Students present at Geological Society of America’s national conference

UVU students and faculty attended the GSA's national conference, delivering four poster presentations and speaking in three different sessions. Photo by Daren Nelson.

Undergraduate students and staff members from Utah Valley University attended the Geological Society of America’s Connects 2021 conference in Portland, OR, UVU students and faculty delivered four poster presentations and participated in three different sessions. 

The Geological Society of America (GSA) is an organization of professionals, students and other individuals who are interested in earth science and geoscience. The GSA provides members with career development, research grants, internships and mentoring programs. It is also dedicated to educating the public on geoscience and conservation, according to the group’s mission statement

GSA Connects provides “cutting-edge technical sessions, outstanding professional education, and inclusive networking opportunities that will broaden your geologic knowledge and connect you to [a] diverse geoscience community,” according to their website

Connects took place Oct. 11-13, attended by students and professionals from around the nation who are interested in geoscience. The three-day conference was filled with seminars, exhibits, poster presentations, special lectures and receptions for attendees. 

UVU students and faculty delivered four poster presentations and participated in three different speaker sessions. Poster presentations were delivered by Tyler Hacking, Derek Ashliman and Charles Memmott.

Under the direction of  Weihong Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Earth Science, Josh Leon, a junior majoring in bioinformatics, and Ethan Rumbaugh a senior studying environmental science and management gave a presentation titled: “Investigating Phosphorus and Nitrogen Input to Utah Lake from its Tributaries and the Surrounding Wastewater Treatment Plants.” The presentation examined the impact of harmful algal blooms on Utah Lake, and what role local wastewater treatment plants may play. 

Leon shared the details of participating in the conference. “The research process is the most fun part about all of this. I did research over the summer at Utah Lake, it was for a National Science Foundation internship,” said Leon. “After six weeks, we compiled all of the data we gathered into a spreadsheet and made meaningful graphs and charts to better understand the data. We then put these charts into a powerpoint presentation to present orally in front of professors, water quality analysts from some of the wastewater treatment plants, the Utah Division of Water Quality, and other professionals in related fields.”

Kate Hickman, a bioinformatics major, and Clayton Rawson, a senior in biochemistry, presented their research conducted under Eddy Cadet, an associate professor in UVU’s Earth Science department, concerning the impact of land-use on trace metal concentrations in and around Utah Lake. Their presentation was titled, “Land-Use Impacts on Trace Metal Concentrations in Upland, Wetland, and Surface Waters of Utah Lake.” 

They addressed the impact of land-use types like agriculture or industry on the environment, with a focus on the specific consequences these actions are having on our valley’s own Utah Lake. 

Along with various students from universities in Colorado and other professionals, associate professor in the Earth Science department, Nathan Toke presented: “The Thousand Lake Fault: A Long Recurrence Normal Fault That Has Slowed Down at the Eastern Edge of the Basin and Range.” 

The abstract of the presentation describes The Thousand Lake fault as “a west-dipping normal fault demarcating the easternmost boundary of the transition zone of between the Basin and Range and the Colorado Plateau for 50-100 km in southern Utah.” They discussed the irregular rates of displacement of this fault and the contribution it has made to earthquakes in the region, historically. 

“GSA was my first scientific conference and it was a really fun time! Ethan [Rumbaugh] and I presented on the second day of being there and I thought that we both did very well,” said Leon. “Participating in GSA 2021 has enhanced my career by giving me experience on how to present at a scientific conference. This is important because I’m sure I’ll be at many more in the near future and this is something that I am able to put on my resume.”

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