Markwort '04 studies, tastes rocks

by David Klein | 9/25/03 5:00am

While hot dogs and hamburgers are often the staple of summer meals, senior Ross Markwort's diet over the past two months was unusually mineral-rich. Using a variety of techniques, including cleaning, acid testing and even tasting rock samples, Markwort honed his geographical mapping techniques this summer on the University of Michigan's Geographical Field Studies program.

Markwort's foray into geology came about largely by chance. Needing a third course over his sophomore summer, Markwort took a friend's advice and enrolled in a mineralogy class. His fascination with minerals inspired him to switch his major from computer science to earth science.

As an earth science major, Markwort was required to participate in a field studies program. Unable to attend the College's Fall term program due to Water Polo, Markwort opted to take part in a similar offering from the University of Michigan.

According to Markwort, over the course of the eight week program he "mostly learned about geo mapping -- how to take good observations in the field and use them to construct accurate maps." He used several hundred measurements in order to "guess what lies beneath the earth" and find out the geological history of the area.

"Interpreting the past is often the key to the future," Markwort noted.

Markwort's travels took him throughout several states out west including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. A normal day consisted of a six o' clock wake up, followed by breakfast and a short hike. Markwort would then spend several hours working with a variety of rock formations, ranging from young lava fields in Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument, to over 2 billion year-old granite formations in Pike's Peak, Colorado.

In order to determine what type of rock he was working with, Markwort would a break off a piece of the formation to observe a clean surface. He often used methods such as chewing the rock to determine grain size and tasting the rock (rocks with calcium carbonate, for example, taste salty) to reach a verdict.

After determining the rock type, Markwort would then use a compass in order to determine the rock's orientation.

Markwort hopes to further his education in geology with a stint at graduate school.

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