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Sources: Richard Marston, 785-532-6727, rmarston@k-state.edu;
and Brandon Weihs, bweihs@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

K-STATE GEOGRAPHY PROFESSOR AND GRADUATE STUDENT RECEIVE GRANT TO CONDUCT RESEARCH IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University geography professor and graduate student will study mass movement of rock and cross-valley profiles in Grand Teton National Park. Their work could enhance park safety.

K-State's Richard Marston, university distinguished professor of geography, and Brandon Weihs, graduate student in geography, Crescent, Iowa, will conduct their research July 6-Aug. 5 in Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. The pair received a $5,000 grant from the University of Wyoming's National Park Service Research Station for the project.

Will Butler, graduate student in geography,San Marcos, Texas, is co-researcher on the project.

In addition to funding the basics of the project, the grant also will support Weihs' dissertation research on cross-valley profiles and Butler's master's thesis research on mass movement.

According to Marston, their research will entail describing and explaining the size and shape of glacial valleys in the Teton Mountains. They also will be creating a map of hazards from slope failures, such as landslides and avalanches, within the national park facility.

The team's research will not only lead to a better understanding of the origins of the mountain scenery in the park, Marston said, but it also will benefit the future safety of park visitors.

"Scientists and administrators in Grand Teton National Park are aware of the hazard to park visitors created by rock falls and avalanches," he said. "The hazards are especially critical because of the very active Teton fault along the eastern base of the mountain range. Creation of a map of these hazards will provide the park with another management tool to protect park visitors in summer and winter."

Fieldwork for the project will involve hiking and backpacking to the four sample sites within the valleys of the park, Weihs said. At each of these sites the three researchers will perform quantitative tests of rock properties, such as measuring rock joint spacing and orientation, evaluating water output of rocks and defining the compressive strength of the rocks using a Schmidt rock hammer.

"Fieldwork really means a lot to any geographer," Weihs said. "We must always go to the places we study so that we can see it, smell it, touch it and measure it. They often call this 'boots-on-the-ground' geography. I can't wait to get my boots dirty again."