Radford University Geology Department digitizes and donates maps to local Scout reservation

Geology Department presents geological maps to Scouts.

Generations of Scouts will be able to better navigate and explore a beloved outdoor destination thanks to the efforts of Radford University's Geology Department.

As a community service project, a team of geology faculty and students has been preparing an updated geologic map of the pristine 16,500-acre Blue Ridge Scout Reservation in Pulaski County. For more than 50 years, the reservation has served as an outdoor oasis for those seeking adventure. Each summer, the site is home to more than 10,000 youth and adults participating in various Scout camps and programs.

Over the last two years, the geology team has researched and collected geological and historical data for the map. They formally presented two framed geological maps to about 20 area Scouts and Scout leaders on May 2 during a special dedication ceremony at Radford University.
Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, along with Artis College of Science and Technology Dean Orion Rogers, Department of Geology Chair Jonathan Tso and the geology team, presented the maps to the Scouts as they excitedly surrounded the completed project. The group was all-smiles, "because the collaboration has benefited both the scientists and the Scouts," said Associate Professor of Geology Beth McClellan.

"For a geologist, to be able to do the work we most enjoy and provide a service to our community is the best of both worlds," she said. "This experience is just the beginning; we are planning more Radford University student mapping projects in the area, as well as future field trips and projects with the Boy Scouts.”

The Pulaski County reservation is mostly untouched, explained Ken Lyons of the Boy Scouts of America Blue Ridge Mountains Council. Its terrain is lush and full of plants, trees and wildlife. Lyons said the council reached out to the Radford University geology department in request of the maps to help uncover and emphasize the geology along the reservation’s many trails, slopes and unexplored areas. One map will be displayed in the Nature Lodge at Camp Powhatan, the other at Camp Ottari. Both will assist Merit Badge Instructors in teaching the Geology Merit Badge, Lyons explained.

"It's been a wonderful collaboration," Lyons said. "We are truly appreciative of the work the Radford University team has done, and we look forward to future projects that will impact both the university and the Blue Ridge Scout Reservation."

Preparation for the map project began in late 2015 under the leadership of McClellan, Professor Emeritus Bob Whisonant, Professor Skip Watts and geology faculty George "Paki" Stephenson. Field work followed in spring 2016. Geology student Antonio Conde '17 compiled the map using GIS, ArcMap and Adobe Illustrator. He also used the team’s mapping, a 1968 map from a Ph.D. dissertation by Robert McDowell (Virginia Tech), scanned maps provided by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and GIS files of the reservation provided by the Boy Scouts. Conde visited the reservation several times, along with McClellan and other team members, for additional hands-on research.

Conde gave a presentation on the methods used to create the final map at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver last September. He also explained the project to the Scouts at the May 2 ceremony, held in Radford University's Center for the Sciences.

"It has been a very rewarding experience," Conde said.

Following the presentation, Blacksburg and Radford Boy Scout, Cub Scout and Girl Scout troops, along with their leaders and family members, met and visited with the geology team and faculty, enjoyed snacks and explored the university's unique resources and teaching tools, such as the Museum of the Earth Sciences and the UAV "ready room." There, Watts gave a presentation on the importance of UAVs (drones) in modern geological investigations, followed by two UAV flight demonstrations.

Many participants reminisced about time spent at the Blue Ridge Scout Reservation. Den leaders Phyllis '98, M.S. 01 and Jon Newbill met years ago at the reservation as young Scouts.

"Many people have come of age there," Phyllis Newbill said, including their three children – all Scouts. "It is a beautiful, sacred mountain retreat and a great resource for the entire New River Valley and surrounding communities to enjoy and preserve."

For more information on the mapping project, contact McClellan at emcclellan@radford.edu or Stephenson at gcstephen@radford.edu.

May 15, 2017
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150