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Department of Geology at the University of Minnesota Duluth
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Jim Miller Awarded the 2012 Goldich Medal

Jim Miller, associate professor, was awarded the 2012 Goldich Medal at the 58th Annual Institute on Lake Superior Geology held in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in May 2012. The Goldich Medal is awarded annually by the ILSG Board of Directors to a geoscientist who has made particularly noteworthy and meritorious contributions to the understanding of Lake Superior geology and mineral deposits.

Geology Department Head's Book Wins Nemba Award

Department Head Ron Morton’s newest book "Ancient Earth and the First Ancestors: A Cultural and Geological Journey" (with Carl Gawboy) won the Northeastern Minnesota book award for the best general nonfiction book of 2011. Crafted as a dialogue between and Ojibwe elder and a geologist, this book literally follows their real-time travel and conversation around Minnesota's major geological formations. (read more)

Walk All Over the World in Heller Hall!

Heller Hall Floor Map

Two huge floor maps on the first floor of Heller Hall provide two different views of Earth’s surface. One floor map (shown above - NOT actual size) is LANDSAT satellite image, which provides a cloud-free view of Earth’s surface.This map contains three parts: the north pole region, south polar region, and the main image. The main image map is approximately 11 feet high and 20 feet long; the two polar regions occur as ~3 to 4 feet diameter disks.

Paul Morin (Director of the Antarctic Geospatial Information Center, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota) provided UMD with the LANDSAT images. Clearly visible on the LANDSAT images are ice cover regions, mountain belts, deserts contrasting with regions of major vegetation, and major lakes (including our own Lake Superior!). The ocean regions appear stripped of water with underwater mountain belts and fracture zones, many of which mark Earth plate boundaries, decorating the huge ocean basins.

Earth Topo
Image credit: Bathymetry data and imagery provided by David T. Sandwell, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Walter H. F. Smith, NOAA. Land topography data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The second floor map (shown above), a whopping 18 feet high and 40 some feet wide, portrays the surface of the Earth in a bright pallet of color. As with the LANDSAT image the north and south polar regions are shown in separate polar projections, with each polar region shown as a 3 to 4 foot diameter disk.

The colors represent different levels of elevation (on land) or bathymetry (topography of the ocean basins). Within the continents mountain belts are clearly visible with the Himalayan Region and Andes clearly the highest regions, yet the long chain of mountains along the west coasts of North and South America rivals all others in terms of length. The broad continental shelves, clearly visible in the bathymetry, display how much more land mass our early ancestors could access during the last glaciations when much of Earth’s water was captured as ice on land, lowering global sea level. Spreading centers, major plate boundaries where new ocean crust is formed, rise as linear chains of mountain belts with in the oceans, the Mid Atlantic Rise being the most prominent, tracking from Iceland south through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean basin. Convergent plate boundaries, or subduction zones, where Earth’s ocean crust is recycled to the mantle occur as long narrow, but very deep troughs, ringing the Pacific Ocean basin in the most prominent example.

The floor maps (both the LANDSAT suite and the topography/bathymetry suite) will be used in several classes by UMD students; they will also serve as a research tool for UMD faculty and students. But perhaps most fun, the floor maps will not (and cannot!) be hidden away in classrooms or closets — but rather they are on permanent display for all people to enjoy. One needs only to walk the halls of the first floor of the Heller Hall building.  

The topography and bathymetry maps have an added bonus in that the colors were specially selected such that the topography and bathymetry appear in 3D if one wears special glasses. The UMD Department of Geological Sciences will have a number of pairs for the special glasses that groups could arrange to borrow for special viewing. Special glasses or not, the topography/bathymetry floors maps are spectacular. Nowhere else is this data set available for viewing at such a scale.

The floor maps, and the Venus wall mural, were installed, and will be cared for, by UMD’s Facilities and Custodial Maintenence Departments, with installation guidance and direction provided by Tim Motzko, Graphic Production Manager, Science Museum of Minnesota. Tim Motzko also directed the final layout and printing of the Heller Hall floor maps and the Venus wall mural.