Scientist Shares Discovery Globally about Hole that Buried Nathan!

Erin Argyilan

It will be three years this July when then 6-year old Nathan Woessner fell into a hole on the 126 ft. tall Mount Baldy and survived thanks to a heroic effort by a team of volunteers, fire fighters, and NIPSCO crew. In the intervening months, another drama has played out as a little known pioneering scientist from Indiana University Northwest has shaken up the status quo and gained international attention by proving the hypothesis that the hole that buried Nathan was created by a tree decaying under the sand. Featured in the Smithsonian Magazine, Erin  P. Argyilan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geoscience at IUN, is engaging her students in studying this discovery that shows that holes can form in sand caused by buried trees and verified what many citizen scientists have long believed. In fact, Erin’s discovery co-authored by Peter G. Avis, Mark P.S. Krekeler and Charles C. Morris has been published in the international journal of Aeolian Research and is being studied by scientists globally. Inducted into The Society of Innovators as a Fellow last fall, Erin believes more is to be learned.  Specifically, she wants to know how calcium that may be coming from the air, helps to create the carbonate cement that gives holes temporary stability after a tree decays. Erin and IUN were featured recently on the Weather Channel, a measure of interest in her work. Indeed, her research could prevent future accidents by identifying previously unknown hazards now called “dune decomposition chimneys.”

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