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Stephanie Surine: She’s a Rocker

Stephanie Surine used to collect rocks on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She would fill an empty ice cream bucket with rocks, tote the bucket home, and polish up her finds.
“At the time I didn’t realize that was something people did for a living,” she says. “It was just fun.”

Surine is still having fun in her work for the Iowa Geological Survey, which became a part of IIHR in 2014 (learn more). “There’s always something challenging coming in the door,” she says.

Stephanie Surine is a geologist and coordinator of STATEMAP, a federal program that supports geological mapping.

Stephanie Surine is a geologist and coordinator of STATEMAP, a federal program that supports geological mapping.

From Hobby to Handicraft

Surine is a geologist and coordinator of STATEMAP, a federal program that supports geological mapping. In recent years, the IGS has focused its mapping efforts on developing areas and impaired watersheds. In both cases, Surine says, the idea is to provide information to support better decision-making. As cities and towns grow, city planners need good information about the distribution of geologic units and their characteristics to make smart decisions. The same is true for impaired watersheds. Understanding the geology can help identify and protect areas that are particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination, as well as help with flood management.

Surine uses computer software to create the detailed geological maps. The process is challenging and fun, although Surine says she sometimes misses the days of drawing the maps by hand. She also enjoys fieldwork, although IGS staff spend more and more of their time in front of computers.

Laying the Foundation

Surine is a specialist on Quaternary geology, which refers to the last 2.6 million years of Earth history and includes everything above the bedrock layers in Iowa.

The Upper Peninsula native earned a BS in geology at Grand Valley State University near Grand Rapids, Mich., and a master’s in geoscience at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Surine and her husband Tim have twin 3-year-old boys, Sam and Chris. She says the boys love exploring the natural world. “It just seems like anything we show them, they want to know more about it,” Surine says.

Surine is optimistic for the long-term future of the IGS as part of IIHR, but she knows there will be growing pains. “We’ve got some growing to do,” Surine says. “But I think we’re all very excited by the prospects of working at the university.”

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Last modified on June 29th, 2015
Posted on April 6th, 2015

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