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Drew Laskowski '10: "Geology Affects the Way People Live on the Earth"

Drew Laskowski in Colorado’s Sawatch Range – “one range over” from the Needle Mountains, where he’ll be collecting data this summer for his senior Honors thesis.Geology wasn't even on Drew Laskowski's radar when he started at William and Mary. Then he took an introductory course with Professor Chuck Bailey, who got him excited about geology and involved in undergraduate research. "It was amazing to be working with a professor my freshman year, doing geology in the field," Drew said.

Drew grew up hiking and skiing in the mountains of Colorado, and geological field work is a natural fit. He's capping his Geology major (with a concentration in "hard rock" general geology) with an ambitious summer research agenda and a senior Honors project.

From May through early July he'll participate in an eight-week field project at the University of Southern Maine, funded by the National Science Foundation.

"We'll be working from kayaks in Casco Bay, Maine, mapping bedrock structures in the granitic basement along the coastline," said Drew. "The goal is to obtain enough data points to produce high-resolution geologic maps." Survey data collected through the project will be combined with aerial imagery to construct a database for spatial analysis in geographic information systems (GIS). Drew will present the results of his individual project in abstract and poster form at the joint Northeast and Southeast Section Geological Society of America meeting.

In late July Drew will begin two weeks of field work in the Needle Mountains of Colorado, collecting data he will use for his senior Honors thesis. The schedule was determined by residual snowfall, which doesn’t clear until late summer.

"The field site is 12,000 feet above sea level and higher. I'm planning to ramp up my exercise this summer to get ready to work at that altitude. It's also pretty remote - from the nearest access point to camp is a backpack of a full day."

Plans for the research are described in Drew's Honors proposal (approved in May 2009):

Drew presented a research project from his Advanced Structural Geology Seminar at the 2009 Southeastern Section Geological Society of America Meeting."Fieldwork will involve detailed mapping of shear zones around the study site. Rock type, foliation, and lineation data will be obtained for each outcrop. Shear sense indicators will be noted in high-strain zones. GPS receivers will be used to precisely map the boundaries of the shear zones.

"Oriented thin sections will be collected from high-strain zones across the study area. In the lab, thin sections will be analyzed under a petrographic microscope to determine the sense of shear, to quantify vorticity and to look for evidence of volume loss. A complete petrographic analysis will be performed using x-ray fluorescence mass spectrometry to determine the major and trace element abundances both outside and inside the shear zones."

On his return to campus, Drew will use the data he collected to conduct a vorticity analysis to determine how shear zones accommodated collisional strain by changing the shape and volume of rocks. "We're getting actual numbers to describe what happened to these rocks over 500 million years ago, during the assembly of ancestral North America," Drew said.

Alongside his classwork and field trips, Drew works part-time at a local GIS agency. He's also a campus tour guide, orientation aide, and member of the Rugby Club. "I've made a lot of friends both inside and outside Geology," he says. "It's not all weekends in the field and hanging around McGlothlin-Street Hall."

According to Drew, "One of the best courses at the College is the summer field course, Geology 310. It's not restricted to majors, it's fun, and it integrates all of the core subjects of geology. It's a unique opportunity to spend a month with a professor applying knowledge in the field."

After graduation Drew hopes to continue straight into graduate school and then pursue a career in geology. There's no doubting his dedication to the field: "Geology teaches a basic understanding of where our natural resources and energy come from, and how policy in these areas affects our lives. Geology affects the way people live on the earth."

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