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Uncover Hidden Treasures Beneath the Surface: Geophysical Investigations with Eckley Miners' Village image
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July 03, 2024
Uncover Hidden Treasures Beneath the Surface: Geophysical Investigations with Eckley Miners' Village
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Unearthing the Past, Pioneering the Future

Early coal prospectors in Northeastern Pennsylvania scanned hillsides for outcroppings of anthracite to determine where to dig. Later, core samples provided cross-sections of buried coal seams and rock layers, but these samples were costly and difficult to extract.

Today, geologists use sophisticated instruments to measure variations in the earth’s gravitational field, the electrical resistivity of different subsurface materials, and how those materials respond to vibrations to discover what “what lies beneath.”

Hands-On Learning with Dr. Bobby Karimi

Map showing underground mine tunnels beneath Eckley Miners’ Village.

On July 13, Dr. Bobby Karimi, an Associate Professor in Wilkes University’s Biology & Earth Systems Sciences Department, will offer visitors a hands-on demonstration of cutting-edge geophysical instruments at Eckley Miners’ Village. Karimi’s program, “What Lies Beneath: Geophysical Investigations of Minelands,” will show how geologists help us access and understand the vast world underfoot.

Visitors to Eckley on July 13 will work with Karimi to collect data on geological formations hidden under the village. Karimi will then process the data and create visualizations which may show mine shafts or other artifacts of past mining operations.

The Power of Geophysical Technology

Museum display on anthracite geology.

“You don’t have to dig to know what’s beneath you,” Karimi explains, “just as you don’t need to view the earth from space to know that it’s round. Beyond your eyes, there are other ‘senses,’ so to speak, to view what’s inside of the earth.”

By allowing geologists to gaze beneath the surface, these technologies have revolutionized not only coal production, but also resource exploration for oil, gas, zinc, copper, iron, and rare earth elements.

Geophysical surveys can also aid clean-up efforts after mining for coal or other resources is complete.

“How do we fix minelands?” Karimi asks. “Well, first we need to know what’s underneath us. We need to know what to fix.” His current project looks at Nanticoke Creek, where mine-impacted water disappears into the subsurface and travels through unmapped minepools. By mapping the water’s course, Karimi will show where further remediations are needed to improve our region’s water quality.

Join the Exploration

Karimi’s program at Eckley offers a chance for learners of all ages to discover what it’s like to be a professional geologist. As an engineering major at McGill University, Karimi once asked his advisor what his day-to-day career would be like. The answer was that he would have a desk job.

“But I want to be outside,” he remembers thinking. “I want to be in nature. I want to go explore.” Reeling, Karimi sat in on classes until he stumbled upon a geology seminar. Within minutes, he had decided: “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Karimi’s program is the second installment in Energize Eckley, a six-part speaker series running on most Saturdays from late June through August 2024. Tickets to Energize Eckley must be purchased in advance and are $12/event or $60 for a season pass to all six events.

Proceeds will be matched by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to rehabilitate several historic structures at Eckley as an interdisciplinary learning center and overnight lodging, part of a long-term effort to preserve the village and fuel curiosity about NEPA’s singular past. Energize Eckley is sponsored by PNC Bank and Mauch Chunk Trust.