WATERLOO - Some people see rocks and they see a hobby. Others see science. Some people see money. Geologist Sherman Lundy, of BMC Aggregates L.C., sees all three.

As for the people who see none of the above, Lundy would like a word with them.

Lundy is giving the curious, scientists and hobbyists a chance to explore deep under Iowa's soil Sept. 27 for "Sunday at the Quarry" - an open house at Morgan Quarry east of Waterloo. The event is part of Earth Science Week held in cooperation with the University of Northern Iowa earth science department.

Lundy said he hopes the event shows people the role earth sciences play in people's daily lives.

"There's no connection between these rock piles and their relation to the road they drove in on," Lundy said pointing to piles of the quarry's yield that is destined to become part of Iowa highway shoulders.

Morgan Quarry provides Iowa Department of Transportation-approved material for gravel roads and highway shoulders. That's only part of the story the quarry has to tell.

"You're standing on a history book of millions of years," said Glen Rocca, of the Black Hawk Gem and Mineral Society.

The layers of rock show millions of years of Iowa geologic history, said UNI geology professor John Groves.

The top layers reveal evidence of glaciers that covered the region half a million years ago.

The receding glaciers flattened the landscape when they receded, shaping Iowa into what it is today, Groves said.

"You can actually see scratch marks," Groves said, pointing to the dark upper layers of rock exposed in the quarry.

Beneath those layers, evidence abounds these rocks are fossilized layers of sea floor from millions of years ago. Shells of primitive brachiopods are embedded in the gray rock.

The 400-million-year record, from sea floor to glaciers, will be open for examination at the quarry.

"People, when they come out here, they are astonished," Groves said. "They have no idea the earth could change so much."

On Sunday, people can sift through rocks at the quarry for fossils, crystalline deposits or any other things that catch the eye. Rock hunters can keep what they can carry, Lundy said.

Groves expects about a dozen students and four UNI faculty members to be on hand Sunday to answer questions and do a little sifting themselves.

Buses will take people from the entrance to the deeper part of the quarry. Lundy said he expects 500 to 1,000 visitors to the annual event.

Lundy says he hopes to stoke curiosity in the earth sciences.

"When you're a little curious, you want to learn a little more," he said. "Then, maybe you study at UNI."

Lundy said he considers earth science as the "mother of all sciences." It is the intersection of physics, geology, chemistry and biology.

Not understanding these sciences can lead to disaster.

"Instead of building a development and then complaining that the basement floods, you look ahead," Lundy said.

Better understanding can help people foresee or avert disaster, but Lundy, said he wants to show how his niche in earth science, can make people's lives better.

"All the foundations, all the sidewalks, all the roads, it's all materials that comes out of these quarries," he said.

Traditionally BMC opens Messerly Quarry to visitors for the annual event. That BMC quarry, near Raymond, provides material for paving. Lundy said he wants to give people the opportunity to see different types of material at Morgan Quarry.

While they may not know the difference between the material that come out of each, getting them to ask is a good start, Rocca said.

"Curiosity builds a better bridge," he said.

So do the right types of rocks, Lundy added.


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