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Quaternary Geology Program

A great variety of glacial, lake, windblown, and river-deposited material deposited during the Quaternary Period overlies the bedrock of Wisconsin. In some places these sediments are absent, but in most places they are tens to hundreds of feet thick and typically show great vertical and horizontal variation over short distances. Understanding the nature and distribution of Quaternary materials is critical in the evaluation of resource and environmental issues and in land-use planning. Therefore, the Quaternary Geology Program focuses on the development and delivery of information in support of the work of regional, state, and federal agencies that research environmental and resource issues.

Research areas

The Quaternary Geology Program conducts investigations on many aspects of the Quaternary geology of Wisconsin. Typical types of investigations include geologic framework studies such as regional (1:250,000) or county (1:100,000) geologic mapping that includes analysis of sedimentologic and stratigraphic aspects of Quaternary materials, research on aspects of geologic processes or history, and research aimed at developing new techniques for studying Quaternary geology. The results of these investigations are reported in WGNHS maps and reports (some available digitally), articles in professional journals, or in books.

Educational outreach

Outreach education is also a major emphasis of the Quaternary Geology Program. One on one consultations, field trips, talks, and short courses are common vehicles for WGNHS Quaternary scientists to describe Wisconsin geology and provide results of research to various audiences (such as the public, K–12 teachers, professionals from federal and state agencies and the private sector, and University colleagues). Another aspect of outreach is the preparation of educational brochures, posters, and books aimed at a non-geologist audience.

Researchers in the WGNHS Quaternary Geology Program are faculty in the University of Wisconsin–Extension’s Department of Environmental Sciences. Faculty and graduate students from the UW–Madison Department of Geology and Geophysics and other college and university geology departments commonly lead or take part in WGNHS Quaternary geology projects. The WGNHS provides support for a Quaternary Sediment Laboratory in the UW–Madison Department of Geology and Geophysics, including a repository that contains splits of all samples analyzed in the laboratory. The program also maintains a digital database of data from the sample analyses.

Other research programs at the Survey

Bedrock geology