Category: News

Michigan Tech GMES Students Camp Out for Success: A Memorable Journey to the AIPG National Conference

Group of GMES students stand in rows for the photo.
Sienna Meekhof, Conor Large, Kiera Watson, John Myaard, Elliz McClelland, Brendan Harville, Clarissa Gordon, Sean Miller, Yalmer Primeau, Anton Smirnov, Samuel Johnson, Konraad VanDyke, Sarah Aardal, Emily Gehrke, Jacob Ojala, Demetri Papas, Logan Harris.

Professional development often means enduring challenges. For GMES students, not even the hardships of staying at campgrounds or incredibly long drives can deter them!

Sixteen GMES students recently marked their presence at the 60th Anniversary National Conference of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) held in Covington, Kentucky, from September 16-19. Throughout the conference, the students gained insights into the organization and functions of AIPG, engaged in a Student Career Workshop, and networked with seasoned AIPG professionals.

Samuel Johnson inspects new Brunton compass product.

The students attended presentations by a mining geologist, a National Park geoscientist, and a geotechnical contractor, and asked questions regarding their respective fields. One of those students was Anton Smirnov (Geology ‘24). “It was a great way to learn about the wide range of fields available to graduates in geological sciences,” he said.

Students were treated to a technical seminar by Brunton, Wyoming-based maker of precision equipment for field-based professionals. Students also received some hands-on time with the company’s products. Samuel Johnson shared: “The demonstration of how the different models of compasses worked was a great educational experience, especially for students who haven’t used these compasses before.”

Busily planning the day ahead on the morning of the conference.

Finally, the chapter took part in a meet-and-greet event. The students rotated between tables of professionals and scientists specializing in various fields in geology and geological engineering. They also met with Kalan Briggs, the AIPG Michigan Section President; Adam Heft, the AIPG Michigan Section Newsletter editor; and Michigan Tech alumnas Sienna Meekhof (BS Geology ‘21) and Elana Barth (MS Geology ’23).

Barth is former president of Michigan Tech’s AIPG Student Chapter. She is now a geologist at AECOM, and generously assisted with accommodations for several students. However, embodying the true spirit of geoscientists, the majority of the students opted to stay at a campground near Covington.

All in all it was a rewarding time for the students. “Attending the 60th AIPG National Conference in Covington was a fantastic experience,” said applied geophysics major Brendan Harville. “I was able to speak with numerous professionals from a variety of geology industry disciplines, who not only provided insight into their own non-linear career paths, but also a great deal of excellent advice.”

The trip was organized and funded by the Michigan Tech AIPG Student Chapter: President Anton Smirnov, Vice President Clarissa Gordon, Treasurer Conor Large, and Secretary Brendan Harville.

This year the Michigan Tech GMES chapter was selected as the Second Place 2023 AIPG Student Chapter of the Year. The MTU chapter sponsor is David Adler, CPG-11377, a Mannik Smith Group Certified Professional Geologist (BS Geology ‘82).

“Bright future ahead!”
Sarah and Clarissa are having fun; Conor Large talks to Elana Barth

Geologic Society of America: Michigan Colleges Joint Alumni Reception

Will you be in Pittsburgh for GSA Connects 2023? Please join us on Monday evening for the Michigan Colleges/Universities Joint Alumni reception (Albion, CMU, EMU, GVSU, Hope, Michigan Tech, WMU, and WSU). Enjoy snacks and a cash bar.

Monday, October 16, 2023
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Sky Room, 17th floor
Omni William Penn Hotel

Questions? Contact Aleksey Smirnov, GMES Chair. We hope to see you there!

Wickstroms Fund Scholarships in Their Father’s Memory

For some families, the impact of Michigan Tech can be felt generations later. That is the case with the Walter Wickstrom ’37 family.

Three of Walter’s children, Betty Wickstrom Kendrick, Jean Wickstrom Liles, and Phil Wickstrom—none of whom are Michigan Tech alumni or live anywhere close to Michigan Tech—all fund scholarships in memory of their father and to support Tech, which they credit with setting up their family for success.

Group of five people outside in the woods near a lake.
The Wickstroms hosted two of their scholarship recipients for lunch at their family summer home in Christmas, Michigan. Pictured (l-r): Carly Lindquist, Betty Wickstrom Kendrick, Phil Wickstrom, Jean Wickstrom Liles, and John Myaard.

Walter Wickstrom Sr. earned a mining engineering degree from Michigan Tech in 1937 (then called the Michigan College of Mining and Technology).

Read more at Michigan Tech Alumni News, by Wes Frahm.


My story: John Myaard, MTUengineer

My story: John Myaard, MTUengineer

John sits at a table with brochures and MTU Geo Mining banners
Geological Engineering student John Myaard ’23
John and others wear hardhats and yellow shirts on a mining platfrom in an open air mine, surrounded by rock formations.
John Myaard (far right) in Roff, Oklahoma, during his summer internship with Covia.

Geological engineering student John Myaard interviewed for an internship with Covia Corporation during a Michigan Tech Career Fair, and landed the job.

“Covia develops mineral-based and material solutions for the materials and energy markets. I spent a summer with Covia’s operations team at their mine and plant in Roff, Oklahoma. During my time there I learned a lot about operations as I worked in a variety of positions—from slurrying sand to loading railcars and everything in between. I also completed new miners training: MSHA Part 46 Certification, required by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“My time at Tech has been influential. I’ve met many good peers with whom I’ve weathered both the classroom and the elements.”

John Myaard

“Michigan Tech was always on my radar. I am from Michigan and grew up in Hudsonville, home to Hudsonville ice cream. I had family in the UP, so I’d already had a chance to see the MTU campus. Originally I was going to major in computer science, but after being exposed to some geology courses in high school and then experiencing a favorable tour of the GMES Department, I decided geological engineering would be a better fit.”

“I’m passionate about the interdisciplinary problem solving required in the field of mining. I see a lot of value in geological engineers getting involved with operations and mineral processing. We bring a diverse set of skills to the table.”

“There are more opportunities within the geological disciplines than most people are aware of. Especially now, as I am looking to graduate, many diverse career options exist, and the future of the discipline looks good.”

John is drilling in an underground mine.
John operates a drill in an underground mine. Hands-on learning is the norm for GMES students at Michigan Tech.

“The Career Fair is not only a great resource for students to find new opportunities, it’s a great place to receive professional development, as well. I took part in several callback interviews that helped me develop and improve my interview skills. The callbacks were instrumental in landing my internship, and hopefully in launching my future career.”

“There is no singular path for success. It is a journey, try your best.”

Advice for incoming students, from John Myaard

AIPG 2023 Outstanding Student Chapter Award

Historical photo of the Natural Wall geological feature on a hillside.
Natural Wall by J.T. Reeder. MS042 Reeder Photograph Collection, Michigan Tech University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.

AIPG, the American Institute of Professional Geologists, recognized the student chapter at Michigan Tech as one of the outstanding student chapters in the nation this past year. The chapter is highly deserving of this distinction and honor and was selected as the Second Place 2023 AIPG Student Chapter of the Year.

The award consists of a certificate to be presented to the student chapter, and a certificate to each of the standing chapter officers at the time of the student chapter report submittal.

Some of the recent activities of the chapter involve field trips to mining foundations as well as to the Natural Wall, a geological structure formed of Jacobsville Sandstone.

The students are encouraged to attend the annual AIPG conference and meetings, which will be held next in Covington, Kentucky on September 16–19, 2023. During the conference, students will have the opportunity to observe the organization and functions of AIPG, participate in the Student Career Workshop, and attend a networking event with professional AIPG members.

The Chapter Sponsor is David Adler, CPG-11377, a Mannik & Smith Group Certified Professional Geologist (BS Geology ‘82). David Adler, inducted into the GMES Academy in October, has been awarded the AIPG Presidential Certificate of Merit for excellent contributions to the AIPG Michigan Section as chairman of the Michigan Section CPG application process.

The Chapter’s Faculty Sponsor is Chad Deering, associate professor in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.


Michigan Tech wins 2022 AIPG Student Chapter of the Year Award

The 2020 AIPG Student Chapter of the Year Award goes to Michigan Tech

Beth Bartel: Women’s Perspectives on Evacuation at Fuego Volcano

Fuego contour representation in a map of Guatemala.
Fuego in Guatemala. NASA Earth Observatory.

Beth Bartel ’23 (Ph.D. Geology) is a co-author of a paper published in Frontiers in Earth Science.

The article is titled “Children first: women’s perspectives on evacuation at Fuego volcano and implications for disaster risk reduction.”

Ailsa Naismith of Bristol University is also a co-author.

The article was included as a part of a special research topic on “Women in Science: Volcanology” and is the first publication from Bartel’s dissertation work. The research was supported by committee members from both the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) and the Department of Social Sciences (SS).

Ian Gannon MS in Geological Engineering Final Defense

On August 3, 2023, Ian Gannon successfully defended his geological engineering research for his MS degree.

Advised by James DeGraff, with Chad Deering and Aleksey Smirnov as committee members.

Title: Integrating LiDAR, Aeromagnetic, and Geological Field Data to Identify Structural-Lithologic Elements Within the Archean Carney Lake Gneiss Complex
Abstract: The Archean Carney Lake Gneiss Complex (CLGC) is a suite of rocks on the southern margin of the Superior Province and within the Minnesota River Valley subprovince. It is one of many gneissic domes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota whose complex geology is poorly understood due to a previous lack of economic interest in gneissic terranes and significant challenges to their investigation. As a consequence, the CLGC and other gneissic domes in the region are represented on geologic maps as undifferentiated masses surrounded by better-defined and understood Paleoproterozoic supracrustal rocks and igneous intrusions. Within the last ten years, however, the United States has identified an urgent need to find new sources of critical minerals to sustain and grow the nation’s technology and defense industries, which has renewed interest in these very old and complex rocks. Under the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative (Earth MRI) of the U.S. Geological Survey, the CLGC and surrounding Paleoproterozoic rocks have been remapped to update geologic interpretations and to assist in identifying potential mineral systems in the region. Mapping of the CLGC was accomplished using traditional techniques combined with satellite-based phone applications and differential GPS devices to navigate in dense vegetative cover, to obtain accurate coordinates of field sites, and to collect geologic data at outcrops. As a further aid to ground mapping, high-resolution LiDAR and aeromagnetic data were analyzed to determine topographic and magnetic patterns and textures that potentially reflect structural-lithologic domains within the CLGC.

Integration of the new geologic field data with features and patterns identified on LiDAR and aeromagnetic maps allows definition of three domains within the CLGC: (1) a poly-deformed, mostly felsic gneiss with folded and sheared banding; (2) a meta-igneous, plagioclase-dominated gneiss with poorly expressed banding; and (3) a meta-sedimentary gneiss with thin well-developed banding and local relict sedimentary textures. Outcrop mapping also reveals the widespread occurrence and great variety of younger felsic and mafic intrusions that were not fully appreciated by earlier mappers. Data integration has allowed better definition of geologic unit contacts around the margins of the CLGC and within some Paleoproterozoic metasedimentary units, which updates knowledge about the Sturgeon Quartzite to the northeast and the Vulcan Iron Formation to the south. Although some analytical work is ongoing, such as radiometric age dating, the integrated mapping effort has identified between five to eight tectonomagmatic events that have affected the region, plus a number of sedimentary cycles. The abundance of processes that have affected the area provides multiple opportunities for concentration of mineral deposits that could be attractive for future exploration efforts. The data integration approach developed for this thesis project should be useful in identifying structural-lithologic domains within enigmatic Precambrian gneiss domes elsewhere in the region and globally.

Simon Carn on Sulfur Dioxide Emissions from Fagradalsfjall

False color image of part of Iceland showing a bright, orange flow on top of older lava flows.
The false-color image of fresh lava flowing south in Iceland was acquired on July 17, 2023, by the Operational Land Imager-2 (OLI-2) on Landsat 9.

On July 10, 2023, lava began to spill from the Fagradalsfjall volcanic system in southwestern Iceland, marking the third consecutive summer of activity at the volcano.

Simon Carn (GMES) was quoted by NASA’s Earth Observatory and eGreenews in stories about the continuing eruption of Fagradalsfjall.

“Based on satellite and ground-based data, emissions of sulfur dioxide from Fagradalsfjall are in the range of several thousands of tons per day—similar to the 2021 and 2022 eruption,” said Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech and member of a NASA team that monitors sulfur dioxide emissions.

Read more at NASA Earth Observatory, by Adam Voiland.

Jordan Ewing Computational Science and Engineering Ph.D. Defense

On Friday, July 21, Jordan Ewing successfully defended the research for his doctoral degree in computational science and engineering.

Advised by Thomas Oommen, with Laura Brown, Stanley Vitton, and Paramsothy Jayakumar as committee members.

Title: Remote Sensing Approach for Terramechanics Applications Utilizing Machine and Deep Learning

Abstract: Terrain traversability is critical for developing Go/No Go maps, significantly impacting a mission’s success. To predict the mobility of a vehicle over a terrain, one must understand the soil characteristics. In situ measurements performed by soldiers in the field are the current method of collecting this information, which is time-consuming, are only point measurements, and can put soldiers in harm’s way. Therefore, this study investigates using remote sensing as an alternative approach to characterize terrain properties.

This approach will explore the relationships between electromagnetic radiation and soil types with varying properties. Optical, thermal, and hyperspectral sensors will be used to collect remote data and compare it against ground truth measurements for validation. Machine learning (linear, ridge, lasso, partial least squares, support vector machines, and k nearest neighbors) and deep learning (multi-layer perceptron and convolutional neural network) algorithms will be used to build prediction models.

Results showed that soil properties such as soil gradation, moisture content, and soil strength measured by a geogauge and averaged cone penetrometer for 0–6” and 0–12” (CP06 and CP12) can be estimated remotely. Deep learning provides the best models for estimating terrain characteristics compared to machine learning. It is shown that this method can produce much finer spatial resolution coverage than traditional geospatial point-based interpolation approaches and yield a higher prediction accuracy. Predictions maps can be used to generate threshold-based Go / No Go maps using a vehicle cone index or as a cost map for vehicle performance. A Polaris MRZR vehicle was used to test the application of these prediction maps for mobility purposes, and correlations were observed between the CP06 and rear wheel slip and CP12 and vehicle speed.

This study demonstrates the potential of using remote sensing data for more rapid and finer spatial resolution predictions of terrain properties with higher accuracies compared to traditional in situ mapping methods implementing machine and deep learning algorithms. The remote sensing approach allows the generation of Go/No Go and vehicle cost maps and, most importantly, provides a safe alternative to keep soldiers out of harm’s way.

Beth Bartel Geology Ph.D. Defense

On Friday, July 7, 2023, Beth Bartel achieved resounding success as she skillfully defended her research for her doctoral degree in geology.

Co-Advised by Greg Waite and Rüdiger Escobar Wolf, with Angie Carter, Kari Henquinet, and Luke Bowman as committee members.

Title: Information Use and Decision-Making for Evacuation at Fuego Volcano, Guatemala Information Use and Decision-Making for Evacuation at Fuego Volcano, Guatemala

Abstract: Active volcanoes are complex, multi-hazard systems. Early warning systems (EWS) may enable populations to live sustainably with volcanic hazards, but developing an effective EWS is far from straightforward, as is measuring its efficacy. At Fuego volcano, Guatemala, pyroclastic density currents (PDCs)—fast-moving flows and surges of hot volcanic gas, ash, and rock–killed more than 400 people during a paroxysmal eruption in June 2018 and continue to threaten the ~60,000 people living within the identified hazard zones. In this dissertation, I use mixed ethnographic methods to investigate evacuations at Fuego during and since the tragedia through three projects. I first investigate information availability and its use in decision-making on 3 June 2018. Next, I examine current practices for evacuation decision-making four and five years after the disaster, focusing on a partial evacuation on 7–8 March 2022. Finally, I use that same event to study how cultural gender expectations impact evacuation strategies and how women’s experiences in evacuation can inform future risk reduction strategies. With this dissertation, I aim to contribute a better understanding of the complex factors challenging the efficacy of EWS in order to improve existing approaches in and beyond Guatemala. In this way, this work aims to serve the population around Fuego volcano and others like it in various cultural, geographic, and economic settings.