Students and faculty research Sewanee's fascinating subsurface

When people think about Sewanee and its Domain, they often envision expansive forests, remote caves, sprawling bluff views, and eye-catching water features. It’s true that Sewanee boasts all of these things—but the “Domain 3D project” is interested in something that’s been, until now, inaccessible: what’s under our feet. Deep under our feet.

Jeff Paine, senior research scientist with the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) at the University of Texas at Austin, and Lucie Costard, a research scientist associate at the BEG, traveled to Sewanee in September as a part of the collaborative efforts of Sewanee and the University of Texas to work toward assembling a profile of what lies hundreds of feet beneath Sewanee’s vast Domain.

Scientists from both institutions have discussed the project for the last few years, deciding that UT-Austin and Sewanee would begin by compiling a comprehensive overview of the shallow geophysics within the Domain, though the goals include assembling a seismic profile that would look several thousands of feet below the surface, understanding the geologic history of the local landscape, and archaeological collaboration.

Students are already enjoying a very rare opportunity in working with Paine and equipment such as the Ground Conductivity Meter and Ground Penetrating Radar. For Paine and Costard, who have done research on diverse geoscience topics in North America, Europe, and Asia, Sewanee's Domain represents a new and intriguing challenge thanks to its topographic and geographic variety, its sheer size, and its situation on the Cumberland Plateau.

This story is a brief summary. Read the full story by Luke Williamson, C’21, on the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability website.