News from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey
September 2022

Field notes

Swatting back sweat bees near the only shade around – an open truck cap – geologist Don Tripp sprays down a box of fresh core samples. Moments ago, these cylinders of bedrock were pulled from the ground and into the sun for the first time in millions of years. Tripp gently washes away the silt and sand, revealing color undulations, embedded fossils, and other fine details that are clues to determining the age and name of each layer of rock.

“This is a good box. This is a good one,” he says in a slightly awestruck way, even though he’s been doing this same sort of work for five years. Among the 10 linear feet of rock, he points out a coal seam, some pyrite, a clearly defined gastropod fossil, and a “rare occasion” of carbonate rock bumping up against Raccoon Creek sandstone – likely the unconformity they’ve been looking for that will help him determine where the Mansfield Formation (Pennsylvanian Age) ends and Mississippian-Age rock layers begin.

Tripp and fellow IGWS geologists Isaac Allred and Valerie Beckham-Feller will be working over the next two years to create an updated bedrock map of the Jasper quadrangle for STATEMAP, a program of the U.S. Geological Survey. Collecting and analyzing 2,426 feet of core from 14 drill holes, as well as visiting outcrops where rock layers are visible above ground, will give them new data to add to what they’ve learned from old maps, commercial well logs, previous survey drill holes, and industrial mineral reports.

The Jasper team is drilling in this area to confirm or correct stratigraphic data that was last mapped as many as 70 years ago, or to fill in geographic gaps where no data exists. Historical data often comes from the oil and gas or commercial stone industries. This area, where oil isn’t plentiful and the most valuable Indiana limestone isn’t present, has been passed over for detailed data collection by most everyone but research geologists.

Bedrock theoretically shouldn’t change much since it’s hundreds of feet below the surface. However, maps are only as good as the data upon which they are based, and geologists can’t realistically collect cores everywhere to perfectly map underground surfaces, Tripp said. “A lot of the data I’ve seen was just pretty much assumed (via correlations using data points in other areas), and what was done – what a lot of geologists do – is when you don’t have data, you just make a rough estimate. So, right now, we’re trying to take that estimation out of it.”

For this map, the new data points will vary between one-half and 10 miles apart. The closer-together ones are near Fredericksburg where this team is also trying to determine if a fault exists, perhaps related to the nearby Mt. Carmel Fault.

Once drilling concludes, Jasper team members will pull out their notes to compare what they saw in the cores, discuss theories about what the puzzling pieces could be, and submit samples for portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) testing which will give a readout of the chemical composition of the elements in the rock to help answer any lingering questions.

The owners of the properties where the core was drilled will get this data, too. That’s something Tripp gets a kick out of, sharing his passion for geology with people who might never have thought about it and showing them the neat things that exist literally in their own backyards.

At this hole, a neighbor ducked under the fence and wandered over to the rig, talking with senior driller David Dunaway from Strata Group and with Tripp. “Just being nosy,” he said as he scanned the boxes of core and listened to Tripp explain what he saw. “Pretty cool,” the neighbor said. “Maybe you’ll all find something we have that’s worth something!”

Those are the prevailing moods Tripp has encountered in the field: curiosity and kindness. He rarely gets a flat-out “no” from a landowner; many of them are excited to learn what he finds and he’s happy to give a Geology 101 lesson. Once, a student collected soil samples alongside the crew for a science project. At another house, Tripp answered geology questions from an inquisitive dad for 45 minutes, and his kids, playing with dinosaur toys, enjoyed an educational packet from IGWS outreach. Near Odon, the geologists and drill crew were treated to a picnic lunch from an Amish family.

“I make sure I tell them we’re with Indiana University,” he said about approaching landowners. “Nine times out of 10, aside from some Purdue vs. IU jokes, as soon as I say, ‘IU,’ they roll out the red carpet: ‘Where would you like to drill?’”

The year of the mastodon

If you’ve been reading the E-Geo News, you know that the long-extinct mastodon has been having quite a year. Well, we’re planning to give those old bones even more exposure. The mastodon – Indiana’s new, official state fossil – will be the focus of the 2023 IGWS calendar, coming out late this fall.

We’re looking for local artists of all ages to send in original artwork of mastodons. It could be used on the calendar or on other IGWS promotional or educational materials, like bookmarks or stickers.

We’ll evaluate artwork in three age categories: Pre-K to Grade 5, Grades 6-12, and adults. The contest is only open to Indiana students (or Indiana residents, for adults), and entries must be submitted by Saturday, Oct. 8.

To enter, please send a high-resolution scan or photo of your entry to IGWSinfo@indiana.edu with the subject line “art contest,” mail the original to us at the address at the bottom of this email, or bring it in during office hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday). If you do scan it at home, please retain the original piece so that we can rescan or rephotograph it if needed.

Please make sure you’re drawing a mastodon and not a mammoth; this IGWS lesson plan points out some differences between them.

'A bittersweet experience'

Research geologist Agnieszka Drobniak left the IGWS on Aug. 15 and has transitioned to academic nonpaid status. Through a competitive application process, the Polish government awarded her a four-year grant to return to the country she left 20 years ago to continue her biofuels research at the Centre for Biomass Energy Research and Education at the University of Silesia in Katowice. Drobniak was a founding member of that center earlier this year; she will help to run the research division. As academic nonpaid with the IGWS, she will continue to work on projects like rare earth elements and critical minerals research and will maintain her IU email address.

Drobniak joined the IGWS staff in 2002, initially on a one-year contract, working closely with IGWS mentor and fellow Polish expat Maria Mastalerz. “And then there was more stuff, more projects, more research, more collaboration – and I stayed for the people,” Drobniak said.

“I had an incredible time. If I wouldn’t, I would be gone by now. … So, this whole transition is kind of a bittersweet experience.”


Agnieszka Drobniak

Association for Women Geoscientists

When IU geology professor Andrea Stevens Goddard went on an extended fieldtrip to Mongolia last month, she had to plan for a need that the rest of the all-male team did not: How she was going to feed her infant. Throughout her 15 years of studying and working in the geosciences, it hasn’t been unusual for her to be “one of the few women in the room.” She knows it can cause students and even professionals to question whether they belong and whether they can do the job when they see few examples of people like them working in the field they love.

About a year ago, Stevens Goddard and other Indiana-based women started a Central Indiana Chapter of the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG). At one of their first meetings, “We were saying, ‘It’s so nice to be able to talk to a room full of women who do the same thing professionally.' So, we can talk about this (work), but also, ‘I was up a lot last night because I had a baby who was teething,’ which is not something you normally talk about at your job because you just compartmentalize a lot.”

AWG is a global organization “devoted to enhancing the quality and level of participation of women in geosciences and to introduce girls and young women to geoscience careers.” AWG has more than 1,000 members affiliated with the national organization or a regional chapter. So far, the Central Indiana AWG has about 30 members who are students, professors, or professionals at various levels of career experience, and about 50 to 60 people total who’ve asked to be kept in the loop. Stevens Goddard is the membership coordinator.

The use of “for women” instead of “of women” in the name is intentional; you don’t have to be a geoscientist or a woman to join the organization or to participate in events. “We welcome friends and family to go along or go to picnics. People have brought kids, dogs, parents who just want to come and learn things,” she said.

The next AWG event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. IGWS Director and State Geologist Todd Thompson and IGWS volunteer affiliate Brian Keith will lead a fieldtrip to two Bloomington-area quarries and to a roadcut that each show different aspects of the world-famous Middle Mississippian Salem Limestone depositional environments. Bloomington-area attendees can meet at Cascades Park in Bloomington; an Indianapolis carpool is being organized from Enviroforensics. Thompson advises participants to “bring footwear that can get very muddy.”

Meeting and event frequency has been roughly every couple months but the group is always open to suggestions. They’ve been trying to offer a mix of in-person and virtual events, vary the locations so that people from different areas of the state can participate, and to rotate among professional development, networking, fun, and service-type events. They’ve planted a tree, hosted a virtual trivia night, organized a hike and picnic, and were able to go behind the scenes of a paleontology collection at an Indianapolis museum. This month’s event will be a mix of networking and fun.

“Most geologists love fieldtrips – the thing that grabbed a lot of us was realizing we could do that – but also … a lot of people are going through the licensing process at different levels, and so it’s a good opportunity to be able to talk to the state geologist and other people,” Stevens Goddard said. “Also, there are always little organic conversations, like, ‘I’m coming up for this test; does anyone want to study?’ And it’s nice to find new people, to find women to help with the details of things.”


Outreach efforts

• IGWS Director Todd Thompson spoke to about a dozen graduate students in the IU Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences on Aug. 16 about the work IGWS staff do; then, IGWS staff had lunch with the group and took them on tours of the building. IGWS volunteer affiliate Brian Keith took the group on a limestone campus tour earlier in the day.

• Children enrolled in the City of Bloomington Banneker Community Center Summer Nature Club visited the IGWS Learning Lab in late July to explore the extensive collection of Indiana rocks, minerals, fossils, and other geologic treasures.

• The Learning Lab was a popular place during IU Welcome Week, as more than 50 IU students stopped by to create a collections-themed art piece on Aug. 16 alone. The Learning Lab also was open Aug. 18-20 to welcome students looking for something to do before classes started and will continue to be open to all visitors Mondays-Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• The IGWS’s headstone photo collection on ResourceSpace was mentioned in the August newsletter of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology. The agency called the collection “a wonderful resource for headstone research and especially for whetstone markers.”

• In the Aug. 26 issue of the Indianapolis Star, environmental reporter Karl Schneider wrote about the groundwater research that IGWS geochemist Tracy Branam is conducting using shark’s teeth and new lab equipment. Schneider learned about it from the August E-Geo News. Read the Star story here.

• Education and Outreach Coordinator Polly Sturgeon, Archivist and Collections Manager Jenna Lanman and Digital Collections Manager Will Knauth attended the AASG/USGS Data Preservation Workshop in Butte, Montana, Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. Sturgeon presented a talk titled “Indiana’s Open Collections Learning Center”; Lanman spoke about “Creating a Mixed Collections Management System.” The workshop’s aim was to bring together state geological surveys to discuss the preservation and discoverability of geoscience collections like samples, logs, maps, and data.

• IGWS Collections and Outreach Intern Amanda Wollenweber has volunteered to lead the IU Natural History Collections Club. Sturgeon will be the staff sponsor. The callout meeting is this evening (Sept. 9) at 5:30 p.m. in the IGWS Learning Lab.

Staff notes

• The IGWS is hiring to fill two jobs: A museum services generalist and a database developer. Read more about both at this link.

Chris Gagnon started a new career on Sept. 1 as the administrative coordinator in the IGWS’s business affairs division. A graduate of Edgewood High School in Ellettsville, Gagnon spent 12 years working at the inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park, first in guest services and later as manager. He then worked for about a year for a water company in Spencer, fixing water main breaks and using GIS to map utilities, before joining the IGWS team, where he’s happy to be working in an office once again. His main duties will be to coordinate travel and purchase orders.

Alex Martinez has been hired as a field assistant with the IGWS research division. He had been working as a Paul Edwin Potter Intern for the summer after earning his bachelor’s degree from IU in earth and atmospheric sciences, but switched over this month to manning the Geologic Materials Testing Facility (GMT) and aiding geologists in the field. He will be based at GMT, two blocks northwest of the main IGWS offices in the Geology Building.

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.