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Press Release

Western Illinois University

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
29 October 2004

Media Contact: Amy Henson
WIU University Relations
(309) 298-1993, fax: (309) 298-1606
U-Relations@wiu.edu

WIU Geology Faculty Members to Present at National Meeting

MACOMB, IL -- Three Western Illinois University faculty members will present their research findings at the 116th annual Geological Society of America meeting Nov. 7-10 in Denver, CO. Approximately 6,200 geoscientists attend the meeting each year.

Kyle Mayborn, assistant professor, will present his research on continental rifting as expressed by 1.3 billion-year-old rocks in Labrador, Canada. Continental rifting results in magma rising through the earth's crust. A record of the magma is preserved in the dikes that it traveled through. Mayborn is studying the geochemistry of the dikes to understand the evolution of the different magmas that formed them. Mayborn's research will help scientists better understand how and when portions of the earth's crust were formed and learn more about the composition of the planet we live on.

Leslie Melim, associate professor, will present findings from her ongoing research of possible signs of life in the pools of the Carlsbad Caverns, NM. Scientists have assumed that caves were a-biological, meaning that no organisms inhabited the water. Melim, with the help three undergraduate students, contends this assumption with her findings of fossilized "pool meringue" in the caves. The meringues presence below the waterline of the pools suggests that microbiological organisms once inhabited the area.

Melim and her students studied 20 pools during a 2003 two-week summer trip to the caverns. Her research on how organisms can survive harsh conditions, in conjunction with research from several astrobiologists, may aid in the discovery of life on other planets.

Steve Bennett, associate professor, will present the results of his study involving electronic student response technology in geoscience classrooms. Bennett used a system to electronically record students' responses to multiple-choice questions posed during lectures and review sessions. These responses accounted for a portion of the students' grades and served as a tool to track personal progress throughout the class.

In his presentation, Bennett will provide a statistical analysis that suggests that electronic student response systems provide an effective means for engaging students in large general education geoscience courses. He intends to use the system again in a different course in the Spring 2005 semester to further his research.

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