Prof. Ryan Currier and students' magma simulation

Professors Currier and Forsythe teach ‘magmatic intrusions’

UW-Green Bay is known for its applied research and hands-on opportunities. The Capstone in Environmental Science Class provides both. The class is creating scaled-down magmatic intrusions in the laboratory.

“Magmas (basically molten rock) are generated at depth in the Earth, and can be transported through the crust via magma-filled cracks (dikes),” Currier explains. “Magmatic dikes feed volcanoes, melt the crust, and concentrate economically important ore deposits. However, there are significant blind spots in our understanding of dikes. Currently, the effect of solidification on dike formation and behavior is poorly understood. We are trying to better understand the effect of solidification by studying analog experiments that realistically mimics dikes in nature.”

The experiments utilize porcine gelatin (representing the crust) and wax (representing magma). The wax is injected at the base of the gelatin using compressed air. The wax intrudes into the gelatin and ascends to the surface of the tank, erupting as a lava fountain. Once the wax has completely solidified, it can be extracted from the tank and investigated in exquisite detail, unlike any magmatic dike found in nature.

“Ultimately, we are using these experiments as a lens to better understand dikes in nature,” Currier says. “Variations in morphology, distribution, and activity might all become more clear after our investigation. We repeat experiments for set injection pressures because there can be considerable variation between experiments performed at the same injection pressure. We are essentially trying to map out the range of results for different injection pressures.”

“By the end of the semester, we will have used 66 pounds of unflavored, porcine (from swine) gelatin. Making it is one of the more unpleasant smells out there (think hot, wet dog, or the interior of a dog food factory in the middle of summer).”

Currier says using gelatin as a crustal analog dates back to experiments in the 70s. But using a solidifying magma analog (wax) is somewhat novel.

“Although I did develop the specific experimental protocol, I was influenced by what is already out there in the scientific literature,” he says.

Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.

Feb. 2018 -  Wax/Gelatin Magma Simulation Labs

– Photos by Kimberly Vlies, Marketing and University Communication

Reminder: ‘Searching for Sustainability’ shown on campus, Feb. 13

A fascinating documentary, Searching for Sustainability will be shown on campus, Feb. 13, 2018 at 6 p.m. in Phoenix Rooms B and C of the University Union. An Eventbrite page is being created to help determine an accurate seat count. The event is free. UW-Green Bay Prof. Kevin Fermanich (NAS) and Associate Prof. Debra Pearson (Human Biology) were involved as experts in the film. Included that evening is a discussion panel featuring faculty and local experts. This event is open to all faculty, staff, students and the general public.

Foxconn water usage? Environmentalists watch closely

What does Foxconn’s water usage mean for Lake Michigan? UW-Green Bay Prof. Kevin Fermanich (NAS) and others will be watching closely. He spoke with WBAY-TV about it. “I think the moral of the story is, humans have a big impact on our system, in the water system, and we have to be thoughtful about how we manage and use it,” said Fermanich.

Prof. Fermanich talks the ‘Cost to keep roads clear’ with WTAQ

UW-Green Bay Prof. Kevin Fermanich (NAS) was featured in the news this week. “Truckloads of salt used to treat highways during our winters may be taking a toll on the environment. A recent study suggests more than 40 percent of lakes surveyed in the Midwest and Northeast have more salt than before,” reports WTAQ. Salt run-off is measured by UW-Green Bay. “We are able to see in the winter time, that during high salt usage times, that the level of salt, or conductivity, in the water does increase particularly after snow melt, or rainfall events.” That could be dangerous to fish and other aquatic life. Some municipalities are looking into reductions and alternatives to protect the environment. See more.

UW-Green Bay featured in ‘Into the Outdoors’ this weekend

A 30-minute repackaging of several “Searching for Sustainability” video segments will be airing as an Into the Outdoors broadcast Dec. 23-24 on Wisconsin Public Television. The broadcast features a segment with UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Deb Pearson speaking about the connections between food production, food quality and human health. Issues in the Green Bay area are featured as well, with UWGB Prof. Kevin Fermanich interviewed. The longer WPT preview version of the video is now available for viewing (a UW-Green Bay sponsor logo shows up at about 1:52). Individual segments can be found here. The show will blanket Wisconsin and reach seven states and 22-stations.


UW-Green Bay has large contingent at Great Lakes conference

Last week, 340 scientists, resource managers, municipal planners, non-profit organizations, educators and citizens gathered in downtown Green Bay to discuss ongoing challenges and recent successes in managing and protecting water quality, habitat and species in Lake Michigan. The 2017 State of Lake Michigan Conference hosted by International Association for Great Lakes Research was held at the Hyatt Regency, Nov. 7-10. About 40 attendees were affiliated — either as faculty, staff, students or alumni — at UW-Green Bay.

Many led presentations, poster sessions and field trips. Research and analyses conducted through UW-Green Bay was on display and included topics such as beach and wetland restoration, fisheries, invasive species monitoring and management, health, and water quality in Lake Michigan, especially in the Fox River and Bay of Green Bay.

The regional conference broadens discussion of lake-specific issues by connecting researchers to resource managers to policy makers. Attendees heard from top experts in their fields, participated in stakeholder discussions, and workshops related to education, communication and policy. Three field trips to the Lower Fox River watershed and the west shore of the Bay of Green Bay highlighted conservation efforts underway to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off, PCB remediation, habitat restoration and shoreline revitalization efforts by local communities.

The 2017 State of Lake Michigan conference was the first of an annual series of conferences hosted by the International Association for Great Lakes Research with support from state and local sponsors, and was aimed at promoting linkages between the science and policy communities. Highlights from this year’s conference can be found by searching #SOLM17 on Twitter.

Photo and text by Vicki Medland, Associate Director, Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Reminder: Spawning Run this weekend

Saturday, Sept. 16 is going to be a beautiful day for a run — especially one that benefits local habitat restoration and student research. UW-Green Bay is hosting the “Spawning Run” with proceeds benefiting student research with the American Fisheries Society and local habitat restoration. The 5K run/walk utilizes UW-Green Bay’s gorgeous Cofrin Arboretum Trails. Walk-up registration begins at 8 a.m. with the race start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. Cost is $15 for students and $20 for non-students. Contact for the event is Spencer Vanderbloemen, Register at or like the race on facebook at

WFRV previews “The Great Ledge” featuring Prof. Luczaj

It’s a documentary that takes viewers across Northeast Wisconsin to the Niagara Escarpment. It is a ridge of rock millions of years old — reaching from east-central Wisconsin all the way to Upstate New York. UW-Green Bay Prof. John Luczaj (Geology) is one of many experts in the film telling the story of the natural rock ledge — filled with caves, waterfalls and rocks slopes formed over time, carved through erosian by rivers and glaciers, “People should know the aspects of the geology and biology that are relative to their region,” said Luczaj. “The Great Ledge” premieres Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the De Pere Cinema. Tickets for the event, a fundraiser for that school curriculum project, are $10. WFRV-TV previewed the documentary.