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Analytical Tools

Some of the equipment is kept in cabinets, so if something is listed and you can't find it, it may be put away somewhere. Links to the equipment indicates that a tutorial for that item is available.

Name Description

GPS Units

Several GPS units including pocket units as well as some larger more powerful units.


A flatbed scanner used to scan rock slabs & thin-sections.

Current Meters

Several models, some electronic and some mechanical. Used for finding the velocity of current in a stream or river.

Cathodoluminescence Scope

A machine for illuminating minerals in thin sections in a new and different way which is useful for differentiating and highlighting certain minerals.

Fritsch Automatic Mortar and Pestle

A motorized agate mortar and pestle used for preparation of samples for x-ray and other chemical analyses.

Ion Chromatograph

This instrument is capable of achieving sensitive, accurate results for anions, cations, organic acis or amines.

Plane Tables and Alidades

Traditional equipment for drawing scale maps of an area in the field with paper and pencil, used before computers were commonplace.

X-Ray Diffractometer

Used for identifying minerals in rock and sediment samples. Has a reference database for matching unknowns with known minerals. People are trained how to use the XRD in Mineralogy class.

SPEX Fluxy automatic fluxer

For making fused beads for XRF anaylsis.

EDX Analyser

Oxford model 7021. Mounted on a scanning electron microscope and used for mapping and analysing rock samples.

Automatic Levels

Telescopic levels for field mapping. Allow you to sight a level line for perhaps a quarter mile. Used for making maps, beginning in Geomorphology class.

Rock Saws

There are two rock saws in the Dirty Work Room. They are intended mainly for cutting samples and making thin section chips, but you may use them to cut personal samples as well. Bookend type rocks are not recommended though, since they tend to be huge and wear down the blades a lot.

Vi-Bro-Lap Rock Polisher

For polishing large rock slabs to show off the structures within.


For analyzing sediment samples.

Ro-Tap Sieve Shaker

This machine will shake a set of sieves in a way that is predictable and reproducible for processing multiple samples in a sedimentology study.

Rock Crusher and Grinders

There are three rock grinders for reducing rock samples to a powder. They are not difficult to use, but can be hazardous if misused and you must receive instruction before you use them. Since they are for use in chemical analyses, they have to be thoroughly cleaned between each sample. Used in geochemistry for X-Ray Fluorescence and other procedures requiring powdered samples.

Large Ultrasonic Cleaner

A large sink-size ultrasonic cleaner for removing particulate matter from fossils and other samples. This machine is easy to use but easily damaged if you turn it on without water in it, so please do not turn it on unless you have had some instruction about it.

Frantz Isodynamic Separator

A magnetic separator for powdered mineral samples. Allows separation of heavy or metallic minerals from the sample without using toxic heavy liquids. This machine was originally purchased in the 1940's but was upgraded to modern standards in 1995.

Thin Section Equipment

There are several grinding laps and one "thin section machine" for preparation of thin sections. Thin sections are slices of rock or fossil mounted on a glass slide and ground to 30 microns thickness. You may learn how to use these in petrology or paleontology classes. Initially it can take several hours per thin section to make them, but with practice you can make them in an hour or so.

Engineering Seismograph

A twelve channel, digitally recording seismograph used to find the depth to bedrock or another hard layer in the ground. Uses a sledge hammer to generate seismic waves and you analyze the patterns of the refracted return waves to figure out the depth to bedrock. Requires training, and each seismic sounding takes 30-60 minutes to do.

Earth Resistivity Meter

An electronic instrument for mapping soil or rock anomalies in the ground. The process involves placement of 4 or 5 electrodes in the ground and passing an electric current between them, measuring the voltage drop per unit of distance of ground covered. Can be used to identify old foundations, buried river valleys, plumes of pollution in the ground water, or changes in the soil or water table.


Another electronic instrument for measuring anomalies in the ground based on the ground's magnetic susceptibility. Uses are similar to the resistivity meter.

Rock Drill

Gasoline powered drill for getting an oriented core of a rock unit in the field. The cores are about an inch in diameter and up to several inches long. Can be backpacked if you are energetic.

Dissolved Oxygen Meter

For assessing the oxygen content of water in lakes and streams.

Conductivity Meter

For assessing the level of dissolved solids in lakes and rivers.

F-71 Stereoscopes

Viewers for looking at pairs of aerial photos; these are the items in the Army-green cases.

Binocular Microscopes

For examining rock samples and other small objects. We have a number of utility scopes in the classrooms and one research-quality binocular microscope in the Optics Lab which has attachments for sketching, photography, and transmitted light.

Zoom Transfer Scope

An optical instrument for overlaying two opaque pictures such as maps and air photos. The view of one of the objects may be rotated, stretched or enlarged so that it fits onto the other object. This can be used to transfer map information to an air photo or vice versa.

Collection of photographic slides

Slides to illustrate lectures; the collection consists of approximately 7000 slides.

Dana Collection of Minerals

Approximately 4000 mineral samples from all over the world. Used for mineralogy class and as a reference set.

Fossil Collection

Approximately 3000 fossils used as a reference set and for paleontology and other classes. Values vary widely from very little to several hundred dollars per specimen.

Rock Collection

Over 2000 rocks of various compositions. Used as a reference set for many classes.

Rock Suites

Small collections of rocks representing interesting assemblages from various localities.

Crystal structure models

For demonstrating crystal structures, defects, systems etc in classes.

Drying Ovens

Ovens that are roughly a cubic half meter in volume. For heating and drying samples to about 200 degrees C.

High Temperature Oven

An oven that will heat a sample to 1200 degrees C.


Several types of balances ranging from simple beam balances to various electronic balances for weighing samples. Some models are portable but less sensitive.

Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer

An instrument for determining the concentration of a given element in a sample. Can analyze for one element at a time with parts per million accuracy. You make standards with known concentrations of the element in question and the machine compares the samples with unknown concentrations to the standards of known concentrations to figure out the concentration of the element in the samples. Requires training to use.

"Roto Torque" Mixer

A machine upon which you can mount several test tubes or other sample containers. The machine rotates and agitates the samples for the length of time and speed you set for good mixing.

Petrographic Microscopes

For looking at thin sections of rocks. Some of the scopes have extra capabilities such as dual viewing, photography, etc.

Mechanical Stage

An accessory to the petrographic microscopes for systematic sampling of specimens in thin sections. Used for mineralogical analysis of rocks.

"Swift" Automatic Point Counter

A mechanical stage which is automated for faster working.

Universal Stage

An attachment for a petrographic microscope which enables the petrologist to determine the orientation of individual grains in a thin section. Used mostly for structural geology research projects.


Six aluminum canoes for research projects in wilderness areas or rivers. On a trailer.

Duck Boat

Aluminum flat-bottomed boat useful where a stable working platform is needed in studies on lakes. While the boat is designed for an outboard motor, the current propulsion system involves oars and biceps.