Many Cache Valley natives and newcomers have heard of Lake Bonneville, but not as many know much about its history and the unique imprint it left on northern Utah.
The Pleistocene lake, of which the Great Salt Lake is a remnant, covered some 32,000 square miles at its peak, including most of northwestern Utah and parts of southern Idaho. Utah State University’s Logan campus sits atop an ancient delta formed by the Logan River flowing into Lake Bonneville.
With a new video, Geological Highlights of Cache Valley, Utah State University geologists introduce fascinating elements of the region’s geology, including “bathtub rings” left by Lake Bonneville, and kick off efforts to share knowledge with the local community as well as USU students.
“I’ve found local students are often unclear about what the lake did and did not leave behind in our landscape,” says Joel Pederson, head of Utah State University’s Department of Geology.
The video also provides an easy-to-understand explanation of powerful tectonic forces that shaped and continue to shape Cache Valley.
“Key elements of the video are its information related our significant earthquake hazards here in the valley, as well as its help in distinguishing the recent geologic story of Lake Bonneville that is so well expressed in our landscape from the much older history of fossils and ocean sediments recorded in the sweet rocks uplifted in our local Bear River Range,” Pederson says.
To produce the video, Pederson enlisted help from USU Geology faculty members Blair Larsen and Amy Hochberg, along with USU science communicator Holly Strand.
“Our goal was to make something that provides outreach to the community and visitors, as well as something useful in education for secondary teachers in northern Utah and in our own introductory geoscience courses here at USU,” he says.
The new video will be featured in the department’s public geology museum, which is currently under renovation in the historic USU Geology Building on the Quad, but will re-open in fall 2018. Pederson says it’s also the “cornerstone” of the department’s YouTube channel, for which the USU professor has big plans.
“We’ve started producing ‘Geominutes,’ a series of short videos highlighting our research efforts,” Pederson says. “These are fun, unpolished, less than three minutes in length and we think they’ll be great for outreach and student recruitment.”
Active in outreach, the USU Department of Geology added the celebrated sculpture Utahraptor to its museum in spring 2018. Created by USU undergraduate art student Justin Tolman, Utahraptor was designed at a scale with outreach to children in mind. The art piece puts the Utah state dinosaur eye-to-eye with the average Utah elementary school-age student.
The department recently dedicated its Centennial Rock Garden, which surrounds its 100-year-old building and provides fascinating rock and fossil samples, with informational signs, for Aggies and visitors to campus to enjoy.
The USU Department of Geology also hosts its annual “Rock-n-Fossil Day” each February. The event, free and open to all ages, provides hands-on learning activities, along with rock and fossil identification.
Student members of the USU Geology Club, along with departmental faculty, are regular volunteers at the USU College of Science’s Science Unwrapped outreach events. Geology faculty member Carol Dehler is featured speaker at Science Unwrapped’s Nov. 30 presentation, during the program’s Fall 2018-Spring 2019 “Powers of 10” 10th anniversary series.
USU Department of Geology YouTube Channel
“Aggie Art Student, USU Geology Unveil ‘Utahraptor,’” Utah State Today
USU Department of Geology
USU Geology Museum
USU College of Science
Science Unwrapped at USU