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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Weather, tortoises, gold panning among displays at geologists’ showcase”

    Tucsonans got to pan gold, observe reptiles and learn about weather forecasting at Saturday’s U.S. Geological Survey and National Weather Service’s open house.

    Workers from the U.S. Geological Survey demonstrated their work to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Dennis DeConcini Environment and Natural Resources building, where they’re located.

    Demonstrations included stream-flow measurements, mineral identification and weather forecasting.

    Josh Ayes, a hydrologic technician for the USGS, displayed stream-flow measurement equipment on a simulated stream.

    Similar stream flow data collected by the USGS at more than 40 locations across southeastern Arizona is used for bridge design, flood warning information and recreational uses like kayaking or fishing, Ayes said.

    Children were able to try their hand at prospecting, as Dave Frank, a USGS employee, demonstrated gold panning techniques used to find precious stones and minerals in streams.

    “”The gold is really heavy, and it will all settle to the bottom of the pan,”” Frank said.

    Tucson resident Robin Isenhour and her son, Sam Isenhour, participated in the gold panning.

    “”We found pyrite, garnets, sapphire and little pieces of gold,”” she said.

    The open house was a good way to encourage her son’s interest in the sciences, she said.

    A rattlesnake, a Gila monster, tortoises and other desert reptiles also made an appearance at the open house, compliments of the USGS Sonoran Desert Research Station.

    Cecil Schwalbe, an assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources, showed some 9-month-old desert tortoises to visitors.

    To adapt to their dry environments, the tortoises won’t urinate for up to two months to preserve water, and they can also lose more than 50 percent of the water in their bodies before needing to rehydrate, Schwalbe said.

    Karen Bohm, a USGS employee, participated in the open house to let community members know about the research being done by the organization, including geology, biology and weather.

    Bohm demonstrated how mineral deposits can be extracted from rock using an acid solution, and how copper goes from “”the ground to your computer wiring.””

    “”If we understand how deposits work, how they’re made and how they mature, we can have a better idea of how to explore for them,”” she said.

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