Fluorescent minerals and metamorphic rocks highlight annual geology trip

by Eric Gorton


The best geologists are the ones who get to see the most rocks, says Lance Kearns, professor of geology and environmental science and curator of the JMU Mineral Museum in Memorial Hall.

That's why Kearns and his wife, Cindy, a geology lecturer, take students each year to explore some rare rock and mineral formations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The formations the students get to see are metamorphic rock, such as the Franklin Marble, a 27-mile long geologic deposit shaped by heat and pressure over a billion years ago.  Rock like the Franklin Marble cannot be found in the younger rocks of the Shenandoah Valley, which formed about 450 million years ago, Lance Kearns said.

The students also get to see outstanding fluorescent minerals that are found at the Franklin and Sterling Hill mines of northern New Jersey.

"It's always a good experience to see something you're not used to seeing," said senior Meredith Butler, one of several JMU geology majors who went this October along with several students and a faculty member from George Mason University. Among the highlights of the three-day trip, Butler said, were going to a mineral show and seeing the fluorescent minerals underground in their natural environment.

Cindy Kearns said, "Getting a chance to see the mine at night with ultraviolet lights is not something everybody gets to do. It's a unique experience for them."

Added Lance Kearns, "It's the best fluorescent mineral deposit in the world and it's one of the most unique mineral deposits in the world."

Several samples of the fluorescent minerals are on display in the JMU Mineral Museum in Memorial Hall, which also features "the best overall collection of Virginia minerals," said Lance Kearns.

The mineral museum is free and open to the public. This year's trip to Pennsylvania and New Jersey was sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Gem and Mineral Society.

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Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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