Dr. Jonathan Mies, UTC Robert Lake Wilson Professor of Geology, presented his research on bentonite, a clay-rich rock found near the Chickamauga Dam at the Geological Society of America’s national meeting earlier this month. “Bentonite is formed by the alteration of volcanic ash. The bentonite near Chickamauga Dam is interlayered with Ordovician (450-million-year-old) limestone and is found across much of eastern and central North America. Due to its mechanical properties, bentonite is very weak and is a geotechnical concern to those building the new locks at Chickamauga Dam,” Mies said.

“The radical weakness of the bentonite layers also controlled deformation of these rocks late during formation of the Appalachian Mountains, about 300 million years ago. We came to this conclusion by studying the geologic structures (folds and faults) formed at that time,” he continued.

Mies’s study began nearly three years ago with some help from UTC students.

“Student Chris Howard worked with me as an undergraduate on some outcrops near Chickamauga Dam. We first presented that research in 2008. We continued to work on these outcrops, as a part-time venture, through last summer and presented our most recent results as a poster at this meeting,” he said.

At the meeting, Mies experienced a reunion with Howard, who graduated in 2008 and is currently attending graduate school at UTK. Howard also presented research at the annual meeting.

“All of our presentations, and the meeting as a whole, were great successes. It’s always enlightening to go to such meetings. In this case, it was particularly nice for Dr. Annie Holmes, UTC Assistant Professor of Geology, and I to see our recent graduates and to see that they are doing well in their graduate studies. Chris and I also enjoyed and benefited from discussing our research with others having similar interests,” Mies continued.

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