West Virginia University geologist Amy Weislogel studies grains of sand for a living.

As a sedimentary geologist, she has worked in Montana, the Gulf Coast, and provinces in China examining grains of sand in geologic formations to help explain the earth’s dynamic history and trace the location and the age of ancient mountains.

Weislogel’s work mapping ancient windblown dune deposits or the sand channels of ancient river beds can play a major role in helping an energy-challenged world continue to use one of its most abundant natural resources by helping locate potential underground storage sites for carbon dioxide produced from burning coal and other fossil fuels – a process known as carbon sequestration and storage.

She will team with WVU Geology and Geography Department colleague Timothy Carr to evaluate potential carbon sequestration sites in China as a part of the recently signed US-China Clean Energy Research Initiative that is being led by WVU as part of its Advanced Energy Initiative.

“We will make a trip there in February,” she said.

Weislogel joined the WVU Geology and Geography Department in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences last year after teaching at the University of Alabama. A native of Erie, Pa., she first came to West Virginia for a rafting trip as a college student.

Though all of her degrees are in geology, she began her college career thinking she would major in government or political science.

“But, I liked the field trips in the geology courses I took as an undergrad,” she said. “That’s what got me hooked.”

While pursuing her Master’s Degree at New Mexico State University at Las Cruces, she met her husband, Philip Dinterman, a geologist who now works for the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey.

She received her doctorate from Stanford University, where she worked on basin analysis and tectonics in China.

“Working in China was great,” she said. “The geology was interesting, the scenery was beautiful, and I really liked the people I met.”

Her anticipated work in China may help the US and China with carbon storage issues that are critical to continued responsible use of fossil fuels without further contributing to global climate change. Weislogel explained that the first trip to China will likely be what she called a “pre-feasibility study.”

“Basically, we will search the literature and the data Chinese scientists can make available to us, and then make a rough identification of potential sequestration targets,” she explained.

Weislogel expects to return to the Shanxi Province where she has done field work in the past.

“Longer term, we hope we can assess the suitability of the region as demonstration sites for carbon storage,” she added. “We look for the same things that the petroleum geologists look for: high porosity; a trap rock above, and the right structural configuration.”

In the meantime, Weislogel stays busy teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses.

“I like teaching – particularly the undergrad geology majors,” she said “They’re excited, and the whole world of geology is just beginning to open up to them.”

She stresses the importance of understanding the fundamentals of the discipline.

“The issues of the day are interesting,” she said, “but we aren’t here to teach the issues of the day. We are here to teach the fundamentals. Geology is like medicine. You need to learn the whole system before you can specialize in a part.”



CONTACT: Gerrill Griffith, WVU Research Corp.
304-293-3743; Gerrill.Griffith@mail.wvu.edu

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