Sheridan College hosts N. Illinois University students visiting Bighorn Mountains


Contact: Wendy Smith (307) 674-6446 ext. 2801/Email wsmith @

Sheridan College hosts N. Illinois University students visiting Bighorn Mountains

Students and faculty from Northern Illinois University are in Sheridan for the next week, studying geology in the Bighorn Mountains and utilizing the classrooms and residence halls at Sheridan College.

Twelve NIU students, one graduate-level teaching assistant and two faculty, including geology professor Dr. Mark Fischer, arrived in Sheridan on Monday, May 19.

Geology students at NIU, which is in DeKalb, Ill., are required to take “Geological Field Techniques,” a six-week course offered each summer that includes trips through the Badlands of South Dakota and mountains of northern Wyoming.

“We teach students how to make geological maps,” said. Dr. Fischer. “Every day we go up into the mountains or into the foothills describing rocks. Each student starts with a blank map… In the beginning we kind of lead them to where they have to go. They make observations and collect data that describes the orientation of the rock layers. They use all that to put together a map in the end.”

Groups from NIU have made the two-day, 1,150-mile trip to Sheridan since the late ’90s. Several other geological-focused groups from universities, including Illinois State, have trekked to northeast Wyoming for decades.

“You have lots of different types of rocks that are well-exposed and there is a lot of them on public land,” Dr. Fischer said, about Wyoming.

The group will also visit Cody and Yellowstone, ultimately returning to Illinois in late June. Dr. Fischer said he enjoys Sheridan, for a variety of unique reasons.

“The very funny thing about it is that it’s particularly interesting to me because I happen to be peripherally related to the Coffeens, who helped found the city,” Dr. Fischer said. “They are third or fourth cousins or something that split off from my family back 100-some years ago.”

Dr. Fischer and the students stay in South Hall at Sheridan College, while utilizing classrooms on campus to develop geological maps.



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