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Project GEO

Geotechnical Engineering
Earth Science Outreach

Dr. Nick Hudyma
The University of North Florida
Bo Smith
Terry Parker High School

Fall 2004 Term Projects

Study of the Mineral Characteristics of Northeast Florida Beach Sand
  Last Updated: December 19th, 2004

Hello there, we are Mehgan McCann and Teresa Owens, better known as 'The Sand Pirates'.  Our project was the 'Study of the Mineral Characteristics of Northeast Florida Beach Sand'.  We conducted our project during two Saturday mornings and one Wednesday afternoon in the Geotechnical Lab at the University of North Florida. The sand for our study came from Mickler's Landing in South Ponte Vedra Beach.  We examined the sand with a stereo microscope and with the 'Digital Blue' computer microscope.  Next, we sorted the sand using a 'seive shaker' which separated the sand into six categories according to the size of the sand particles and examined each category for the types of materials present.  There are some 'Digital Blue'images in our 'Photo Gallery' of some of these samples.   After studying the samples, we conducted an experiment to compare the setttling rates of the light colored (low specific gravity) minerals to the heavier dark colored minerals.  We also used magnets to observe which of the minerals were magnetic.

After finishing our project, we came to the following conclusions: The sand is composed primarily  light colored mineral grains (mostly quartz) which setlled relatively slowly and were not magnetic. Some of the sand contained dark colored minerals which were mostly smaller in size and settled faster than the light colored minerals.  Some of the dark minerals were magnetic. We believe that the magnetic dark minerals  were ilmentite (lucoxcene) and the non-magnetic dark minerals were rutile. These were two of the minerals we had hoped to identify in the sand as they are ore minerals of Titanium Oxide...

Any questions? Please email  Mr. Smith

These are "The Sand Pirates"
Teresa Owens on the left & Mehgan McCann on the right

Image Gallery of Our Project

First Lab; Saturday, September 18th


Observing the sand before sorting  under the microscope

Using the 'sieve shacker' to sort by grain size

Mehgan pouing some sand into a bowl

Sand samples sorted by grain size

Taking a picture of a sand sample using the 'Digital Blue' microscope

Second Lab, Wednesday, September 29th

Teresa observing sand characteristics of one of the sorted samples

Mehgan observing sand characteristics of one of the samples

Each sorted sample was imaged with the 'Digital Blue' microscope

Mehgan recording data in the experiment notebook

'Digital Blue' Computer Microscope Images

Reference Samples

(top lighted)- 60X

(top lighted)- 60X

(top lighted)- 60X

(top lighted)- 60X

These were the samples we examined to make our conclusion
Large particles (Sample A)- mostly shells
(top lighted)- 60X
Large particle (Sample A)- shells and quartz
(top lightted)- 60X

Sample B
(top lighted)- 60X
Sample C
(top lighted)- 60X
Sample D
(bottom lighted)- 60X
Sample D
(top lighted)- 60X

Sample E
(top lighted)- 10X

Sample F
(top lighted)- 60X

Sample F
(bottom lighted)- 60X

Third Lab
Observing the different rates of sink of the felsic (light colored) sand and the mafic (dark colored) sands

These are the felsic and mafic sands we used in our experiment

We wieghed the graduated cylinder before starting our experiment

We timed the sand particles as they fell through the liquid in the graduated cylinder

This is the sand  particles as they fell through the saltwater

We were pouring karo syrup into the graduated cylinder

We had to try many different ways of pouring the sand into the Karo syrup so that it wouldn't stick together

This is the sand in the Karo syrup as it stuck together and wouldn't separate

Another picture of our Karo syrup experiment

Obsrving the differing degrees of magnetic attraction of the different heavy minerals


Abstracting the heavy minerals using a small magnet

This is another pictureof us abstracting the heavy minerals using the small magnets

We recorded the weight of the minerals we extracted  using the small magnet.

We then used a much larger and more powerful magnet to extract  the heavy minerals from the sand