By Jake Weber
Geology students Abby Williams, '12, and Aaron Hiday, '13, won the Austin A. Sartin Best Student Poster Award at the 2011 Geological Society of America (GSA) annual meeting held last month in Minneapolis. Their poster was part of the undergraduate research session sponsored by Sigma Gamma Epsilon, a national earth sciences honorary society.
"This is a fantastic honor for Abby and Aaron. They were in competition with undergraduates from across the country and there were many impressive student projects," noted department chair Thom Wilch, who advised the pair. "The judges commented on how well Aaron and Abby presented their research and addressed questions."
Hiday and Williams' poster covered work they did in the summer of 2011, studying the turbidity of Rice Creek near Albion College. Williams explained that like many living organisms, streams have a 24-hour cycle, during which the water flows at different rates and becomes more or less cloudy, or turbid. "Our analyses of the turbidity revealed that daily cycles appear to be related to other stream parameters we examined, including pH and total suspended solids," said Williams.
"It's always fun to work in streams and dig around in the dirt," Williams added of the field work. "The data analyses and literature research were equally valuable but I definitely preferred to be outside."
Hiday noted that their research projects raised many interesting questions. "Rice Creek has a lot of large wetland areas adjacent to its banks. I found wetland groundwater levels cycle as well, and these cycles are more regular than the stream level cycles," he said. At the GSA conference, Hiday saw research done in Montana, where rivers without wetlands also had turbidity cycles. "We are honestly not sure what causes these daily cycles—yet," he concluded. "It's something that we are continuing to work on."
Lastly, Williams noted that the conference was "a really positive experience and being able to share all of your hard work with people who don't know you is really fun. I also enjoyed learning a lot from other people at the conference."
A geology major from Stillwater, Minnesota, Williams presented other Albion College research at a GSA regional meeting earlier in 2011. Hiday is also a geology major, from Burlington, Michigan.