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Penn State DuBois Faculty Present at National Conference

11/8/2010 —

DuBois – Two faculty members from the Earth and Mineral Science program at Penn State DuBois have just returned from presenting their research and teaching techniques at a national conference for educators and professionals in geoscience fields.


Assistant Professor Neyda Abreu, and Assistant Professor Ben Turner both shared their work at the Geological Society of America's (GSA) 2010 Meeting and Exposition at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.  Founded in New York in 1888, the GSA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the geosciences, or sciences related to the study of the planet.


Abreu presented on the benefits of using digital media in the classrooms, which she has found to be extremely engaging for modern college students aspiring to start geoscience careers and on the impact of international field trips into science students’ global awareness.  Her methods call for students to take a personal and hands-on approach to learning.


One example, Abreu explained, uses technology to incorporate video production as part of her course curriculum.  Rather than doing conventional lab reports, students in her Geoscience 201 course instead must produce two 50 minute videos titled, What Does it Take to Become a Volcanologist? and What Does it Take to Become a Planetary Geologist? The videos must include interviews with professionals in the fields, and information pertaining to research in the field.  These projects are intended to introduce students to these geosciences careers first hand, and demonstrate the relevance their course work has in the real world. 


Abreu also presented her findings on the impact field trips can have on students, over traditional classroom learning.  In courses like her Earth 400 seminar, Abreu explained, "Field experience is fundamental to conveying abstract concepts in the Earth sciences.  Some things are just difficult to communicate in the classroom."


As an example, she cited an extended field trip that she took students on in 2009.  They visited the Sudbury meteorite impact structure in Canada, which is the oldest and second largest impact crater on earth, which means it was created by a meteor or other celestial object striking the earth.  Visiting the site gave students a chance to study the effects of such extensive shock first hand.  Aside from learning about geological processes, Abreu said she believes in training 21st century students to approach problems with a systemic perspective. She said Earth Sciences are ideal to introduce future scientists to notions of global interdependence and interconnectedness. 


Turner's presentation centered on methods he has refined and employed to help understand the sources of waterway contamination due to deep mining.  His quantitative hydrogeologic models help to identify the source of contamination, and could possibly be used to control or relocate the point of discharge for such mines.  A bonus in his research is that the same mine pool could also be used as a water supply or geothermal heat source if treated properly.


Turner presented his findings from work he has done in abandoned mines around the DuBois area.  His models illustrate the flow of water, its source, and where it ends up.  His work is ongoing, and could produce a very positive impact on the environment. 


Approximately 6,000 scientists attended the GSA's annual meeting from October 31, through November 3, in Colorado this year.  For more information on the GSA, visit  http://www.geosociety.org/

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