the people of Indiana … who just want to make a living.”

In addition to the implications for nearby residents, understanding the quality and quantity of groundwater and how it relates to the geology and landscape through which it passes can factor into climate change research and planning. Long-term monitoring is critical to understand the connections between climate and groundwater in limestone landscapes like the Mitchell plateau, Florea said, and data from a network of researchers around the world is working toward this goal.

“The projections show that surface water is going to become even more scarce in Indiana in the coming decades, and that we’re going to have a drier dry season, wetter wet season and not much winter moving forward—the climate’s going to be more like Alabama—and our spring water resources are going to be very important,” Burgess added.

“And even more so, I think having people understand how complicated and fragile the earth that they’re living on is very important, and it doesn’t get there unless people who are doing that work talk to them.”

Research scientist Sarah Asha Burgess collects a water sample for alkalinity titration inside Bluespring Caverns in 2019. | Center for Rural Engagement

Resource reminder

The Indiana Geological and Water Survey is committed to providing reliable, unbiased earth science information through outreach programs and partnerships around the state. One of those resources, posted on our website, is a collection of lesson plans available to teachers and at-home educators year-round.

More than a dozen free lesson plans can be found at https://igws.indiana.edu/lessonplans, created for a range of student ages from elementary to high school. Most list the Indiana standards and objectives to which they relate. Some require minimal equipment and some would need access to a lab or 3-D printer. Examples include:

Reconstructing and discussing Pangaea using various cut-outs of continents.

• Carefully mining for “minerals” using chocolate chip cookies.

• Classifying specimens as rocks or minerals using different types of candies.

Creating replicas of fossils using 3-D printing files, gathering measurements and other data, and identifying them based on that data.

• Making carbonic acid and studying its effect on pieces of limestone to understand how caves form.

Three new lesson plans were added last week:

Demonstrating Geologic Time—which IGWS Education and Outreach Coordinator Polly Sturgeon says is the “No. 1 most requested topic by teachers”;

Mapping Earthquake Intensity; and

Fossil, Not a Fossil.

In addition, the IGWS offers Discovery Trunks on Rocks of Indiana and Fossils of Indiana, each containing specimen samples, identification tools and a poster. Check-out is for a maximum of two weeks and requires a $50 cash deposit. Trunks must be picked up and returned to our Bloomington office.

For more information about lesson plans or Discovery Trunks, contact Sturgeon at proot@indiana.edu.

Dig deeper

As promised, a feature package on Indiana’s caves and karst has been added to Vol. 3 of the Indiana Journal of Earth Sciences as a contribution to the International Year of Caves and Karst. It includes:

• a PDF of Richard “Dick” Powell’s popular 1961 circular, Caves of Indiana—only this time, without detailed maps and descriptors which led to privately owned or protected caves throughout southern Indiana, and with notations and revisions contributed by Lee Florea;

• a memoir by Powell about the process of writing Caves of Indiana and his journey into spelunking and the field of geology in the 1950s, accompanied by a tribute from Arthur Palmer and a preface by Florea;

• a downloadable PDF of “Miscellaneous Map 11, Map of the Wyandotte Cave System” published by the IGWS and representing enormous effort by Powell and many other members of the caving community; and

• a downloadable PDF of Sam Frushour’s 2012 book, “A Guide to Caves and Karst of Indiana.” For those who would prefer a hard copy, we have a limited supply for sale in our bookstore.

This drawing by IGWS Artist-Draftsman Robert Judah was included on page 18 of the original Caves of Indiana. | IGWS archives

Coming soon

The 2022 Indiana Geological and Water Survey calendar will be printed before the end of this year. This poster-sized, informative and attractive feature is delivered to various stakeholders and also will be offered as a download through the Indiana Journal of Earth Sciences in early January.

The theme of the 2022 calendar is scientific illustrations. If you’ve interacted with the IGWS for decades, the names Bob Judah or Bill Stalions might be familiar to you. For a total of nearly 50 years, these two artists found a professional home in our offices and served an important purpose: to help translate research concepts into a visual medium so that they could be better understood, even by readers with no science background. This year’s calendar will showcase some of their work, while an accompanying StoryMap online (coming in early 2022) will provide a larger display space.

If you have not received a calendar delivery in the past and would like a print copy, a limited supply will be available for pickup at the Survey in early December. As an Early Bird Special, you can get a calendar for 99 cents (plus $7.50 shipping if needed) through Jan. 31; email igwsinfo@indiana.edu to make a shipping request.

"Oil from Troubled Waters," an illustration by Wilbur "Bill" Stalions for the "Our Hoosier State Beneath Us" series, ca. 2001. Nine illustrations by Stalions and by Robert "Bob" Judah will be included on the 2022 IGWS calendar, with more displayed in an online StoryMap in early 2022. | IGWS archives

Staff notes

• IGWS research scientist Maria Mastalerz was awarded the Reinhardt Thiessen Medal from the International Committee for Coal and Organic Petrology—the highest honor given in her field—during a virtual meeting of the ICCP in September 2021. Her nominators lauded her “reputation as a top expert organic petrologist, sought out by her colleagues around the world for her collaboration and viewpoint,” and her teaching and guidance of students. News of her selection was previously announced in the September 2020 issue of the E-Geo News and was shared by IU Bloomington Today on Oct. 4, 2021.

• Assistant Director for Research Lee Florea has accepted a job at the Washington Geological Survey in Olympia, Wash. His last day at the IGWS will be Nov. 12.

Outreach activities

• IGWS research scientists Isaac Allred, Sarah Asha Burgess, Lee Florea, and Babak Shabani attended the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, Oct. 10-13. Of the 2,703 abstracts submitted, six came from these IGWS staff. Allred’s topic was “There and Back Again: The Recycling of Appalachian and Grenville Signatures in DZ U-Pb Records of Phanerozoic North America.” Burgess presented her thesis work on “Sulfur systematics and carbonate diagenesis in the Mitchell Plateau, Indiana.” Florea discussed the glacial-volcanic caves of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Florea and Burgess were also co-authors on an invited presentation by the Kentucky Geological Survey on the nature and origin of dolomites in the St. Genevieve Limestone of southern Kentucky. Shabani’s topic was “Effect of reservoir hydrogeological heterogeneity on CO2 migration and mineral trapping: A case study in Illinois Basin, Indiana.” The conference was a hybrid of in-person and virtual this year after an all-virtual event in 2020. In-person attendance was 2,864 and another 1,109 people attended virtually, with 1,672 attendees being students. “It was a good event, even though it was lightly attended by comparison,” Florea said; attendance had been around 6,000 in past years. Florea added that with fewer people attending, he felt that the quality and quantity of conversations increased.

• Allred presented new detrital zircon data from the Illinois and Black Warrior basins at the SEG/AAPG International Meeting for Applied Geoscience & Energy (IMAGE ’21) in Denver, Colorado, in September.

• IGWS Education and Outreach Coordinator Polly Sturgeon was quoted in a story by Forbes Advisor titled “The Midwesterners’ Fault: Do they need earthquake insurance?” She had presented a webinar about the New Madrid Fault and its potential to cause catastrophic property damage—to the tune of at least $200 billion. “That’s bigger than Hurricane Katrina, the largest hurricane in terms of damage to ever hit the U.S.,” the magazine added for reference.

• IGWS research scientist Ginger Davis was invited to write the focus article for the 2021 Indiana Water Report distributed by the Indiana Water Monitoring Council. Other IGWS staff also contributed. It will be posted at inwmc.net/resources/indiana-water-report.

• Three papers have been published in the past two months based on data generated from the project “Shale Gas: Geochemical and Physical Constraints on Genesis, Storage, and Producability,” supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. IGWS research scientist Maria Mastalerz is project director of this grant. Two papers can be found in the International Journal of Coal Geology: “Deformation of pores in response to uniaxial stress in Marcellus shale: Implications for gas recovery” and “Pore accessibility and trapping of methane in Marcellus shale,” and one in Marine and Petroleum Geology: “Factors controlling pore network development of thermally mature Early Palaeozoic mudstones from the Baltic Basin (N Poland).”

IGWS research scientist Isaac Allred with his display at GSA in Portland. | Submitted photo

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 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.


The IGWS, along with other IU offices, will be closed an extra day for Thanksgiving this year. Our office's holiday season schedule is:

• THANKSGIVING: Closed Wednesday-Friday, Nov. 24-26. Reopen Monday, Nov. 29.

• CHRISTMAS/NEW YEAR'S: Closed Friday, Dec. 24 through Friday, Dec. 31. Reopen Monday, Jan. 3.