Mammoth fossil find energizes Kenai geologist

By Brian Smith

Peninsula Clarion

Published: Friday, April 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"People are bringing in samples all the time," he said. "That's the wonderful part of this mammoth study is it's community-based. It's people who find things on the beach and they are willing to come forward with them. The first talk we gave was in Homer and the room was full of people. Jammy-packed."

Most recently the two spoke at Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai River Campus on the subject, he said, and the excitement was palpable.

"It really turns people on," he said.

As a geomorphologist, Reger studies the evolution of landforms and how they develop. It's literally changed the way he looks at the world, he said.

"When I go on a trip, I see 10 times more than anybody else," he said. "I see in terms of time and space and everything."

Pulling item after item from his shelf, Reger stops and runs his hands over a pair of rocks he found on the Kenai River. The dark black, almost waxy-feeling stones came from the Kenai Mountains and were polished by generations of sand and silt brushing it so gently. They are made up of old lava flow deposited on the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago, incorporated into the Kenai Mountains, eroded out and brought down the river.

Speaking of lava, Reger is reminded of another specimen on his shelf and pulls down what he called a "bomb." It's a large teardrop-shaped hunk of magma that cooled and solidified as it twisted through the air leaving aerodynamic lines alongside it and a curlicue tail.

The other such magma specimen didn't solidify before it hit the earth. That's called a "cow pie" and looks like a bowl with a flat bottom and thin sides. It went "splat," Reger explained.

At this point in his career, he maintains only one rule when it comes to rocks and geological specimens — no more donations.

"During the first half of my life I collected," he said. "During the second half of my life I'm disposing."

Reger loves to share his knowledge, he said. He wanted to be a professor early in his life, but said he didn't want to live under a "publish or perish" directive. He'd rather be in the field, among Alaska — a young man and young woman's country.

He serves now — when he isn't getting excited about mammoths or working on pipeline projects — as a mentor to younger geologists who haven't quite had the same training he received so many years ago.

"I go out and work with them in the field and transfer whatever expertise I can to them and show them how I work," he said with a smile. "And that works well for me."

Information from: Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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