LEE COUNTY — Auburn University’s College of Science and Mathematics (COSAM) Outreach will host Mark and Laura Steltenpohl at Red Clay Brewing Company on Thursday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss their book, “Roadside Geology of Alabama.”
“It’s important that people understand Alabama’s geology, not just because it’s interesting, but because the geology of Alabama has influenced our cultural development, industrial development and history,” Laura Steltenpohl said.
The Roadside Geology series has published guides for many states that have frequent tourists and many national parks. Mark Steltenpohl used Roadside Geology guides frequently during his years teaching summer field camp courses.
“I own most of the series myself and I took them with me, we had several vans of students, and I would give them walkie-talkies and they had to read along the roadway and describe the geology,” he said.
After seeing the many uses and value of the Roadside Geology series, he reached out to the publishing company and offered to write Roadside Geology of Alabama and asked his wife to work with him on the project.
“So, it became our retirement project,” Laura said. “We see it as a service project, people really want to know about geology, rocks and landscape. It helps to have a book that helps people understand Alabama’s geology. A lot of people don’t know just how unique Alabama’s geology is.”
With her husband having just retired from Auburn University’s Geology department as a professor and her retiring from teaching high school science, they made a perfect writing team.
“Geologists have a lot of jargon, and when we give these talks, we’re finding that people are fascinated,” Mark said. “They’re starting to understand the geology, but they get lost pretty quick in the jargon, and so we’re trying to make it more understandable to a general audience.”
The publishers of the Roadside Geology series want the books to be accessible to those who are not familiar with technical geology terms and concepts but still want to understand and appreciate their surroundings when traveling.
“Laura taught high school physical science, chemistry and physics for 20 years, and she’s a very good writer — I’m not, I tend to talk and write research papers and deal with college students,” Mark said. “She has an especially good way of filtering down my jargon into something that’s more understandable to go to the general public.”
The Steltenpohls are donating their modest share of profit from the book to fund scholarships.
“This is a labor of love, not only to help people understand Alabama geology and how fascinating it is but also to fund undergraduate education scholarships at Auburn,” Laura Steltenphol said.
They said their next project will be to write “Roadside Geology of North Carolina.”