Geology Club digs up opportunities for WKU students

Madison Martin

If one regularly walks through the lobby of the Environmental Science and Technology building, they might come across a vendor displaying a vast array of rocks, fossils and jewelry. This fundraiser belongs to WKU’s Geology Club, a group of students who are passionate about rocks. 

“It’s a group for like-minded majors to exchange ideas and pleasantries,” Sean Stanley, Fort Knox senior and club vice president, said. 

The club has been established for 25 years at WKU, and contributes to the undergraduate research that the department aims to foster. The largely student-run group is given “a lot of autonomy,” as faculty advisor and associate professor of geology Andrew Wulff explained. 

The group fundraises by having rock sales and sandwich/soup sales to make their many camping and hiking trips a possibility. 

One of their recent expeditions happened in the spring of 2014, when about 13 members flew out to the West Coast to collect rock samples from the Mojave Desert. Before going on such a trip, the students coordinate with faculty to figure out what kind of samples they want to bring back to examine in the classroom. 

“All of the geology majors take a course in analytical techniques, very early in their major,” Wulff said. “So when they bring (samples) back, they already know how to use all of the equipment that we have in the program.”

Faculty members don’t usually go on the trips, placing even more control into the students’ hands. 

“The idea here is that the students are really given the chance to be in charge of something themselves, instead of always having to…be tagging along with some faculty member,” Wulff said. “The club is really, students taking charge, and doing things for students…”

Although leadership and professional development are greatly emphasized, the club has impacted its members and the surrounding community in other ways. 

Having the group brings a sense of camaraderie to the geology department. The group meets together for pizza and Jimmy John’s, as well as movie nights where they screen comically-bad science films.

“It’s pooled some of us that would’ve never talked to each other together…it’s a close bond,” Caleb Koostra, a Bowling Green senior and club member, said. “If someone’s struggling in a class, the club will pretty much do anything to help them.”

The club generates a lot of sales around the holidays, especially last semester, when they made geologic Christmas decorations for the trees in the Dean’s office and the Kentucky Museum. Faculty and staff will even make requests for the student-made ornaments.

Wulff said the members are expected to get involved further and join him in teaching local fourth graders a thing or two about rocks and volcanoes.

As for what’s in store for the current spring semester, the club is planning on gathering this month to set some ideas in stone. So far, an Earth Day rock sale in Downing Student Union is tentative.

Stanley said that the club has worked to “spread awareness of what we actually live on, the rocks that we live on in this area, (and) the rocks that other people live on.”

The club is “always” looking for new members.

“(They) don’t even have to be geologists, just like geology, rocks, fossils, even jewelry and gemstones,” Stanley said. 

But the overall goal, according to Wulff, is to have a club “designed towards giving (students) more than just an academic preparation. They’re learning to advocate their science.”