Graduate Student Following In Wanless' Footprints

Posted on 08.23.2015

Kurt Burmeister, a Ph.D. student in structural geology under the supervision of Prof. Stephen Marshak, is following in some mighty big footsteps. He is studying the along-strike relationships between changes in the relative thickness and strength of stratigraphic units involved in deformation and transitions in the geometry of structures in fold-thrust belts. As part of this research, Kurt mapped a region in the in the Appalachian fold-thrust belt of eastern New York State historically known as the Rosendale natural cement region. This region is famous because of its dolomitic limestone, which was a primary source of high-quality natural cement from 1850s-1950s. Rosendale natural cement, which is much stronger than Portland cement, lines the Panama Canal, forms the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, and supports the wings of the US Capitol building.

Coincidentally, this region is where the late Prof. Harold Wanless conducted some of his earliest field studies. In the early 1920s, Wanless wrote a voluminous master's thesis on the stratigraphy of the Silurian and Devonian strata of the Rosendale area. Wanless' thesis includes numerous photographs of many of the long-abandoned cement quarries that have since become overgrown. Burmeister has had fun identifying sites from Wanless's old photos-in some cases, the photos show critical geologic relationships that are no longer exposed and thus are of great help.