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Science Tuesday: Deepest Continuous Cores of Glacial Sediments Ever Collected from Cayuga Lake Basin

Finger Lakes Terrain
Finger Lakes Terrain

The layers of rock and sediment on the Earth's surface represent both a time capsule and vessel of stored resources. Geologist at the New York State Museum recently completed deep drilling exploration investigations near Ithaca, New York, to investigate Ice Age history. Over the last 2.8 Million years in the Pleistocene, locations like New York have experienced multiple glaciations as the Earth’s climate fluctuated. Yet, we do not have precise information on how many glaciations occurred, or exactly how far or when glaciers advanced.

From October to late December 2019, Museum scientists collected the deepest continuous cores of glacial sediments ever collected in the Cayuga Lake Basin to try and decipher the glacial events in the Finger Lakes region. The sediments recovered and fossils contained within can tell scientists about the past geologic environment and more precisely when glaciers advanced and retreated across New York. By collecting multiple cores and aligning them, scientists can construct a cross section to view the layers of the Earth's surface.

In addition to the "cool" science of finding fossils to radiocarbon date, these cores also provide the best, most detailed information available to identify and characterize aquifers, particularly deep aquifers. Aquifers are sediments that act like a sponge to hold and transmit groundwater. In this study scientists identified and discovered several new aquifers that may provide drinking water to residents. Now mapped and identified in detail, the aquifers can be protected and utilized when needed.

 

Geologic cross section of Ithaca delta plain
Ithaca delta plain
Coring Drill Rig
Coring Drill Rig
Drill casing October 2019
Drill casing October 2019
Coring in November 2019
Coring in November 2019
Coring in December 2019
Coring in December 2019
Recovered core
Recovered core
Organic materials
Organic materials
Close up of organic remains
Close up of organic remains
25,000 year old Salix herbacea (arctic willow) leaf
25,000 year old Salix herbacea (arctic willow) leaf
NYSM geologists
NYSM geologists