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MITEP Showcase

Earth Science Interpretation Efforts as a Geological Intern at Isle Royale National Park


Isle Royale National Park is a geologically significant place, a fact which is often overlooked by the park staff and public, due to the prevalence and awareness of the biological themes of the park, such as its place as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the long-standing wolf-moose project.

As a summer interpretive intern, my goal was to give more of an earth science focus to visitor programs. In addition, I worked as part of the MiTEP program, an NSF funded program aimed at earth science teachers. Two of the MiTEP teachers did park internships during my internship and developed lesson plans using Isle Royale themes.

Isle Royale provides excellent exposures of Proterozoic Mid-continent rift rocks, including some of the Earths largest lava flows, many of which demonstrate complex solidification features. In addition, the park displays Holocene and Pleistocene glacial features of Lake Superior.

My work highlighted the Earth Science Literacy Principles while integrating Tildens principles of interpretation. I developed programs and displays that embraced the underappreciated and misunderstood geologic aspects, while relating it to visitors relationship with the park.

In order to help visitors better appreciate the age of the Earth, I guided visitors on a 1/3 of a mile walk back in time around Snug Harbor. An evening program introduced three main concepts and related these to areas within the park, which visitors can see. The idea of geologic time frames a discussion of the Keweenaw Rift and the glacial shaping of the landscape.

My current work is developing an interpretive geologic training manual for the park staff, many of whom feel intimidated or unqualified to talk about or teach the geologic concepts that define this park. I hope to provide an overview of earth science themes. These concepts will be used to introduce a deeper discussion of the geologic events that shaped the park and their global significance while referencing interpretive ideas which have been developed and used successfully over this internship.

The visitor to Isle Royale is unique, one who already feels a certain ownership for this place, caring about it over the long term and returning to it repeatedly. By building on this sense of place with an earth science focus and involving park staff, I hope to further enhance visitors relationship with this resource.