Annette Delaney
Kansas Geological Survey

Kansas Geological Survey honors outstanding students

Thu, 06/21/2018

LAWRENCE — Seven University of Kansas students received outstanding achievement awards in May from the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS), based in KU's West District.

Alex Nolte, doctoral student in geology and geophysics from Wichita, received the William W. Hambleton Student Research Award. As a graduate research assistant in the KGS Energy Research section, Nolte maintains and monitors the KGS’s 15-station network that detects earthquakes as part of a project to determine if carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial sources can be safely injected deep underground for storage and used to produce residual oil in nearly depleted oil fields. His analysis of the data helped confirm a suspected link between earthquakes and subsurface wastewater disposal. William W. Hambleton was director of the KGS from 1970 to 1986.

Elson Core, doctoral student in geology from Puerto Rico, received the Lee C. and Darcy Gerhard Field Research Student Award. A graduate research assistant in the KGS Stratigraphic Research section, Core is studying the characteristics of rock layers in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica that formed at a later time but under similar conditions as the Mississippian Limestone Play found in the subsurface of Kansas. The play is an oil-bearing system of limestone and other rock layers that formed from deposits about 320 million years ago when Kansas was covered by shallow seas and near the equator. The Gerhard award is named for the KGS director from 1987 to 1999 and his wife.

Sarah Morton, doctoral student in civil engineering from Oxford, Connecticut, received the Director’s Student Award of Excellence. A graduate research assistant in the KGS Exploration Services section, Morton uses noninvasive seismic techniques to monitor changes in stress conditions of rocks and soil overlying voids in subsurface salt layers in central Kansas. The results can be used to identify and mitigate potential sinkhole-prone areas. She also collected and analyzed data in the southern Arizona desert as part of tunnel detection research sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and assisted with a project to identify faults at a site near Los Angeles. The award is given for innovative research and outstanding contributions to Kansas science and state service.

Christine Kirchner, a May 2018 KU graduate with a master’s degree in accounting from Ventura, California, was co-recipient of the Norman Plummer Outstanding Student Award. A purchasing assistant in the KGS business office, she processes staff travel expense reports, assists in database management, played a key role in implementing a new financial system and designed a system for identifying credit card transactions. While employed at the KGS, Kirchner also completed an internship with a corporate tax accounting firm in Kansas City. Norman Plummer was a KGS staff member from 1936 to 1969.

Deserae Jennings, doctoral student in geology from Ames, Iowa, was co-recipient of the Norman Plummer Outstanding Student Award. A graduate research assistant in the KGS Energy and Stratigraphic Research sections, she is studying the viability of using conodonts (marine microfossils) to date and determine the thermal history of subsurface rock layers. That includes Kansas cyclothems — alternating layers of marine and non-marine rocks deposited when shallow seas rose and fell in the area hundreds of millions of years ago. Information about cyclothems is beneficial for scientific research and oil and gas exploration. Using her grant funding, Jennings is setting up a lab at the KGS that will be used to process rock samples for her conodont research and the research of others.

Emily Bunse, a master’s student in geology from Cosby, Missouri, received the Jack Dangermond/Esri Geospatial Technologies Student Award. A member of the KGS Cartographic Services unit, Bunse implements updates to the GIS (geographic information system) used by the KGS to create maps and compile data. She wrote programming-language code to automate the processing of LiDAR data gathered through remote sensors for use on geologic maps, converts LiDAR digital elevation data into hillshading on maps and helps KGS mappers learn StraboSpot, a GIS system for collecting and sharing geologic data. Jack Dangermond, president of the Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (Esri), established the award to recognize student accomplishments in the application of geospatial technologies.

Kaitlin Salley, a May 2018 KU graduate with a master’s degree in geology from Spokane, Washington, received the Frank C. Foley Groundwater Student Travel Award. For the KGS Geohydrology section, Salley helped assess the redistribution of water on and beneath the surface following the conversion of open irrigation canals to buried laterals in the Lower Republican River Basin. She also processed well records for the KGS Data Resources Library and prepared data for the groundwater-level measurement program. For her thesis, she investigated whether water in western Kansas playas — intermittent wetlands — helps recharge the High Plains aquifer. Salley plans to attend the National Groundwater Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas. Frank C. Foley was director of the KGS from 1954 to 1970.

The Kansas Geological Survey studies and provides information on the state's geologic resources and hazards, including groundwater, oil and natural gas, rocks and minerals, and earthquakes. It employs approximately 35 students. The recipients were presented cash awards and certificates.

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