Students explore local geology

October 29, 2014
Students in Physical Geology course explore local geology

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.—Dr. Mari Vice, associate professor of geology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, recently took 47 students in her Physical Geology course on a field excursion to a number of locations in Southwest Wisconsin to examine their geological history and learn how geology, geography and history are connected to one another.

Dr. Frank King, assistant professor in Ethnic Studies at UW-Platteville, and John Eads, geography lecturer at UW-Platteville, accompanied them on the trip.

The trip included stops in Platteville, Mineral Point, Dodgeville, Spring Green and Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo.

One stop on the trip was to see the Van Hise Rock, a historical monument located near Rock Springs, Wis. The rock was named in honor of Charles R. Van Hise, a renowned geologist who served as both a professor and president of UW-Madison and led the institution during the early 20th century. Van Hise is known for developing groundbreaking concepts of structural and metamorphic geology.

Philip Fauble, state mining coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources, led the portion of the trip from Van Hise Rock through Devil’s Lake State Park, where students had the opportunity to explore the north shore of the lake and see the leaves changing colors. Vice said that seeing the area’s fall colors was many of the students’ favorite part of the trip.

“It was great to have Philip lead a portion of our field excursion,” said Vice. “He brought enthusiasm for and knowledge of the Baraboo Hills that the students really enjoyed.”

Another stop included a visit to see the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Wyoming/Helena Valley just south of Spring Green, Wis. Wright, who began the Taliesin Fellowship in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin, was one of America’s leading architects. Vice said that the use of local rock in Wright’s architecture could be related back to concepts discussed in her class.

“Southwest Wisconsin was originally settled because of its geology, especially the lead deposits,” said Vice. “Uses for zinc were discovered after lead mining started in the 1830s or so, and then zinc was mined from the 1870s until the last mine closed in 1979. The buildings in Dodgeville and Platteville are examples of how local rocks were used to build architecturally beautiful buildings.”

“This field trip is the focal point of the semester and is an excellent teaching tool,” said Vice. “It is essential for the students to see geology in action. Overall, the trip, like most field trips, showed the students how information discussed in the classroom, both before and after the trip, related to the landscapes we visited,” said Vice.

Physical Geology is a general education science course that fulfills the natural science requirement. Vice said that students pursuing majors in reclamation, broadfield science, civil engineering and biology benefit from this course by learning about rocks, water and the history of Earth.

Contact: Mari Vice, department of geography, 608-342-1055,
Written by: Connie Spyropoulos, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191,


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