Core Samples Dig Deep into History of Horsebarn Hill

Campus Life – UConn Today

It’s hard to imagine the iconic Horsebarn Hill looking anything other than the way it does today. But on a cold, windy, and wet day in November, a professor and his students are in a race against the weather to take samples that will offer clues to the landmark’s past before it starts raining on this day, and before freezing weather sets in for the winter.
[Coring] is essentially a way to understand earth history. … With a core, we are actually acquiring a sedimentary archive. — Will Ouimet
This is part of an exercise led by Will Ouimet, associate professor in the Center for Integrative Geosciences, to teach students how to take soil and sediment cores. These cores will also serve as learning tools in Ouimet’s undergraduate geology lab course in which the students will learn how to read the history of geologic layers held in a core sample, in this case at a location that tells the story of the area thousands of years before the University was established.
The sampling process can be tricky. It requires both brute force and some finesse. Mucking around in a cold marsh at the foot of the hill, and lugging two 20-foot poles, a concrete vibration device, and a generator, the geologists carefully choose the site.
In principle, it’s straightforward. Take the metal tube, attach the vibration device to the core tube, then muscle the tube into the ground.
But anyone who has ever had to dig into New England soil will recognize that it’s no easy feat. Having the vibration device attached to the metal tube helps the core tube navigate through silt, sand, and gravel, and cut through branches and other organic debris that might otherwise impede the sampling. Once the tube is sufficiently driven into the earth, the team caps it to create a vacuum …

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