BU professor maps northeastern Pennsylvania geology

For immediate release: March 6, 2008

BLOOMSBURG — Nineteenth century technology still has a place in the modern world. Duane Braun, professor of geosciences at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, has the proof.

With a waterproof notebook in hand, Braun covers up to 500 square miles each summer. Four days a week, 10 to 12 hours each day, he charts glacial deposits and the type and depth of material just below the topsoil. During the academic year, at night and on weekends, he draws the maps using plastic Mylar sheets on top of a light table. Over the last 25 years, he and his undergraduate field assistants have charted 9,000 square miles of northeastern Pennsylvania, divided into 157 quadrangles.

“Technology hasn’t changed geologic field mapping significantly,” said Braun. “It is still a lot of ‘boots on the ground’ stuff, just like in the 19th century.”

With a global positioning system as Braun’s only piece of modern technology when he is in the field, no one would guess that his maps eventually end up online and accessible to anyone with Internet access. He uses a computer only as he nears the end of the project. His finished product, Surficial Geology (glacial deposits) maps of northeastern Pennsylvania, are viewable on Google Earth and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Web site, www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/openfile/ofloc.aspx. When any rectangle on the map in northeastern Pennsylvania is clicked, the viewer can see one of Braun’s maps.

Braun is currently the only geologist looking firsthand at the land outside of the coal regions of northeastern Pennsylvania. “This state is about 20 years behind surrounding states in mapping this information on the earth materials immediately under our feet,” said Braun. The maps hanging in his office document his past journeys and his future endeavors. No one would guess that each quad requires 400 to 800 hours worth of work.

Each year, old maps are updated, making them more accessible to the general public. “I am never finished. There is always something to revise,” said Braun. “It’s a never-ending process.”

Town planners, developers and engineers all look to Braun for answers. His maps help them decide, for example, where to place wells, what type of building foundation to use and how difficult an area would be to excavate.

Next on his list to map are “the Shickshinny, Nanticoke and Sybertsville quadrangles,” Braun said. “And, after that, it’s on to Maine.”

Braun will retire from BU at the end of the spring 2008 semester and plans to move with his wife to the Pine Tree State. He plans to work with the Maine Geological Survey to map northern Maine which is, compared with Pennsylvania, “just miles and miles of wilderness to explore geologically.”

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.