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Geography, Geology and the Environment


Lisa Tranel

Mentor Department

Geography, Geology and the Environment


State and National parks are some of the most visited wildlife areas within the United States, making local geologic features more susceptible to human-induced change. As more people visit these parks throughout the year, we see major impacts on the interactions between biological and geological processes. This study determines if human activity, through rock carvings, influence erosion rates within Starved Rock State Park and provide a new perspective on our compounding anthropogenic influence on Earth. Through natural stream and artificial human erosion, the base of the bedrock slope is potentially changing at a much faster rate than the upper portion of the outcrop. By monitoring the fragile sandstone cliffs that preserve these human-created carvings, specific erosion data is collected on four different canyons within the park. Canyon wall data are collected and monitored using an Empire contour gauge, a rebound Schmidt hammer, and an iPhone 13 LiDAR camera with the 3D Scanner app program to determine seasonal variations in erosion throughout the park as well as the influence of surficial case hardening on the outcrops. The contour gauge and Schmidt hammer data collected suggest the bedrock of the area is affected on a small, millimeter scale within a course of a year. Comparing data collected from the carvings to bedrock that is naturally eroding without human influence exhibits localized changes to the bedrock that is connected to long-term erosion of these surfaces. Analysis of Schmidt hammer values and previously collected thin sections indicate that some locations have stronger rock surfaces driven by differences in cement concentrations from the surface to the interior of the rock outcrops. Differences in rock strength produce variation in erosion rates across the canyons and provide context to seasonal implications for weathering. Future research identifying the magnitude of this impact over a longer period, as well as the impact on other lithologies, can prove to be valuable in increasing education and awareness at other state or national parks.

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