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True 'volunteer' comes to geology department

Nov. 17, 2004

By ZACK KULESZ, reporter

When the geology department needed to fill the vacancy of a department chairperson, officials found a willing volunteer.

Dr. Steven Driese came to Baylor from the University of Tennessee, whose school mascot also is a volunteer, where he taught for 22 years.

Driese is already enjoying Baylor -- especially the new Baylor Sciences Building.

"The people here are great and this is the best facility I've ever been in," Driese said.

Driese
"I like an environment where I can see the president of the school and they know my name on a first name basis," Driese said.

Originally from Chicago, Driese attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

He then attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he earned his Master's and his doctoral degrees.

While at Wisconsin, Driese was a classmate of Dr. Joe Yelderman, a geology professor at Baylor.

They also were intramural softball teammates in Madison.

"We had a lot of camaraderie amongst the graduate students at the University of Wisconsin when Steve and I were there," Yelderman said.

"And I think Steve and I sense a similar team spirit here. It is good to be working together again and I have high hopes for what we can accomplish as a department under Steve's leadership," Yelderman said.

Driese's research involved a paleoenvironmental study of the Mt. Simon Sandstone, the basal Cambrian sandstone that crops out in western Wisconsin.

His doctoral research involved a study of Middle Pennsylvanian sandstone-carbonate cyclothems in the Morgan Formation using rubber rafts to navigate the Green and Yampa River canyons within Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado.

"A cyclothem is a repetitive alternation of rock types as you go up or down," Driese said. "It's a product of repeated rises and falls of sea levels."

Driese's primary research investigates the paleoclimate and paleolandscape records of soils preserved as paleosols in the geologic record, using modern soil analogs where appropriate.

This is called uniformitarianism.

"To understand something formed in the geologic past, we attack it by finding something similar today," Driese said.

"The present is the key to the past," he said.

He's also interested in applications of studies of surface materials to solving environmental and hydrogeological problems.

This collaborative research is being conducted with researchers at Baylor, the University of Tennessee and Rutgers University.

He works actively with soil scientists, geochemists, stratigraphers, sedimentologists, physical geographers and geoarchaeologists in these endeavors.

Driese said this area of Texas has a type of clay-rich soil that can crack during the dry season and expands during the wet season. It has a high shrink-swell ratio. If a house is built on it improperly, the foundation has a chance of being ruined.

The Drieses' new home in McGregor was actually built by Bob Sloan, although he is not related to Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr.

Dr. Lee Nordt, associate professor of geology, examined the soil and house foundation for shrink-swell and assured Driese that his foundation would not falter.

Driese's wife, Marylaine, has Texas roots and was born and raised in Dallas.

They are the parents of three children: Nathan, 25, Trevor, 22, and Mary Catherine, 12.

Driese keeps his days busy by teaching classes, various forms of research and walking with his wife and dog.