Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research can be an integral part of your college education. Every Geology faculty member at Kutztown University provides research opportunities for undergraduate students.

Dr. Oakley has an active coastal marine geology research program involving undergraduates. Her research group studies coastal processes: erosion and sediment transport, barrier island formation and movement, and salt marsh evolution and restoration on the Eastern Shore of VA on the Delmarva Peninsula.  This region is experiencing sea level rise at twice the global average and is often threatened by large coastal storms such as hurricanes and Nor’easters.  As sea level continues to rise, coastal zones will experience more frequent instances of intensive erosion and sustained flooding that threaten existing infrastructure, natural habitats, and communities. To create resilient and sustainable coastal communities, restore salt marshes, and protect infrastructure on barrier islands, we must understand both the current conditions along the shoreline and the underlying geologic history of the region.

This research is a collaborative effort between Kutztown University undergrad students and faculty, Shippensburg University students and faculty, the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), and NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). Results have been included in environment assessment reports and have contributed to NASA’s decision to retrofit and relocate necessary infrastructure for both higher water table levels and future erosional events on Wallops Island. The group is currently working with FWS to study and restore Swan Cove Pool, a tidal pool and salt marsh on Assateague Island.

Four students hold a large tripod while another student climbs it

Marine Geology Research

Students take a core sample for analysis

Undergraduate research is recognized as a particularly powerful and transformative experience.  Recently there has been a push to increase student involvement in research via the inclusion of discovery-based research within the classroom (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2012; Committee for Convocation on Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum, 2015). To that end, all students enrolled in Dr. Sewall's Sedimentology and Stratigraphy course complete an original research project from start (posing a question) to finish (presenting a poster). Research projects are focused in the Kutztown University Ronald R. Rhein Environmental Study Area to maximize independent access and student time spent as scientists. It is not a requirement, but many students go on to present their project at a regional or national Geological Society of America Meeting. 

Potential Palsa relics in the KU ecoplot poster, with graphs and images of the region

Sedimentology and Stratigraphy Research

Palsa Relics in the KU Ecoplot

Geophysics is used to image the subsurface without digging.  The instrumentation developed for this process benefits many geologic investigations, and it can also be useful in the field of archaeology.  Geophysics surveys performed at The Old Charlestown Cemetery imaged a mass burial of Revolutionary War era soldiers.  Ground penetrating radar and magnetometer surveys were used to provide the Charlestown Historical Society with the exact location of the burial so the society could establish a memorial marker for the soldiers. Visit the research webpage for a deeper look at this topic.

Two students facing each other in a sectioned field with an American flag in the foreground

Geophysics Research

Mass Burial Detection