Archive for March 18th, 2011

An outpost of Wooster in the Mojave celebrates today’s basketball victory!

March 18th, 2011

Congratulations from Zzyzx to the College of Wooster Men's Basketball team!

(Guest post from Lindsey Bowman.) After an afternoon of rewarding trilobite collecting, nothing was more welcome than the news this afternoon from Salem, Virginia. Our basketball team advanced to the NCAA Division III finals after defeating Williams College by two points. We listened live from Meagen Pollock’s cell phone to Woo91 updates, it was a dramatically close game. Best of luck in the final match tomorrow!

The last stop of the field trip: Date shakes!

March 18th, 2011

ZZYZX, CALIFORNIA–Apparently visiting China Ranch and having the famous date shakes is a tradition on at least a few other geology field trips. We were introduced to it by Matt James at Sonoma State, and today we met students and faculty from Columbia and the University of San Diego also spending the week in the Mojave. The high point of our encounter was when the student bodies sang to each other intricate and harmonious geology songs they had created! The date shakes were also a treat (especially with chocolate added) and a suitable way to end the 2011 Wooster Geology Mojave Desert field trip.

Thank you to the Desert Studies Center staff at Zzyzx for their excellent hosting and advice (and superb food from Chef Eric). We were also very fortunate to have on our trip this year our administrative coordinator Patrice Reeder who solved many problems, gave us several new ideas, and had enthusiastic questions that kept our game up. Our students were, of course, delightful and the reason why we enjoy these trips so well. Tomorrow we pack up and leave for the Las Vegas airport and home to Ohio.

Trilobites! Now it’s a field trip.

March 18th, 2011

Just kidding about the trilobite requirement for a true field trip, but we must acknowledge a certain charm that comes only from these spiny little beasts. Thanks to my buddy Matthew James, we were directed to an especially fossiliferous set of outcrops of the Carrara Formation in the Nopah Range. The trilobites we collected there are Early Cambrian, roughly 540 million years old. Nick Fedorchuk found the whole specimen photographed above. Everyone collected cephala (“heads”) and the occasional brachiopod and hyolith. It was a very good afternoon for paleontologists!

Wooster students at work in what we now call "Trilobite Valley".

Travis Louvain finding good specimens.

The trilobites here are strained by tectonism, so they look "stretched" in one direction. Shelley Judge collected a set to use in her structural geology labs.

A favorite stop: the Resting Spring tuff exposure

March 18th, 2011

ZZYZX, CALIFORNIA–We’ve visited this roadside outcrop on California Highway 178 in the Resting Spring Range on each of our field trips to the Mojave Desert. Meagen Pollock may explain more about this fascinating outcrop later in the blog, but for now I can report that it is a “devitrified pumice tuff, welded tuff, and vesicular vitrophyre” dated by K-Ar methods at 9.5 million years old (Hillhouse, 1987). It is an excellent place for students to put their developing petrologic, stratigraphic and structural skills to the test.

Sarah Appleton on the tuff at Resting Spring Pass showing the zones of sintering.

A little vignette of desert ecology

March 18th, 2011


ZZYZX, CALIFORNIA–While exploring the Amboy Crater lava fields on Wednesday, we noticed these small and very active “yellow” beetles. With a little research we discovered they are Desert Spider Beetles (Cysteodemus armatus) that feed on the nectar from a variety of flowers. As you might have guessed by now, the yellow color on the heads and abdomens of the beetles is actually from the pollen of a particular yellow flower blooming in abundance the day of our visit. These beetles turn out to be important pollinators for several flower species.

Some of the many flowers near Amboy Crater. I need my flower expert Mother's help to identify them!