In the Company of an Expert Alumnus
The first Saturday after classes started last fall, students might have been excused for not bouncing out of bed at 7 a.m. But that was the appointed hour for geology students to gather for a field trip to the Baraboo Hills, about 100 miles north of Beloit.
“They’re geology students,” says Sue Swanson, Weeks Professor in Physical and Human Geography. “They like to do this kind of stuff.”
All told, 25 students joined Swanson and associate professors Jim Rougvie and Jay Zambito for the expedition.
Field trips are a hallmark of Beloit’s geology department, but this was a first: It was the inaugural student/faculty trip underwritten by the newly established Richard A. Davis’59 and Mary Ann Davis Endowed Travel and Research Fund for Geology. What’s more, Mary Ann Davis and Richard “Skip” Davis’59, a distinguished research professor emeritus in coastal geology and sedimentology at the University of South Florida—and an expert on the Baraboo area—met the Beloit group and led them on the day-long tour.
The Davises reside in Rockport, Texas, but they’ve spent summers in the Baraboo area for decades for relaxation and research. Skip Davis recently edited an updated version of Geology of the Baraboo, Wisconsin, Area: A GSA Field Guide, published in 2016 by the Geological Society of America.
In the guide’s introduction, Davis describes the Baraboo area as “an exceptional outdoor classroom area that contains a spectrum of geology, including excellent examples of geomorphology, glacial geology, structural geology, petrology, stratigraphy, and sedimentology.”
Of special interest are many exposures of Baraboo quartzite that were folded and uplifted into the Baraboo Hills 1.4-1.65 billion years ago. The range of hills is overlain by Cambrian sandstones and rock conglomerates deposited some 500 million years ago on the hilltops, which were islands in a tropical sea at the time. Glaciers last bumped up against the Baraboo Hills about 20,000 years ago, nearly a blink of an eye in geological time.