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Discover Moon Rocks, Isotopes and Earthquakes at EES Open House

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

The University of Kentucky Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) will host an open house next week, giving students and the public an opportunity to learn more about the environmental and geological research taking place on campus.

The open house will be held 4-6 p.m. Thursday, March 5, in the Slone Research Building, located at 121 Washington Ave. on campus.

What attendees can expect to experience:

  • Geophysics Professor Dhananjay Ravat’s lab, which will display rocks collected by astronauts on the moon. Faculty and students in the lab are involved in studying gravity and magnetic fields of the Earth, the moon and Mars, and deciphering tectonic processes responsible for them.
  • Pioneer Professor Mike McGlue’s research group, which uses sediments to reconstruct Earth and environmental history. They use field- and lab-based studies of muds and mudstones in order to answer questions related to climate change, water and energy.
  • Assistant Professor Andrea Erhardt and research facility manager Jordon Munizzi's Kentucky Stable Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory (KSIGL), which uses stable isotopes to understand geochemical processes, human and animal diets, changing precipitation patterns and the Earth’s responses to past and present climatic variation. Attendees will have the opportunity to measure the stable isotope composition of their breath, which reflects their diet: do they eat a lot of meat and fish? Is their diet mostly corn or rice based? Attendees will also learn about some applications of stable isotopes, reconstructing the diets of ancient animals.
  • Associate Professor Kevin Yeager’s Sedimentary, Environmental and Radiochemical Research Laboratory (SER2L), which uses the properties of various natural and man-made radioactive isotopes that are found in Earth surface environments (lakes, floodplains, estuaries, oceans) to date sediments over timescales of years, decades, centuries and millennia.
  • Assistant Professor Ryan Thigpen’s structure and geodynamics group, which answers fundamental questions about the deformation processes that shape incredible mountain landscapes such as the Himalayas, the Alps, the Appalachians and ranges across western North America. Research in this group is diverse and includes studies of continental deformation, earthquake and landslide hazards, and how glaciers and rivers can shape mountain systems.
  • EES Chair Ed Woolery's seismic displays that demonstrate how earthquakes work, as well as the monitoring systems that are used to get an understanding of earthquake threats in the central U.S. This research group uses induced seismic energy along with a line of geophones (seismic sensors) to image layers, faults and structures in the subsurface.   

Teaching spaces will also be set up to show some of the instructional materials, including an augmented reality sandbox to understand the meaning of contour lines, a stream table for understanding river processes and a porosity/permeability demonstration to highlight how fluids can move through different types of rock.  Another classroom will highlight how fossils can be used to understand the geologic past. The instructional microscope lab will demonstrate how rocks and minerals are studied using petrographic microscopes.

For more information, contact Pete Idstein, EES academic lab coordinator, at

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