Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


CARSON III, George L., National Park Service, Shenandoah National Park, 3655 US Highway 211 E, Luray, VA 22835,

Public perception often relates geosciences to the extraction process of various energy resources (i.e. gas/coal), but they fail to understand the intimate relationship the local geology has on the larger ecosystem. This is particularly evident in Shenandoah National Park where visitors generally display a limited understanding of dynamic geological processes that cultivate the incredible biodiversity among the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Shenandoah preserves a complex geologic record that includes the Precambrian granitic basement complex, late Proterozoic Catoctin greenstones, and the Chilhowee transgressive sequence. These ancient deposits were buried, uplifted and, subsequently, exposed during the Alleghany Orogeny.

As a geological interpretive intern, I had the opportunity to assist the audience by connecting them to the geologic story while showing its significance through the local flora and fauna. Through guided hikes, interpretive talks, and evening presentations, my interpretive programs incorporated Freeman Tilden’s interpretive principles while highlighting several big ideas associated with the Earth Science Literary Initiative. Examples would include: Earth is a complex system, Earth is continuously changing, and humans significantly alter the Earth.

I utilized the landscape and current scientific research to highlight the relationship between geology and biology. In doing so, I helped facilitate visitors’ comprehension to the concept of nature’s interconnectedness. As John Muir famously stated, “When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the World.”

Without effective geological and climate change interpretation, visitors will fail to make emotional and intellectual connections on how geology greatly influences habitat, soil type, and water quality in the park. Free-choice learning environments; such as national parks, allow visitors to formulate the link between past geological phenomena, biological diversity and, also, to witness the effects of climate change firsthand. Interpreters in Shenandoah National Park provide visitors the opportunity to care about the geological resources, in the hope that individual action can be taken to protect and preserve the foundations of our national parks.