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Welcome to the Geological Society of Minnesota

The Geological Society of Minnesota is a public-spirited, nonprofit educational organization that has been in operation since 1938. Our ongoing mission has been to promote public interest and supply educational support in the geological sciences. We do this by sponsoring free lectures and labs at the University of Minnesota, conducting statewide and regional field trips, holding classroom presentations for schools, maintaining a media library, publishing relevant information for public distribution, and maintaining and expanding upon a series of geological markers located throughout the state.

GSM's exciting, illustrated Seminars are presented by leading professionals in their fields of Geology or Earth Science. These engaging talks are free and open to the public, and are especially valuable for enthusiastic learners from secondary school students to adults. A question and answer opportunity is always included. Where else can you enjoy an intriguing exchange with a leading scientist or educator? Our novice-friendly labs demonstrate at a comfortable pace the ideas and principles of geology and earth science. They allow an involved, hands-on learning experience for beginners, or a helpful refresher for the seasoned enthusiast. These instructive sessions are also free and open to the public. Where else can you actively practice science, under expert guidance, for free?

Industrial Sand Mining in Wisconsin

Geology and Controversies



Kent M. Syverson, Ph.D.,

Professor and Chair, Dept. of Geology

University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire


The sand mining industry has been booming in western Wisconsin to meet increasing demands for frac sand.  Since 2008, the number of Wisconsin industrial sand mining facilities has increased from fewer than ten to 63 (WDNR, 5/1/14), and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (8/19/12) suggests that ~2800 people are directly employed in the sand industry at this point.  Even with the recent decrease in petroleum prices, sand exploration and development activities continue.  Companies are seeking quartz-rich sand (commonly >95%) with high percentages of the strong, well-rounded 20/40- and 40/70-mesh sand grains prized in the oil and gas industry. 

The rapid growth of the sand industry has been met with concerns about environmental impacts and quality-of-life issues. The most noticeable impact of mining has been a dramatic increase in truck traffic on some roads, although some facilities are located directly on rail lines.  Stormwater management following high-magnitude precipitation events has been problematic at some facilities. 

Several other environmental concerns have been voiced.  Sand processing requires much water, so ground-water extraction has been controversial.  Companies have used flocculants to reduce water demands, but flocculant use has been controversial as well.  Reclamation of mined areas, impacts on wetlands, and generation of respirable dust also have been mentioned frequently in the news. 

This talk will provide an overview of the geology of Wisconsin, attributes of “good” frac sand, and controversies associated with sand mining and processing in the State of Wisconsin.

Biography:   Dr. Kent M. Syverson has been employed in the Dept. of Geology at UW-Eau Claire for 22 years. He is a professor and the department chair, and he received the 2012 UW-Eau Claire Excellence in Teaching Award.   Kent has been a frac sand consultant in the State of Wisconsin for more than six years. As part of his consulting, Kent has conducted frac sand projects for sand companies, realtors/land brokers, private citizens, and lending agencies.  He has also provided expert testimony at numerous sand permit hearings.  Kent is well acquainted with frac sand mining developments and impacts in western Wisconsin and has served as an expert for many media outlets.  He also has been an invited speaker at several professional mining conferences.  Kent is co-PI of a $451,000 University of Wisconsin System Economic Development Incentive Grant.  This grant is being used to create a Responsible Mining program in Geology at UWEC.   

Kent received his B.S. in Geology (minor in Chemistry) at UM-Duluth in 1986. He completed his Ph.D. in Geology at UW-Madison in 1992 with a minor distributed between Civil & Environmental Engineering and Geography.  He has published many articles about the glacial geology of western Wisconsin and is a Licensed Professional Geologist.  For more information see 

Monday, Apr 6 7:00 PM
University of Minnesota, East Bank campus
Electrical Engineering/Computer Science Building
Keller Hall, Room 3-210
200 Union St SE
Minneapolis MN 55455
   Map  Direction to Keller Hall

Keep date open for the Spring Banquet & Silent Auction on May 4th, 2015; 5 - 8:30PM. Click here details 

Seminars and Labs

The schedule of seminars and labs for 2014-2015 in now available click here . Note that the seminars start a a new time this year, 7:00 PM 

Field Trips

Next field trip: 

During the months of May through October, GSM conducts a series of professionally-guided, statewide and regional field trips. These are one to three day excursions made to points of geologic interest not usually experienced by the casual traveler. They afford a very memorable and satisfying learning experience as there are always plenty of hands-on and question-answering opportunities. A comaraderie with enthusiastic learners and people curious about their natural environment is always a reward in itself. There is a small charge for any shared expense, and a liability waiver must be signed for each participant.


Speakers for metro area elementary schools are available through the Public Service Committee to help enrich the education of young learners, particularly the 2nd to 4th grade levels.


Membership in the society is open to anyone with an interest in geology. The benefits of membership include

  • Extensive Media Library - GSM maintains a collection of more than 125 geological videos and a growing number of interactive, multimedia CD-ROMs for both windows and Macintosh computers. These are available to the members at lectures or through the mail for a nominal rental fee.
  • GSM Newsletter - A quarterly publication containing announcements of upcoming activities, interesting and informative articles on the earth sciences, GSM project and activity reports, and general club news and notices.
  • GSM Directory - An annual book that is a handy information resource, and makes it easy to access your organization.
  • Rocky Roots ... Three Geology Walking Tours of Downtown St. Paul - A free copy of this popular guidebook.
  • The opportunity to meet others of diverse backgrounds who share an enthusiasm for learning and a curiosity for the natural world around them.
  • The rewarding feeling of supporting a public-spirited, nonprofit organization dedicated to public education.
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