Wes Weichert; Undergraduate Student
I have always been interested in natural earth sciences and have been and an avid rock hound from a young age. In the spring of 2007, as an amateur gem and fossil collector, I enrolled in geology 100 only to further my general knowledge about my collecting hobby. Although, I enjoyed geology 100 so much that the following semester I switched my major from graphic design to geology and I’ve been here ever since.
I tried to get as involved in the department as much as I could, I wanted to meet the entire faculty and do something. I got myself involved in the geology and paleontology club at UWM and was able to score a position as a student worker in the department. I’ve worked several semesters as a Greene Gallery attendant and helped with random tasks around the department such as moving classrooms full of rock cores into storage. I also helped organize, identify, and label the entire paleontology teaching collection in room 268 by taxonomy, all the way up to order and even in some cases, all the way up to genus species. It was a monotonous task, but I learned really a lot of Paleozoic invertebrate taxa and met some really cool colleagues.
All the years spent collecting unique and rare rocks, minerals and fossils have made trying to focus on one specific aspect of the geological sciences difficult, mainly because I’m interested in everything. From trilobites to meteorites, and everything in between, this defines my fascination with geology, although my concentration is definitely in sedimentology and paleontology. Recently I have been extensively collecting fossils in nearby Silurian and Devonian outcrops, the productivity of these particular rocks and the fossils produced are of particular interest to me. The size and diversity of these animals found in rocks surrounding the Milwaukee area would surprise anyone, and has become a favorite spot for to collect and continue to research the paleoecology of Paleozoic Milwaukee.
- Hometown/High School?
I grew up in beautiful Mequon Wisconsin and graduated from Homestead High School in 2006.
- Year in School and expected graduation date?
I am currently a junior and plan to graduate in spring 2011.
- What brought you to UWM?
My hometown is located only 30 minutes north of campus so it is easy to visit home, and many of my friends from high school also decided to attend UWM.
- What convinced you to major in Geosciences?
My Mother inherited the personal rock and fossil collection of a close family friend and curator at the Milwaukee public museum in the 1950’s, Robert Noll. As a child I was always fascinated by the diversity of all the different rock types and the history associated with them, so my mom gave me the entire collection and thus began my days as a rock hound. As I got older, I continued to add rocks and fossils I found locally to my collection, and occasionally I would buy something unique or rare. When I started at UWM I was actually an art student, and to fill my science credits I decided to enroll in Geosci 100. I figured that I could both fill a required class and get some answers to questions about my rock collection, such as the formational environments, mineral composition, etc. After taking 100 I took historical geology 102 and that is when I made switch officially.
- What field of study would you like to go into and how would you describe it to a prospective student?
All geologic research is interesting, although I tend to gravitate towards soft rock and paleo stuff. I find it intriguing to use sedimentary features and fauna preserved in the rocks to answer fundamental questions such as, what did Milwaukee Wisconsin look like in the past, and what animals lived here? Instead of describing this work to a student, I would rather take them for a walk around Milwaukee and show them some of the Silurian and Devonian exposures in the city. Anyone would be surprised by the abundance of trilobites, and the size cephalopods that can be found locally.
- What's been your best experience so far?
That’s a hard question because I have had the opportunity to participate in so many awesome activities. This last August, I was privileged enough to travel to the southern coast of Iceland with the fire and ice conducted field trip class. Although the oldest fossils in Iceland are only Miocene in age, it was still the most incredible class experience ever. As an avid backpacker and climber, Iceland is the ideal place to visit. Everything from exploring massive lava tubes, to climbing volcanoes, and glaciers, learning about each feature as we traversed it. I learned a considerable amount about volcanoes and was exposed to some modern glacial deposits.
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in field trips, field work, or travel as part of your education?
Required field trips for structural brought me to Devils Lake to map the Baraboo syncline. In mineralogy and petrology we went to upper Michigan’s copper and iron country, and in Geomorphology we went canoeing on the Wisconsin river to calculate stream velocity and discharge. As I mentioned above, with Geosci 558 I went to Iceland and was able to see all the major geologic formations associated with the island. My involvement in Paleo club at UWM has allowed me to collect fossils all over the country, from Ordovician flexicalymenes of Indiana, to Devonian-Mississippian crinoids in Iowa, and massive ammonites and sharks of Cretaceous Texas (just to name a few).
- Have you gotten the opportunity to participate in a student research project while at UWM?
For my structural geology class I was required to complete a research project that I ended up presenting in the student symposium last spring. My proposed project utilized methods of petrographic thin section analysis to both qualitatively and quantitatively define the extent of impact shock metamorphism in a series of ordinary chondritic meteorites. I know it sounds weird for a paleo guy to be researching microtextures in meteorites, but I wanted to do something that not many other students have studied and I had several meteorites in my rock collection that I could to use. Another project I was involved with was helping a team of students and faculty collect data for the Bradford Beach Standing Water Project. I went out to the beach several times and assisted with setting up the GPR and installing piezometers out on the beach.
- What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in geology?
My keen interest in mineral and fossil collecting has been the driving force for my success in the geology department. The opportunity to travel abroad to and the adventurous life style associated with geological science is also very appealing, only in geology will science and recreation blend together so perfectly in field work.
- How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
It’s a growing department, with a great tight knit network of superior faculty and immense graduate students. Most students are friends with each other and are on a first name basis with their professors.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to a student who is new to the Geoscience major at UWM?
Get to know your professors and the grad students, and get involved, ask questions, that’s how you learn and gain recognition amongst peers.
- What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
The calymene celebra’s of the Racine Fm. Dolomite that you can find near the lake front, these rocks produce some of the best trilobites I’ve ever seen, I’d say it’s the best kept paleo secret of the whole city.
- What are your plans after you graduate?
After I graduate with my bachelors I plan to immediately continue on to graduate school to work on my masters and eventually PhD. I hope to one day be accomplished and competent enough to be employed at either a university or with a petroleum / hydrocarbon exploration company.