College Conducting Area Study

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Marcel Haleli (left) and Jonathan Powell of Oregon State University prepare to bury sensors for a geological study. Daniel Gossett (back) with the Clay County Soil Conservation District and Stephen Crancer of Rector have been assisting with the study.

A Clay County site is part of an extensive effort to study the Midcontinent Rift System, the 1,200 mile long geological rift in the center of North America, by a team of scientists from Oregon State University. Through the use of advanced equipment, the study will provide researchers with subsurface images of the Midcontinent Rift System. Locally, the group contacted Stephen Crancer of Rector in regards to setting up a survey system at his rural property, located northeast of Rector.

Researchers Jonathan Powell and Marcel Haleli of OSU buried a system of four electrodes, each in a cardinal director of north, south, east and west, in order to create an electrical field. Through the use of this field and a magnetometer, the equipment will be able to collect data on magnetic and electrical fields at the Crancer location, as well as more than 60 other sites included in the study, to create a more accurate image of what lies deep beneath the surface.

The system can be likened to the use of sonar in underwater studies, with the response of the buried surroundings to the electrical and magnetic fields giving scientists a better understanding of just what lies beneath.

"Each rock type responds differently (to the fields)," Powell said. "The speed with which something interacts with the field will help us determine its makeup. This study will help us better understand what is under the areas we're studying, and how it responds or behaves during this time."

The study, which began in the Midwest in 2011 before continuing in Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio in April, will collect data which will provide great insight for a number of studies. From a geological standpoint, the study could provide insight into seismic (earthquake) and tectonic research, as well as locating fossils, groundwater sources, mineral richness and more.

The sensors have been placed at specific locations within 50 to 70 miles of each other using a grid system. The sensor at Crancer's property is one of six located in Arkansas, and is among those farthest south in the study.

"It's really very interesting," Crancer said. "I was contacted several months ago through Clay County Soil Conservation. They said my farm was the type of area they wanted geographically. When I learned a little about it, I thought it was something that was definitely worthwhile. I told them I would be willing to help anyway I could, and I knew our local agencies would, too."

"A study like this can collect a lot of information that we may not have access to otherwise," Daniel Gossett, district technician for Clay County Conservation District said. "We appreciate Oregon State University for taking the time to come here to Clay County and include us in the study."

Powell says the support he has received in Clay County has been outstanding.

"Everyone went out of their way to assist us there," Powell said of Crancer and Gossett, who were present to work with the researchers at the site. "The surroundings were ideal for what we wanted, and everyone was very accommodating."

The system of sensors will have been buried for a total of two weeks before being retrieved later this month. At that time, Powell and Haleli will begin the process of sorting and examining the data collected. Once the sensors and cables are retrieved, the casual onlooker will likely not be able to notice anything out of the ordinary took place at the site, an important part of the program's efforts.

"The impact is next to nothing," Powell said. "Essentially, we'll have only dug and refilled a few holes over the course of two weeks; two weeks, but we'll have collected years' worth of information."

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