Archive for November, 2012

The second group of Wooster GSA 2012 posters

November 5th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–Matt Peppers (’13), a member of the intrepid Team Utah, presented his poster today at the 2012 Geological Society of America annual meeting. Matt is working on the dynamics of the volcanic flows in the Black Rock Desert. Here is his abstract.

Melissa Torma (’13) showed her poster in the same session. She worked in the Negev of southern Israel on the Middle Jurassic Matmor Formation fauna. Her GSA abstract is here.

The third Wooster presenter was Richa Ekka (’13), who worked on Saaremaa Island in Estonia this summer. Her abstract describing her project with a Silurian shallow water dolomitic sequence is here.

Once again it was a joy to watch our students interact with the many geologists who discussed their posters and projects. I now can’t imagine coming to these meetings without an enthusiastic group of our students.

“Where Our Deepest Passions Intersect the World’s Compelling Needs”: The 2012 GSA Presidential Address

November 4th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–President of the Geological Society of America George H. Davis delivered a spectacular and inspiring address early this afternoon. As his title says, he emphasized the joys and privileges of being geologists along with the civic and scientific duties to make a difference. He discussed why we became geologists in the first place, even using images of his Structural Geology homework and Independent Study from his Wooster undergraduate days! I especially appreciated his ideas about how we can better serve the public through organized, rapid responses to geological events.

We also watched GSA Past President John W. Geissman present the President’s Medal to the author and environmental activist Bill McKibben (below). It was an apt follow-up to the Presidential Address — a real example of a life lived in service of public education and activism.

The first Wooster Geology student posters at GSA 2012

November 4th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–The brave souls Jonah Novek (’13) above and Kit Price (’13) below were the first Wooster students to present their posters at the 2012 Geological Society of America meeting. Jonah worked in Estonia this past summer on Early Silurian recovery faunas in the Hilliste Formation on Hiiumaa Island. You can read his abstract directly here, and you can recall his field adventures by searching for “Jonah” in this blog. Kit collected Upper Ordovician cryptic sclerobiont fossils in Indiana in the late summer. Her abstract is here, and you can see her work in this blog by searching for “Kit“. Jonah and Kit started off our GSA presentation experience with confidence and joy.

Wooster Geologists at the GSA President’s Student Breakfast

November 4th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–The Geological Society of America has a tradition of hosting a free breakfast for those students willing to come to the convention center at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The meal is hosted by the GSA President and sponsored by ExxonMobil Corporation. Secretaries of GSA sections and associated societies help serve the students, which is why I was there.

This year’s GSA President is George H. Davis (Wooster ’64) who with his wife Merrily generously greeted the Wooster students at their table, telling them stories about their Wooster days and inspiring them to geological activism. It was a classic moment for Wooster Geology.

This, by the way, was the first time I saw the Wooster students after their long drive down from Wooster to Charlotte. It was great to see them happy, enthusiastic and safe. They also seemed mighty hungry.

 

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: Birch wood with beetle borings (Oligocene of Oregon)

November 4th, 2012

We may be at the Geological Society of America annual meeting today, but that doesn’t stop Fossil of the Week! This week’s fossil is a beautifully-detailed piece of petrified birch wood (Betula) with tree rings and insect borings throughout. It was found in the Little Butte Formation (Oligocene) of Linn County, Oregon. This rock unit consists of thick tuffs and volcanic breccias representing volcanic mudflows and nuée ardente deposits that buried diverse hardwood forests. This formation is known for its spectacular silicified fossil wood.
The beetle borings, shown in closer view above, are very similar to those bored in birch trees today. There is little work done on the ichnotaxonomy of these trace fossils, so I can’t yet give them a name, but at least we can see typical beetle activity in the twists and turns. The holes are apparently filled with a cemented mix of insect feces and wood fragments called frass, just like we find in modern birch wod today.

References:

Beaulieu, J.D., Hughes, P.W., and Mathiot, R.K. 1974. Environmental geology of western Linn County, Oregon. Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries Bulletin, no. 84, 117 p.

Rozefelds, A.C. and De Baar, M. 1991. Silicified Kalotermitidae (Isoptera) frass in conifer wood from a mid-Tertiary rainforest in central Queensland, Australia. Lethaia 24: 439-442.

First GSA Event: The Paleontological Society Short Course — “Reconstructing Earth’s Deep-Time Climate”

November 3rd, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–This iPhone snapshot of a dark lecture room may record the time and place, but it hardly does justice to the event, so let’s see an image of the colorful special volume printed for this year’s Paleontological Society Short Course:

Much better. The Paleontological Society has a short course every year at its annual meeting with the Geological Society of America. I’ve been to nearly every one since my graduate school days. They are designed to bring paleontologists up to speed on the latest innovations and ideas in the science. They are also — sometimes in contradiction — supposed to review basic concepts for non-experts in a particular subdiscipline. This year’s course, developed by Linda Ivany (Syracuse University) and Brian Huber (Smithsonian Institution), was even more ambitious than most: it brought together paleontologists and geochemists to address how we deduce ancient climates, and by implication Earth’s history of climate change. As an indication of its interdisciplinary nature, this short course was also sponsored by the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) and the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research. Linda and Brian succeeded in not only bringing us introductory level description of paleoclimatological theory and practice, they also showed us some of the most exciting new developments in the field. And unlike every other short course, this one even had food and drink!

I learned a great deal in this course, especially about some geochemical techniques for estimating ancient seawater temperatures such as clumped isotope and lipid paleothermometry, oxygen isotope analysis, and Mg/Ca ratio determination. Each has particular advantages in particular circumstances, and each has significant limitations in other settings. They all produce varieties of what Greg Wiles calls “wiggly lines” open to interpretation as to what they mean about ancient temperature histories. We also saw several examples of how climate analysis actually works with invertebrate, vertebrate and plant fossils. As always, one of the primary lessons was that biological systems are not easily modeled or predicted — that what geochemists call “vital effects” can make complicated natural processes even more convoluted.

Wooster Geologists at GSA

November 2nd, 2012

Many of the Wooster Geologists have embarked on the journey to Charlotte, NC, for the 2012 National Meeting of GSA. If you’re attending the meeting, be sure to check out one of our presentations:

Don’t miss us at the Group Alumni Reception on Monday at 7 pm in the Westin Grand Ballroom CD. We’re taking our annual alumni photo at 8 pm. GSA President and Wooster Alum George Davis (’64) will also be joining us at 8 pm.

Real-life photos to come!

 

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