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(Last updated 10/31/03)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio Tracking down rare rocks from the coldest reaches of the planet just got a little easier for polar geologists with the opening of the U.S. Polar Rock Repository at Ohio State's Byrd Polar Research Center.

In addition to rock collections already donated by several polar scientists, the one-of-a-kind repository also houses materials associated with polar rock collecting, such as field notes, annotated air photos and maps, paleomagnetic cores and ground rock and mineral residues. Scientists from all over the United States and the world can easily access information on the rock collections housed at the repository information is in the online Antarctic Geologic Database.

"These rocks give us clues to Earth's history. We want to know how the rocks got to be where they are, and what happened to them along the way."

While 1,000 chunks of polar rocks have already been catalogued and shelved, the rock repository has enough space to hold up to 180,000 specimens. The 4,200 square-foot extension of Scott Hall on the university's west campus houses rocks from some of the most remote reaches of the earth Antarctica and the Arctic. In many cases, the field sites where some of the rocks were collected were so isolated that scientists had visited the sites only once.

Conducting field experiments in polar regions is quite expensive and often dangerous, making the rocks in the repository's collections very valuable. The National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs understood this and also realized the extent to which Ohio State's faculty were involved in polar research, and granted the university close to $1 million four years ago for the development of the repository and associated projects. Ohio State and the Ohio Board of Regents supplemented the funds received from NSF.

"Ohio State has a long history of research in the polar regions," said Tom Rosol, interim vice president for research at Ohio State University, during the facility's dedication on October 11. "The people here worked for many years to develop a safe house for these collections."

The rock collections housed in the repository lend themselves to countless research opportunities, such as studying ancient pollen residue to assess environmental and climatic change and dating minerals from rock samples in order to get an idea of tectonic events.

"These rocks give us clues to Earth's history," said Rosie Askin, a research scientist Ohio State's Byrd Polar Research Center. Askin spearheaded the effort to create a rock repository on campus. "We want to know how the rocks got to be where they are, and what happened to them along the way."


Contact: Anne Grunow, curator of the U.S. Polar Rock Repository, (614) 292 5348; Grunow.1@osu.edu

Written by Holly Wagner, (614) 292-8310; Wagner.235@osu.edu