The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) have recently funded research and teaching in the department of geological and environmental sciences at Hope College.
Last summer, the NSF awarded a $27,365
instructional laboratory instrumentation (ILI) grant to
faculty members Brian Bodenbender, Jonathan Peterson and
Graham Peaslee for the acquisition and development of an
environmental science laboratory.
A major component of the project is a Geographic
Information System (GIS). "GIS allows manipulation and
display of large geographic databases, and is rapidly
becoming a fundamental tool in environmental science,
ecology and land-use planing," said Peterson, who is an
assistant professor of environmental science. "The GIS
award gives the department and the division the opportunity
to expose Hope science students to one of the latest
techniques in environmentally-related research."
In addition, the grant supported the acquisition
of state-of-the art equipment for chemical analysis of air
The GIS has already spawned additional research
funding. In March, the PRF awarded Bodenbender a two-year,
$25,000 grant to develop a GIS database of fossil localities
in Michigan. Bodenbender's research will help piece
together the paleontological record of Middle Devonian rocks
in the Michigan Basin, dating from 390 to 370 million years
"Rocks of this age preserve an extraordinarily
rich variety of sea floor fossil communities that
paleontologists from Michigan and elsewhere have studied for
more than a century," said Bodenbender, who is an assistant
professor of geology and environmental science. "GIS will
help find relationships among the data from earlier studies
in an effort to better understand the organisms and
environments of the Middle Devonian. This study is
particularly relevant for funding by the PRF because
Devonian rocks have been the most productive units for
Michigan's oil and gas industry."
Ground water research is also active in the
department. This semester, Peterson received a two-year
grant from the NSF program for academic liaisons with
industry, known as GOALI. The $132,000 grant will be shared
with a collaborator at the University of Michigan-Dearborn,
and is funded by the NSF (55 percent) and by an
environmental consulting firm (45 percent).
The research will make correlations between ground
water remediation experiments performed by Peterson and his
students at Hope, computer modeling performed at U of M, and
petroleum-contaminated field sites in the greater
metropolitan Detroit area. The goal of the research is to
develop a model that will predict the cleanup efficiency for
a subsurface remediation technique known as "air sparging."