Archive for June 21st, 2011

Quality time with a Polish microscope

June 21st, 2011

SOSNOWIEC, POLAND–A day in the lab with my colleague Michał Zatoń at the University of Silesia. We sorted through two very different paleontological problems with a microscope and a lot of hand waving. The first task was to come up with a hypothesis about the origin of the strange pitted tubes shown above. They are found on hiatus concretions of the Late Bathonian (Middle Jurassic) exposed in Zarki, Poland. We recently described and analyzed the sclerobionts on and in these concretions (see Zaton et al., 2011), but these tubes remained a mystery. We think now that they are remnants of egg cases laid by gastropods (snails) on the undersurfaces of the concretions, and we’ve started on the manuscript.

The coiled encrusting shell below is of a Devonian microconchid originally collected by the keen amateur Brian Bade in western New York and generously donated to our research. This group has some fascinating similarities and differences from its Polish cousins, so we have started a systematic project to determine if they represent a new genus or not. (Brian will be excited to hear this.)

Michal's office/lab in the Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Silesia.

Tomorrow we set off for fieldwork in the area so I’ll post pictures of the wonderful Polish countryside!

Reference:

Zatoń, M., Machocka, S., Wilson, M.A., Marynowski, L. and Taylor, P.D. 2011. Origin and paleoecology of Middle Jurassic hiatus concretions from Poland. Facies 57: 275-300.

Wooster Geology Majors Help with B-WISER

June 21st, 2011

The College’s of Wooster’s B-WISER (Buckeye Women In Science, Engineering, and Research) program for 7th and 8th grade girls descended upon Scovel Hall last week for some fun activities in geology. In an afternoon session with the campers, we divided them into several groups so that they could get more individualized attention as they moved from station to station. One station, which was taught by geology major Lindsey Bowman (’12), allowed the campers to look at a variety of minerals and igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. The focus of the station, though, was a fossil exercise in which campers tried to identify invertebrate fossils from large Ordovician rock slabs that the Mark Wilson has collected over the years. These slabs primarily contained brachiopods, bryozoans, rugose corals, bivalves, and trilobite fragments. In the image below, Lindsey (far left, blue shirt) is helping the campers identify Ordovician fossils.

The other station involved recreating a dinosaur trackway from Texas. The dinosaur tracks, as well as the stride distances between footprints, were to scale. B-WISER campers were tasked with figuring out which dinosaur was moving faster (bipedal or quadrupedal) and then coming up with a hypothesis of dinosaur behavior at the time the trackway was made. With help from William Cary (’13) and myself, campers navigated the measuring and math required to complete the task. Below is an image of the trackway in Scovel Hall; the campers are busy calculating the footprint length and stride length, while William (green shirt) is in the background helping with the activity.

At the end of the afternoon, all B-WISER campers came together for a final activity involving Plate Tectonics. Campers participated in a JIGSAW exercise created by Dale Sawyer (Rice University) in which they are divided into speciality teams: geography, seismology, volcanology, and geochronology. After analyzing data from only their specialty, mixed groups are formed so that there is at least one person from each speciality. Campers then put all of the data sets together to determine the position of the major plate boundaries on Earth. The B-WISER campers appeared to have a great time throughout the week, and geology sure enjoyed their visit!!