2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


SHUSTER, Robert D., MAHER Jr, Harmon D., ENGELMANN, George F. and SHRODER, John F., Univ Nebraska - Omaha, Dept Geography & Geology, Omaha, NE 68182-0199, Robert_Shuster@unomaha.edu

The University of Nebraska at Omaha is designated within the state University system as the metropolitan university. The university is expected to have a close relationship to the urban environment. The university strategic plan includes serving and connecting with its community as one of three major stated goals. In this context, ‘urbanizing’ geoscience speaks directly to stated university goals. This can offset the lack-of-prestige penalty often paid in academic circles by those working on local topics or issues. It is also critical that the urban political base be an informed populace. Several major urban-related geoscience issues face Nebraska (e.g., groundwater issues, lead contamination).

Omaha is underlain primarily by loess, with scattered outcrops of pre-Illinioan glacial till and outwash, Dakota Sandstone, and Pennsylvanian carbonates and shales which are exposed in local quarries. The Platte and Missouri rivers border the metropolitan area to the south and east. In terms of geologic diversity it can be considered as a somewhat challenged locality. Yet, considerable opportunity exists. We think that if geoscience can be brought to people here, significant potential must exist in other urban settings.

To date most of our efforts have been opportunity driven and informal. Efforts include: a) senior theses and independent studies that concentrate on urban geology, especially baseline studies; b) field trips to urban geologic sites (old landfills, mass wasting sites, etc.) in our environmental geology service course; c) an environmental geology lab course that focuses on local urban phenomena with exercises connected to field trips; d) educating students and professors alike on how urban geology can be considered a distinct sub-discipline; e) outreach programs (e.g. summer science camp for fifth through eight graders that use urban resources); and f) collection of materials for a resource manual for K-16 teachers on Omaha’s urban geoscience.