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REU Site: Collaborative Research: Dune Undergraduate Geomorphology and Geochronology (DUGG) Project in Wisconsin

This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). <br/><br/>This project will address how and why dunes formed in various environments in the state of Wisconsin. The goals of this project include providing students with significant earth science field and laboratory training including: field reconnaissance, hypothesis generation, site selection, ground penetrating radar, sediment sampling, laboratory analysis and the dissemination of their results. In addition to its primary role of undergraduate training, the DUGG project is important because the geologic and climatic factors responsible for dune formation in the Upper Midwest remain poorly understood. Historically, these deposits have not been studied in detail because few datable materials are found within them. However, advances in Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating techniques, which can directly estimate when dunes were last active, are greatly improving our ability to estimate when the region's dunes formed . DUGG students will not only contribute to our understanding of the region's dune history, but also provide minimum age estimates for deglaciation, abandonment of glacial outwash plains, drainage of proglacial lakes and the development of the western Lake Michigan shoreline. <br/><br/>DUGG uses current pedagogic models that will benefit society because it enforces 21st century skills to prepare students for the transition to a post-industrial knowledge society and project-oriented world. The proposal includes funds for students to attend regional and national meetings for dissemination of their results and external assessment of the project by the Council of Undergraduate Research. In addition to undergraduate training in Earth Science, the DUGG project will aid in understanding how landscapes respond to climate change. Dune sediments are ideally suited for the dating technique employed in this project and understanding their recent geologic history will help predict how they might respond to current and future climate changes. Importantly, students will be responsible for dating sediments they sampled in the field, allowing them to experience how a modern sediment dating laboratory operates. In addition, dunes are a component of the broader landscape and understanding when they formed will help bracket the development of other landscape features and geologic events. This is particularly important for better understanding both the collapse of large ice sheets that covered Wisconsin in the recent geologic past and the evolution of Lake Michigan's shoreline.

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