The Bear Post

July 25th, 2014

One of the wonderful benefits of working in the wilderness is the potential for interaction with wildlife. Sometimes, we’re entertained by energetic jackrabbits. Sometimes, camels eat our lunch. Always, we keep safety at the forefront.

The British Columbia team was fortunate to see majestic bald eagles, curious stone sheep, and many (many) marmots in their natural habitat. We also saw several bears.

Most of the bears that we saw were black bears eating the fresh grass alongside the road.

Most of the bears that we saw were black bears eating the fresh grass alongside the road.

However, the very first night in the field, we saw grizzlies.

The yellow arrow is pointing to a momma grizzly and her cub. Part of our group is standing on the edge of our campsite.

The yellow arrow is pointing to a momma grizzly and her cub. Our anxious group is standing on the edge of our campsite.

We were well prepared for a moment like this. Before going to the field, we had several long discussions about bear safety. We knew that the best strategy is to avoid a confrontation. At all times, each of us carried our own bear spray, a pepper spray with a strong propellant. We also had bear bangers, fire-cracker cartridges that are launched with a pen-like launcher. One of the first things we did when we arrived in the field was practice using the bear spray and bear bangers.

The bangers worked just as they were designed when we used them that first night. We spotted the momma grizzly and her cub walking across the ridge toward our camp. They didn’t change their course after the first bear banger, so we set off another. The second banger caused them to stop, and the third startled them into running in the opposite direction. Confrontation avoided!

As an added precaution, we set up a portable electric bear fence around our tents. The gentle tick of the fence was a comfort at night.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A faulted oyster ball from the Middle Jurassic of Utah

July 25th, 2014

Split oyster ball 062914I’m returning this week to one of my favorite fossil types: the ostreolith, popularly known as the “oyster ball”. These were lovingly described in a previous blog entry, so please click there to see how they were formed and some additional images. They are found almost exclusively in the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic) of southwestern Utah.They are circumrotatory (a fancy word for “rolling around while forming”) accumulations of small cup-like oysters along with minor numbers of plicatulid bivalves, disciniscid brachiopods, cyclostome bryozoans (see Taylor & Wilson, 1999), and mytilid bivalves that drilled borings known as Gastrochaenolites. They are nice little hard-substrate communities originally nucleated on bivalve shells (Wilson et al., 1998).

oyster ball close 062914Here is a close view of the oyster valves on the outside of the ostreolith. They are attached to similar valves below them, and it is oysters all the way to the center.

What is special about our specimen here is that it managed to obtain a fault right through its center! The chances of this happening are slim, given that they are relatively rare in the rock matrix. The faulting was probably during the Miocene related to a “left-lateral transfer zone that displaces north-south–trending crustal blocks of the eastern Basin and Range Province to the west” (Petronis et al., 2014, p. 534). This is an interesting tectonic region between the Basin and Range Province and the Colorado Plateau.

Slickenfibers 062914A close view of the fault surface shows it is a striated slickenside. The striations (called slickenlines) are parallel to the direction of movement, not that we have to guess when we look at the ostreolith itself. There are also calcitic deposits here formed during faulting called slickenfibres. These elongated crystals have tiny step-like breaks in them that show the actual direction of movement.

Another nice specimen combining paleontology and structural geology.

References:

Petronis, M.S., Holm, D.K., Geissman, J.W., Hacker, D.B. and Arnold, B.J. 2014. Paleomagnetic results from the eastern Caliente-Enterprise zone, southwestern Utah: Implications for initiation of a major Miocene transfer zone. Geosphere 10: 534-563.

Taylor, P.D. and Wilson, M.A. 1999. Middle Jurassic bryozoans from the Carmel Formation of southwestern Utah. Journal of Paleontology 73: 816-830.

Wilson, M.A., Ozanne, C.R. and Palmer, T.J. 1998. Origin and paleoecology of free-rolling oyster accumulations (ostreoliths) in the Middle Jurassic of southwestern Utah, USA. Palaios 13: 70-78.

Iron Flows and Camera Blows

July 21st, 2014

Guest Bloggers:  Sarah McGrath (’17) and Chloe Wallace (’17), both members of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH — No longer rookie bloggers Chloe and Sarah here, coming at you from the sweet comfort of our couch in Utah. Before collecting pounds of oncolites and encountering countless kill sites, we were just two inexperienced field geologists spending our long days becoming pros with the Trimble. The Trimble is a survey grade GPS unit. We used it to map the many iron concretions throughout the Six-Mile Canyon Formation. Over the course of a day and a half we were able to map over 200 points on one single rib of the outcrop.

As you will see below it takes a truly skilled and brave geologist to be worthy of the power that is the Trimble. Lesson learned: do not forget to zip the pocket that is holding your camera as you lean over a steep cliff just to collect a single data point. Thankfully, Sarah’s camera survived the fall and still works somehow. Nikons, people! Also as Sarah was retrieving her camera she came upon some lovely iron staining that otherwise would not have been discovered. There’s always an upside!

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How to Trimble 101: This isn’t your basic car GPS.

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Seconds before Sarah dropped her camera down the side of the cliff. All in the name of science!

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The iron staining Sarah came upon while retrieving her camera at the bottom of the cliff.

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We’ve gotten too used to this view. We’re going to miss Utah! Thanks for an amazing two weeks full of scalding heat, accessibility to more Peace Tea than one human should consume, and unforgettable geology.

 

 

Oncolites and Kill Sites

July 21st, 2014

Guest Bloggers:  Sarah McGrath (’17) and Chloe Wallace (’17), both members of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH –  Rookie bloggers, Sarah and Chloe, coming at you from beautiful Ephraim, Utah! We’ll admit early on that are blogging skills are not the most proficient, but we’re giving it a shot (mostly because we are being “strongly encouraged”). We figure plenty of enticing pictures will make up for what we are lacking.

We began a new project in the field on Thursday. We gathered data and collected oncolites in the North Horn Formation. We measured over 50 oncolites within the rock face and collected about a dozen float samples. The following day we did more oncolite work, collecting at least 150 float samples, in the Flagstaff at “Snake Ridge,” which was cleverly named by Dr. Judge after countless rattlesnake sightings. Luckily for us, we have yet to see a single snake the entire trip. Knock on wood; still one day left in the field.

Although we haven’t seen any rattlesnakes, we’ve encountered enough kill sites to last us a lifetime. At our first sighting we ran away in disgust, but by our most recent kill site we were taking creative photos with them. We suspect our friend Freddy the mountain lion may be at fault.

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The view from the North Horn Formation.

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One bag out of many of the collected oncolites at the infamous “Snake Ledge.”  Note the medical tape holding one of the oncolites together!!

picture 3 - killsite

Most recent kill site shot. Maggots don’t scare us.

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More wildlife encountered in the field. This jackrabbit kept us quite entertained for at least thirty minutes.

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Possible homestead of the one and only Freddy the mountain lion.

 

 

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Silicified productid brachiopods from the Permian of West Texas

July 18th, 2014

Productids ventral valves 052514The three beauties above are productid brachiopods from the Road Canyon Formation (Middle Permian, Roadian, approximately 270 million years old) in the Glass Mountains of southwestern Texas. They are part of a series we’ve done on the silicified fauna of a block of limestone we dissolved in the lab many years ago. The calcitic shells have been replaced with silica during the process of fossilization, so they can be extracted from the carbonate matrix with hydrochloric acid. This is a primary way we can see delicate parts of a fossil, like the long hollow spines above. Ordinarily these would have been lost under the usual processes of taphonomy.

The specimens are highly convex ventral valves, which are characteristic of the productid brachiopods. The long hollow spines helped distribute the weight of these brachiopods on soft and unstable substrata, like a sandy or muddy sediment. This is often called “the snowshoe effect”. Below is a diagram reconstructing productid brachiopods on a sandy substrate with their spines keeping them from sinking below the sediment-water interface.

productid diagramProductid Permian Texas 585Here is a closer view of the ventral valve exterior of one of these productid brachiopods. You can see how delicate the hollow spines are.

Productid interior ventral Permian Texas 585This is the interior of the same valve. Each spine has a hole connecting it to the inside of the shell. The mantle, which secretes the shell and has other physiological functions, extended out into each spine to build its length and possibly carry some sort of sensory abilities.

I have been unable to identify these brachiopods because of the bewilderingly large number of them described by Cooper and Grant in the 1960s and 1970s. Maybe one of our readers can give it a shot!

References:

Brunton, C.H.C., Lazarev, S.S. and Grant, R.E. 1995. A review and new classification of the brachiopod order Productida. Palaeontology 38: 915-936.

Cooper, G.A., and Grant, R.E., 1964, New Permian stratigraphic units in Glass Mountains, West Texas. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin 48: 1581-1588.

Cooper, G.A., and Grant, R.E. 1966. Permian rock units in the Glass Mountains, West Texas, In: Contributions to stratigraphy, 1966: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1244-E: E1-E9.

Cooper, G.A. and Grant, R.E. 1972. Permian brachiopods of West Texas, I. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 14: 1–228. [and five other volumes]

Shiino, Y. and Suzuki, Y. 2007. Articulatory and musculatory systems in a Permian concavo-convex brachiopod Waagenoconcha imperfecta Prendergast, 1935 (Productida, Brachiopoda). Paleontological research 11: 265-275.

Hot Springs and I.S. Frenzy

July 17th, 2014

Guest Blogger:  Kelli Baxstrom (’16), member of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH –  A week into Utah, and feelings are mixed between slight hysteria for those who continue to fall off the couch in the evening due to exhaustion and an ongoing sense of awe of the beautiful world that exists outside Ohio.

Sunday was a day off for us, and so the four of us hopped in a van with some of the OSU field camp students – including recent CoW graduate Tricia Hall – and headed to some hot springs near Spanish Fork. We smelled like sulfur the rest of the day, but the waterfall and pools were worth it!

hotspring

​Wednesday was very I.S. focused for Michael and myself. For my part, I am a double major in Religious Studies as well as Geology. So in order to meld my I.S., Dr. Judge drove me to Nephi to meet the Chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. It was very enlightening to talk to a native and political spokeswoman of the tribe, and I learned so much of political, historical and socioeconomic activity of the Paiutes for the last millennia. Dr. Judge also enjoyed the meeting - possibly more than myself – in learning all the ways that the Paiutes have lived and prospered in the areas where she has worked and researched for several years.

After Dr. Judge and I got back from Nephi, Michael and I spread out on the floor with a multitude of topographic maps of Utah trying to decide what we would like to do for I.S. At the moment, that is a prospect Michael and I irrationally believe is completely​ unattainable. But Dr. Judge has faith in us.

Hey, Team British Columbia, here’s proof that there’s some real wildlife out here in Utah…

moose

Another Perspective on British Columbia

July 17th, 2014

Guest blogger: Liz Plascencia

15 days. 22 bears. 4 bald eagles. 47 rock samples.

Wow. What a trip. I, a native Los Angeles city dwelling kid, have had the utmost pleasure of accompanying such a dynamic and energetic team of geologists to Mt. Edziza. Northern British Columbia is absolutely unreal. Far from the city lights and piercing sirens, our camp was nestled between Pillow Ridge and Tsekone Ridge. We spent a solid five days in the field collecting a variety of physical samples such as pillow lava, breccia, lapilli tuff, xenoliths, etc. We also spent a great deal of time quantitatively and qualitatively describing pillow lava from the west side of Pillow Ridge with trend and plunge measurements, vesicularity estimates, phenocrysts estimates, and horizontal and vertical measurements. Within those five days we celebrated a birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEAGEN), Canada Day, The Fourth of July, and overall triumph of a great trip.

The team observing a dyke at Second Canyon, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC.

The team observing a dyke at Second Canyon, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC.

Eve Cone in the distance at dusk.

Eve Cone in the distance at dusk.

Quite possibly the greatest thrill of my life, so far.

Quite possibly the greatest thrill of my life, so far.

We are back in lab for these next couple of weeks processing the rock samples from the field. I am really going to miss these two goons. Mary and Julia were the most welcoming Scots. Hopefully there will be more Dickinson College and The College of Wooster collaborations in the near future.

Returned from British Columbia

July 16th, 2014

Bears = 22

Bald Eagles = 4

Wolves = 2

Stone Mountain Sheep = 4

Marmots = Too many

Helicopter Rides = 2

Impromptu Trip to Hyder, AK = 1

Samples Collected = 47

Successful Trip? Most definitely

Fieldwork in British Columbia was hard. We covered a lot of ground both in transit and during hikes, made a number of pillow descriptions, and brought back more samples than we had initially intended. It was also cold, it rained, it snowed, it hailed, the wind blew, bears roamed near camp, and the talus slopes were unforgiving. But it never felt like work because each day was met with laughter, learning, beautiful sunsets, Nutella, and a definite feeling of accomplishment. It is so difficult to explain just how amazing our time in British Columbia was, because it was one of the most unforgettable experiences ever. The images below allow for a visual story of our trip, when words simply don’t suffice.

Photo credit to Mary R; The provincial park where we camped (located near Pillow Ridge) allows no vehicle access, which makes traveling by air critical. Note basecamp in the background.

Photo credit to Mary R; The provincial park where we camped (located near Pillow Ridge) allows no vehicle access, which makes traveling by air critical. Note basecamp in the background.

Photo credit to Liz P; A nice pillow exposure interlaid with tuff breccia on Pillow Ridge, with Julia F. for scale.

Photo credit to Liz P; A nice pillow exposure interlaid with tuff breccia on Pillow Ridge, with Julia F. for scale.

Photo credit: Mary R; Mount Edziza stratovolcano located west of basecamp.

Photo credit: Mary R; Mount Edziza stratovolcano located west of basecamp.

Photo credit: Julia F; A sunset view from basecamp. Pictured on the horizon is Eve Cone, one of the youngest cinder-cone volcanoes in the provincial park.

Photo credit: Julia F; A sunset view from basecamp. Pictured on the horizon is Eve Cone, one of the youngest cinder-cone volcanoes in the provincial park.

Photo Credit: Ben E. British Columbia field excursion summer 2014, we made it (more or less) in one piece.

Photo Credit: Ben E. British Columbia field excursion summer 2014, we made it (more or less) in one piece.

Brain-melting Heat in the Sanpete Valley

July 16th, 2014

Guest Blogger:  Michael Williams (’16), member of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH –Team Utah 2014 is now approaching the one-week mark of being in the field. For the past four days we’ve been working on one of Dr. Judge’s pet projects: deformation bands and fluid flow in the Sixmile Canyon Formation. This Cretaceous sandstone underwent some serious deformation during the building of the Rocky Mountains, and this strain reveals itself in several remarkable features, including jointing, deformation bands, and bizarre outcroppings of iron. Team Utah has been working hard to measure, categorize, date, and record these features, all while enduring non-stop, brain-melting heat.

We agreed early on that work would begin every morning at 8:00am, so naturally we don’t actually make it out in the field until 9:00am or later. It’s a short drive followed by an even shorter hike to our field site, so it’s typically still mid-morning as we begin the day’s work. Each day has had us focusing on different features in our area. Our most productive days involve measuring the orientations of joints. Other days we hike for hours, looking for the perfect outcrop of deformation bands. No matter our mission, the charge is led by Measurement Machine Shelley Judge, Brunton in hand and field notebook at the ready.

joints

Some nice sets of joints in a nearly horizontal wall of sandstone. On our first day alone we managed to measure just over 200 individual joints.  Brunton Compass for scale.

kelli

Kelli examines some bizarre iron fins protruding from the rock face. We suspect that these were caused by fluid flow through the porous rock.

reidel ladder

A beautiful example of deformation bands forming Riedel ladders. Unfortunately, this particular rock had fallen off the outcrop, and so it couldn’t be included in our data.

michael below

Michael down below (bottom center), measuring orientations of deformation bands, while Kelli records from above (top right).

falling

Sometimes, when the heat starts getting to us, we decompress by falling off of cliffs.

sanpete

You can’t help but occasionally stop to admire the postcard-like beauty of the Sanpete Valley.

WOO

Even temperatures upward of 100 degrees can’t stop the Scott spirit.

Meet Team Utah 2014

July 15th, 2014

EPHRAIM, UTAH — On July 9, four Wooster students traveled to Utah to begin structural and stratigraphic research with me.  They will be out here until July 22, when we will all fly back to Ohio together.  I’d like to introduce these students to you!!

Team Utah

Above is a great picture of Team Utah on the morning of their first day in the field.  From L to R, the students are:  Michael Williams (’16), Kelli Baxstrom (’16), Sarah McGrath (’17), and Chloe Wallace (’17).  Don’t they look enthused, happy, and eager?  (At this point, they do not actually realize that impact of desert heat:  temperatures will soon be 95-100 degrees by noon each day!!  Utah at the end of July can definitely be hot, making field work strenuous.)

During our time in Utah, we have 3 projects that require our attention.  Our primary objective will be to collect data for the deformation band work that I have been doing for a few years.  We will take a comprehensive look at some additional Cretaceous units that may contain deformation bands.  Also, we want to undertake two reconnaissance projects for future I.S. research.  One involves the Cretaceous to Paleogene North Horn Formation, and the other involves the Paleogene Colton Formation.  If there is time left, we will undertake more reconnaissance work in the Jurassic Arapien Formation, which is the core of an amazing diapir in the Sanpete Valley.  Because Mark Wilson has also been interested in the Jurassic of Utah for several years, I’m hoping that I can convince Mark to join forces with me one summer for a joint I.S. research project in Utah.  I really love the stratigraphy of central Utah, so I want to incorporate more I.S. research on the units out here (which have experienced the spectrum of Sevier orogenesis to Basin and Range extension.)

In the coming days, I’m going to ask each of the students to blog in order to reflect on their time in Utah thus far.  They have nearly been here for one week, so stay tuned for some additional news from Ephraim!!

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