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Welcome to the Geological Society of Minnesota

The Geological Society of Minnesota is a public-spirited, nonprofit educational organization that has been in operation since 1938. Our ongoing mission has been to promote public interest and supply educational support in the geological sciences. We do this by sponsoring free lectures and labs at the University of Minnesota, conducting statewide and regional field trips, holding classroom presentations for schools, maintaining a media library, publishing relevant information for public distribution, and maintaining and expanding upon a series of geological markers located throughout the state.

GSM's exciting, illustrated Seminars are presented by leading professionals in their fields of Geology or Earth Science. These engaging talks are free and open to the public, and are especially valuable for enthusiastic learners from secondary school students to adults. A question and answer opportunity is always included. Where else can you enjoy an intriguing exchange with a leading scientist or educator? Our novice-friendly labs demonstrate at a comfortable pace the ideas and principles of geology and earth science. They allow an involved, hands-on learning experience for beginners, or a helpful refresher for the seasoned enthusiast. These instructive sessions are also free and open to the public. Where else can you actively practice science, under expert guidance, for free? 


Seminars and Labs

The schedule of seminars and labs for 2016-2017 is now available; click here

The seminars are on Mondays at 7:00 PM on the University of Minnesota campus, except where noted otherwise.

 GSM will make any decision canceling or postponing a lecture due to inclement weather no later than 3:00PM the day of the lecture. This information will be posted on the GSM home page
The U locks its doors promptly at 7 PM.  Please wait, as a person will come every five minutes until 7:15 to let in latecomers. 

Next Seminar: Monday, February 20, 2017 7:00 PM

What Would the Rock Evidence for Martian Life Look Like? Microbialites: Rocks from Microbes

Thomas Hickson, PhD, Professor of Geology, University of St. Thomas


Kenneth Keller Hall, 200 Union St. SE, Minneapolis MN 55455

Room 3-230. MAP


With multiple rovers crawling around Mars, satellites scanning its surface, and more to come (hopefully), we know that the Martian surface had flowing water and that groundwater continues to flow even now. With these findings comes the increased odds of finding evidence of life on the Red Planet. But what would that life look like? If you were a betting person, it probably would be in the form of some kind of microbialite, a sedimentary rock that formed under the influence of microbial processes. The most widely-studied microbialites are stromatolites, which have been recognized for some time now as the evidence for the oldest life on Earth. However, most of our knowledge about stromatolites and other microbialites focuses on marine settings. How likely is it that marine microbialites will be found on Mars? Not particularly likely. But the Curiosity rover has been looking at lake deposits on the Martian surface and these hold real promise for encountering microbialites that form in lake systems. This talk will focus on the range of sedimentary features and textures that we encounter in lacustrine microbialites, providing a glimpse of what we might find on Mars.


Born in Oakland, California in the early sixties, I found a love of the outdoors in camping trips with family and friends. When I first travelled to the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, when I was in my late teens, I fell in love with the high desert, the alluvial fans, the dusty playas, the smooth bajadas. That’s probably the root of my love of understanding the Earth. That, and tons of maps on the bathroom wall, right in front of the throne....


I’ve been a dishwasher, a cook, a restaurant manager, a librarian, and a truck driver. I’ve built fence and brick walls, pulled more weeds than I care to remember, chopped wood and made useful things from it. I’ve lived on both coasts and in between. I have a wife that I love very much and a wonderful daughter that brings me joy every day. I play guitar, mandolin, and a bit of piano, but I get worse every day.


...but my great joy has been teaching geology to young adults. Through the lens of the Earth, I have found a more clear vision of myself and my relationship to others. I have hope for the future because of what I do and what I’ve learned.


Academically, I started out as a physical geographer and geomorphologist, going to Cal State East Bay (Hayward) and UT Austin. I then found my love of sedimentary rocks and moved on to complete a PhD at Stanford University in 1999. I came to Minnesota on a post-doc to the U of MN at the St. Anthony Falls Lab, then was hired at UST in 2000 and I’ve been here since.



Summer Fun Activities

Visit our Road Marker web site GSM Road Markers where we have create a geologic summer vacation game called Marker Treasure Hunt visit the site for more details.


Field Trips


GSM conducts professionally-guided field trips. Typically, these are excursions made to locations of geologic interest not usually experienced by the casual traveler. Local field trips can be as short as a few hours, others might encompass a weekend, and still others might take most or all of a week. We have travelled as near as the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and as far as the San Andreas Fault and Death Valley in California. These trips provide a satisfying and memorable learning experience because there are always plenty of opportunities to ask questions of the experts and do hands-on investigations. A comradery with enthusiastic learners and people curious about their natural environment is always a reward in itself. Depending on the destination, there may be a modest charge that includes shared expenses, and a liability waiver must be signed for each participant.  Taking part in the fun may permit Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for teachers and extra credit for students. Past and upcoming field trips are described here.

Upcoming Field Trips and Tours


There will be a total solar eclipse across the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017. Dave Wilhelm is organizing a field trip whose primary purpose will be to view the 2017 eclipse, in the vicinity of Kearney, Nebraska. This is within easy car driving distance from Minnesota, with a Saturday, August 19 departure. Since we will head hundreds of miles southwest, we are including some geology and making a week of it. This trip is actively being planned; more information can be found here. If you are interested and have not yet responded, do so as soon as possible to Dave Wilhelm at, as details on this trip are being sent only to members who have expressly indicated interest.



Speakers for metro area elementary schools are available through the Public Service Committee to help enrich the education of young learners, particularly the 2nd to 4th grade levels.


Membership in the society is open to anyone with an interest in geology. The benefits of membership include:

  • Extensive Media Library - GSM maintains a collection of more than 240 geological DVDs. These are available to the members at lectures or through the mail for a nominal rental fee. Catalog
  • GSM Newsletter - A quarterly publication containing announcements of upcoming activities, interesting and informative articles on the earth sciences, GSM project and activity reports, and general club news and notices. Past issues
  • GSM Directory - An annual book that is a handy information resource, and makes it easy to access your organization.
  • The opportunity to meet others of diverse backgrounds who share an enthusiasm for learning and a curiosity for the natural world around them.
  • The rewarding feeling of supporting a public-spirited, nonprofit organization dedicated to public education.

Membership Information

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