Geography student helps create a depth to bedrock map

July 16, 2013

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Ben Gultch

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ – A University of Wisconsin-Platteville student with a passion for technology and the earth, senior geography major Ben Gultch is helping create a depth to bedrock map for Grant County. Data that he is collecting in his research will be instrumental in creating a more accurate, comprehensive map of Grant County. The Wisconsin Geologic and Natural History Survey, a part of the UW-Extension, is providing funding for the project.

“This research is important because bedrock, if shallow enough, is a restrictive layer that prevents water drainage, which makes it very difficult for the land to be farmed or developed,” said Gultch, who is from Brookfield, Wis. “Once this accurate depth to bedrock map is complete, it can be used as a resource for land use and environmental management.”

“In my research, I carefully review old Grant County plat books, well reports and well-diggers’ notes dating back to the 1930s that are housed in the UW-Platteville Southwest Wisconsin Room and at WGNHS in order to identify the depth the diggers hit bedrock,” Gultch added. “Once I verify the depth of bedrock at a specific well location, I enter that data into ArcGIS. Peter Schoephoester, a geographic information specialist from WGNHS, has been very helpful in teaching me how to most effectively use this system.”

ArcGIS is a geographic information system that provides an infrastructure for making maps and geographic information available throughout organizations, communities and the web.

“Doing the research and recording the data is a very intensive process because there are more than 4,000 points on the Grant County map that need to be verified,” Gultch continued. “I am currently putting in more than 40 hours per week on the project.”

“I love working with the ArcGIS system because I would like to be a GIS analyst after I graduate and hopefully, in the future, become a GIS coordinator,” Gultch stated. “It is amazing to have this research opportunity because it is giving me hands-on work experience in my chosen field.”

UW-Platteville geography professor Dr. J. Elmo Rawling III is mentoring Gultch in his research. Gultch and Rawling are working closely with Dr. Eric Carson, a geologist and assistant professor in the department of environmental sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Extension and an affiliated faculty member of the department of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Gultch’s research will be coordinated with research being conducted by Ben Bates, a graduate of the University of Nebraska Omaha, who is working on a similar map of a number of counties in eastern Wisconsin.

Gultch’s research is part of UW-Platteville’s Tree-Ring, Earth, and Environmental Sciences program. Research conducted in the TREES teaching and research laboratory focuses on reconstructing past environments to better understand current and future environmental change. The lab is a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate site where research is conducted across the state of Wisconsin, Great Lakes Region, United States, Canada and Sweden.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, communications specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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