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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, May 8, 2007

Environmental Trends and Historic Climate Changes Focus of New Book

LAWRENCE--Glacial debris, bison bones, projectile points made by ancient Indians, and fossil pollen all help tell the story of shifting climates and evolving environments in a new book from the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas.

Highlighting the past 2.4 million years of geologic history, known as the Quaternary period, the guidebook explores geology, archeology, glacial history, and ecology. It features numerous sites in Kansas and several surrounding states and covers everything from the formation of soils to evidence of prehistoric hunting techniques.

Figuring out what happened in the recent geologic past is important to understanding why the climate is changing today. The Quaternary sites visited in this book provide important clues.

"The Quaternary has become a hot topic," said Survey geoarcheologist Rolfe Mandel. "With the emphasis we have on climate change today, much of our focus is on trends and cycles, particularly over the last few hundred thousand years and even more importantly, the past 10,000."

Four field trips associated with an American Quaternary Association meeting are the foundation for this guidebook. One focuses on evidence of glacial advances into the northeast corner of Kansas between 2.4 million and 600,000 years ago. Sites examined include Kansas quarries, Missouri clay pits, and a field of quartzite boulders carried into Kansas from as far north as Minnesota. New information on determining the age of glacial deposits using magnetic polarity is included.

Another section emphasizes the human influence during the Quaternary by looking at evidence left behind by ancient Indians, also known as Paleoindians. Investigating four sites--one in the Flint Hills and the others in southwest Kansas and northern Oklahoma--this section includes 11,000-year-old cultural locales, bison kill sites, tools and projectiles, and the environments in which they were found. Three of the sites were first described in this guidebook.

A third part explores soils of the Konza Prairie Biological Station south of Manhattan, one of the largest prairie preserves left in the United States, and cutbanks along the South Fork of the Big Nemaha River in southeastern Nebraska, where pollen and plant fossils provide information on bioclimatic change.

The fourth section features loess in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. Loess, windblown sediment that is predominantly silt, can be glacial or nonglacial. As loess is deposited and stabilizes, it becomes an important indicator of climate change.

"We study geology because the past is the key to the present, and that is particularly true of the Quaternary," Mandel said.

The full-color "Guidebook of the 18th Biennial Meeting of the American Quaternary Association" is available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047-3726 (or phone 785-864-3965). The cost is $30.00, plus $5.00 for handling and postage. Kansas residents should call for specific sales tax owed. More information about KGS books, map, and other products is available at the Survey's web site (

Story by Cathy Evans, (785) 864-2195.
For more information, contact Rolfe Mandel (785-864-2171).

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach