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-- Campus --
Keck grant funds groundwater and soil research

By Laurel Willoughby, Assistant Editor

If the five new holes in the ground in Parkland make you afraid that gophers have invaded the area, let Geosciences Professor Duncan Foley put your fears to rest.

The holes are actually resource protection wells drilled this spring - three at Gonyea House and two at the PLU golf course - to help Foley and his students study soil samples and the flow of local groundwater. A piece of the $500,000 Keck Foundation grant for Geosciences and Physics is funding the group's activities.


"This fall, students will begin looking at the processes of deposition - the type of sediments and where we found them - to tell us more about how the local area was formed."

Duncan Foley, Associate Professor of Geosciences

One facet of the research involves monitoring the water level in the wells.

Photo Credit: Chris Tumbusch
Photo Credit: Chris Tumbusch
Associate Geosciences Professor Duncan Foley and Regis Costello '00 check soil samples at a resource protection well drilled on campus in May.
"We had expected well-water levels to be higher in the wells than in the surrounding creeks, but they were lower," Foley said. "We will need to do more research to understand the connection, or lack thereof, between the creeks and the groundwater. Understanding this connection is fundamental geological information that can be used, for instance, to help in salmon recovery."

The other part of the study lies in analyzing soil samples taken from the wells.

"This fall, students will begin looking at the processes of deposition - the type of sediments and where we found them - to tell us more about how the local area was formed," said Foley. Chunks of wood also brought up from the well-drilling will give additional clues.

Data from sediments encountered in the wells will be interpreted and incorporated into regional geological mapping that is being done by researchers from the University of Washington.

At PLU since 1986, Foley most recently has co-authored (with G.D. McKenzie and R.O. Utgard) the second edition of "Investigations in Environmental Geology," published by Prentice-Hall Publishing Company. Other Keck-funded projects in geosciences include the construction of a geographic information systems laboratory, a microscopy laboratory and a research-grade seismic station.

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