Geology Department News

Updated whenever news breaks!

  • (Presented by Ed Buchwald on Monday, November 6, 2001, at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Boston. The abstract is published on page A-191 of the program.)

    A number of years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to be part of a study group of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The group was looking at the role of science education in the liberal arts. Members came from all kinds of colleges and universities and spanned the breadth of science. Included also were philosophers and historians of science and science education specialists. The final product of that study group was a book titled "The Liberal Art of Science." It covered many aspects of science education including issues of administration, financing, diversity, and inclusiveness.

    During the deliberations of the study group a notion was developed that we named "robustly useful ideas." The concept is that if curricular choices are to be made, then we ought to teach the most robustly useful ideas. Of course curricular choices have to be made. Some things seem no longer important. In science the width and depth of our knowledge has grown immensely. How do we decide what it is that we ought to teach? I have been studying paleontology textbooks lately, and in so far as they are a compendium of what might be taught in introductory paleontology, the list of things to learn is immense. It is impossible to cover all that material. A good question is whether we ought to cover all that material. The AAAS study group thought that if we looked at the most useful ideas in science that would help us to figure out what ought to be taught. In geology what we teach should be concepts that are widespread and help us think about nature as well as other things in our lives.

  • Here are just a few examples of issues that can be addressed with the GIS resources available on campus: determining where new parks are needed in Northfield; measuring a jogging route through the Arb; monitoring watersheds of the Cannon River; identifying areas in Northfield that could be targeted for large new retail stores; planning a project at a biological research station in Costa Rica; finding out where porn shops are allowed in Northfield.

    But what is GIS, anyway? A Geographic Information System (GIS) is essentially a collection of digital maps that can be stacked, viewed, and – most importantly – used for spatial analysis.

  • When she discovered the summer job choices in her hometown of Eugene, Ore., didn't fit her interests of environmental advocacy, community building, and education, Ani Kameenui sacrificed fast cash for a worthier cause. Together with a high school friend, the Carleton College junior founded, organized and now oversees Whole Earth Kids (WEK), a grassroots, non-profit organization that runs free summer camps about environmental issues for children primarily from low-income families.