Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Chad Heinzel


The city of Waverly and its surrounding area in the Waverly Quadrangle has the fortune of having a large supply of groundwater that is easily accessible. However, the karst landscape that comprises much of the quadrangle has made the groundwater supply vulnerable to degradation from point and non-point contamination. Thus, it is crucial to explore the properties of sinkholes in the region to determine their threat to groundwater. To determine this threat, it is necessary to examine the characteristics of where and under what circumstances sinkholes develop. The Waverly Quadrangle is located entirely within the Iowan Surface. The bedrock in this region is mainly Silurian and Devonian aged limestone and dolomite rock. However, the Silurian-Devonian bedrock that underlies this area is also characterized by karst features. There are four major factors that are identified as contributing to the formation of karst topography: 1) groundwater flow rate; 2) characteristics of the water; 3) characteristics of the bedrock; and 4) initial presence of joints and cracks. Karst features, especially sinkholes, act as conduits to the groundwater from the surface. Along with the water that may flow into a sinkhole is any containments is picks up along the way. The findings of this study will describe and discuss: 1: the particle size analysis results from the four sampled sinkholes; 2) the spatial distribution of sinkholes in the Waverly Quadrangle; 3) the results of the GIS analyses on the geologic factors affecting sinkhole distribution; and 4) land use patterns in the areas surrounding sinkholes. This study found that sinkholes tend to develop in clusters, especially where: the soil is a loam or fine sandy loam texture, the bedrock is of Devonian aged limestone from the Cedar Valley Group and the depth to bedrock is less than 25 feet. In addition, this study found that row crop agriculture consists of 44% of the land surrounding sinkholes. This leads me to recommend more research in the Waverly Quadrangle, especially the determination of sinkhole drainage area and water flow paths, and the implementation of best management practices.

Year of Submission



Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 39 pages)