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SUNY Potsdam Installs New Geoscience Garden

October 31, 2019

SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Geology Unveils New Geoscience Garden Alongside Timerman Hall

SUNY Potsdam is now home to a new Geoscience Garden, featuring boulders and rock slabs oriented to mimic the actual geology of Northern New York. The new outdoor educational resource is the only installation of its type in the SUNY System and within the region.

Faculty from SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Geology conceived of the new Geoscience Garden as a permanent outdoor “classroom” and community resource for teaching field skills in a simulated real-world environment.

“It’s sometimes hard to teach basic skills in the field. The rock is not always exposed, there may be wildlife present or you’re trying to work on the side of the road,” said Assistant Professor of Geology Dr. Page Quinton, who helped create the garden. “We have constructed classic examples of outcrops representing the geology of Northern New York.”

Upstone Materials, a subsidiary of Barrett Industries, generously donated all of the specimens for SUNY Potsdam’s Geoscience Garden, which Quinton and her colleagues chose from Upstone’s 12 quarries across Northern New York. In total, there are 49 rocks, totaling 48,000 tons, ranging in age from 1.1 billion years to 2 million years.

Quinton collaborated with her colleagues, Dr. Michael Rygel, Dr. Sara Bier and Dr. Kamal Humagain, on developing and completing the garden.

“Once the boulders and rock slabs were here, we had to decide how to arrange them. They are oriented in specific ways to show geologic structures, and to reflect the actual formations in our area,” Quinton said. “The Geoscience Garden will provide students with a field environment to practice field-based observations and skills, so they are prepared as they go on to careers and to advanced studies.”

The Geoscience Garden is located alongside Timerman Hall, which houses the geology and physics departments. Faculty are finalizing informational signs and online resources to complement the installation. The garden is designed to be a community resource, and can be used for high school class trip activities, local groups and by other universities.

“Any earth science course can use the space to learn about rock identification or how to do things like ‘tell time’ with rocks and look at how environments have changed. For younger students, we are also adding fossil beds,” Quinton said.

The SUNY Potsdam Geoscience Garden was funded by a SUNY Expanded Investment and Performance Fund grant. It was also made possible by generous donations from Upstone Materials, Bicknell Building Supply and Merriman Lumber, and received support from SUNY Potsdam’s Wagner Institute for Sustainability and Ecological Research (WISER). Physical Plant staff provided labor and needed equipment to help complete the project.

SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Geology prepares students for in-demand careers in the sciences, or for further study on the graduate or professional level. The department offers majors in geology and geographic information science (GIS), with a strong focus on both lab and field experience. To learn more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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