In the 110 years since UMBS’s inception, undergraduate course offerings have run the scientific gamut: from civil engineering, to ornithology, to botany, and nearly all things terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric in between. And yet, UMBS has never hosted a geology course.*
But that changes this summer, as Geology of Michigan makes its grand debut at Bug Camp. And U-M Earth students are not the only ones excited about it.
"Any real geologist will tell you that geology should be taught in the field,” says intrepid Geology of Michigan instructor Michela Arnaboldi. “You can show rocks, and find rocks, and look at them as they are, not as specimens for labs. That’s how you learn about rocks in the real world."
Arnaboldi, an oceanographer, geochemist, and lecturer in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is also excited about UMBS as a uniquely situated base of operations.
“Sometimes we teach classes about faraway places, with structures like coral reefs. Maybe one day students will have a chance to go see them. But we live in Michigan, and this is Geology of Michigan! Michigan has a really cool geological history, some of which is very young,” says Arnaboldi.
And UMBS happens to be situated in immediate access to much of this rich history.
“UMBS is on an inland lake of glacial origin, within 20 minutes of two Great Lakes, and close to the Upper Peninsula and rocks that are a billion years old. It’s a dream.”
When asked about Michigan’s most noteworthy geological curiosities, Arnaboldi had an impressive list.
“There are areas in the Upper Peninsula where you can read the geological record to see when oxygen exploded on the planet. The iron mined in the U.P. comes from those rocks!”
Michigan is also home to the very rare Alvar ecosystem - a plain of exposed limestone bedrock covered with sparse grassland vegetation and a rare community of plants and animals. It occurs in only three places in the world: the Baltic region of northern Europe, several counties in northwest Ireland, and the Great Lakes region south of the Canadian Shield.
Arnaboldi looks forward to connecting the geological with the biological through exploration of Michigan’s unique natural resources.
And as for those faraway coral reefs? Look no further.
“We have Petoskey Stones! We did have coral reefs!”
Geology of Michigan will run in the summer term at UMBS, from June 22 - August 17, 2019.
*Correction: In summer 1974, UMBS ran a Pleistocene Geology course. Thanks to unofficial UMBS archivist Mark Paddock!