Archive for August, 2015

Team Utah 2015

August 6th, 2015

Guest bloggers: Julia Franceschi and Mary Reinthal

What do you get when you have zero cloud coverage, 90-degree heat, and a desert? Aside from the start of a bad joke, you get a snippet of the College of Wooster geology’s 2015 expedition to Black Rock desert Utah. It was here that some of the College’s senior geology students—Krysden Schantz, Michael Williams, and Kelli Baxstrom—collected some sunburns and samples for their Senior Independent Studies. These research projects range anywhere from trying to figure out the date of the lava flow to mechanisms of emplacement (e.g., channelized vs. inflated flows). Some of the students that went, however, went because they were able-bodied field assistants who could handle the heat. Geology major Julia Franceschi said this about her field assisting experience:

“Utah was extremely hot and there were some days (and by some days I mean everyday) where 3 liters of water were not enough. But we managed to get a lot of good data, even though my boots took a beating (R.I.P). ”

Chloe Wallace and Julia Franceschi use the Trimble GPS to make cm-scale measurements of the topography.

Chloe Wallace and Julia Franceschi use the Trimble GPS to make cm-scale measurements of the topography.

When the plane finally landed in Salt Lake City, Utah, a 2 ½ hour drive took the crew to Fillmore, the location of their field site. The first day, Friday, started around 11AM, but the crew learned quickly that the earlier they started, the less intense the sun (and heat) was.

Team Utah meeting to distribute equipment and plan the field day.

Team Utah meeting to distribute equipment and plan the field day.

Like for most groups, the first day was devoted as a get-accustomed-to-the-field day, that entailed some reconnaissance and exploration. The rest of the week was spent doing eight hours a day of research and studies. According to Dr. Meagen Pollock, walking on a’a is “nonsense” and more often than not, each day was faced with new challenges. Chloe Wallace and Julia conducted high resolution GPS location and elevation data. Dan Misinay took photographs and helped Krysden conduct transects to record vegetative cover. Michael and Kelli spent most of their days mapping the area and attempting to understand volcanic features. Some days, however, were graced with the occasional snake or rainbow to change up the scenery. It was a successful trip.

One of our lizard friends.

One of our lizard friends.

A snake friend, warming itself in the morning sun. Photo credit: Dan Misinay

A snake friend, warming itself in the morning sun. Photo credit: Dan Misinay

Kelli and Dr. Judge measuring striae.

Kelli and Dr. Judge measuring striae.

Krysden is in her element among the lavas.

Krysden is in her element among the lavas. Photo Credit: Dan Misinay

Contemplating lava emplacement clearly brings joy to Michael.

Contemplating lava emplacement clearly brings joy to Michael. Photo Credit: Dan Misinay

Dan helps Krysden with her vegetation survey.

Dan helps Krysden with her vegetation survey.

We were treated to a double rainbow over our field site after a light sprinkle in the desert.

We were treated to a double rainbow over our field site after a light sprinkle in the desert.

And a show of wild flowers! Photo Credit: Kelli Baxstrom

And a show of wild flowers! Photo Credit: Kelli Baxstrom

Team Utah proudly representing Wooster Geologists!

Team Utah proudly representing Wooster Geologists!

Into the Niagara Gorge

August 6th, 2015

1 Lewiston-Queenston Bridge 080615LOCKPORT, NEW YORK (August 6, 2015) — It holds one of the strongest river currents in the world, the gorge of the Niagara River below Niagara Falls. That tremendous flow has cut a deep canyon through the Silurian rocks of the region, providing a superb opportunity for geologists to see the local stratigraphy and paleontology. Today our team walked into the gorge from Lewiston, New York, to explore the section. Carl Brett was our guide. Above is a view of the gorge at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge that joins the USA on the right with Canada on the left. The forests are plenty dense, but there are rocks in those steep walls.

2 Gorge trailWe hiked along the Gorge Trail on the USA side upriver from Lewiston. The trail is actually an old road built for transport of construction materials used for the hydroelectric dams upriver.

3 Gorge block 080615We learned most of the geological context by examining fallen blocks along the trail. This was an interesting way to see the stratigraphy because the different formations dropped blocks randomly along the path.

4 AE080615I tried to get a surreptitious picture of my German colleague Andrej Ernst.

5 Grimsby crossbedsThe Grimsby Formation (Lower Silurian, Llandoverian) is a sandstone that has numerous sedimentary structures, including nice cross-sets.

6 Kinneyia Grimsby Niagara GorgeAndrej found this nice specimen of an enigmatic feature called Kinneyia. It may be a function of gas build-up underneath microbial mats on the ancient seafloor. I’ve always called it “elephant skin”.

7 Niagara Gorge section 080615A view of the gorge wall above us.

8 Rochester collecting Niagara GorgeWhen the trail reached the Rochester Shale, we spent some time searching it for fossils. The most common finds were cystoids (especially Caryocrinites) and the odd coronoid Stephanocrinus.

9 Andrej Carl 080615Andrej Ernst and Carl Brett on the Rochester Shale outcrop in the Niagara Gorge. Andrej noted many neglected bryozoans in the fossil fauna exposed here.

10 Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating StationsOur final stop was opposite the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating Stations built on the Canadian side of the gorge. It is an awesome feat of engineering, and a prodigious amount of concrete.

We had an excellent time in the Niagara Gorge. I was at last able to see some of the nuances of Silurian stratigraphy that Carl Brett was explaining. As you can see, the weather was ideal.

We said goodbye to Carl at the end of the day as he departed for fieldwork in nearby southern Ontario.

 

Wooster Geologist in New York

August 5th, 2015

1 Calebs Quarry 080515LOCKPORT, NEW YORK (August 5, 2015) — What looks like an ordinary commercial quarry above is actually quite unusual. It is an excavation done entirely by amateur paleontologists (“citizen scientists”) to collect and preserve fossils from the Rochester Shale (Upper Silurian, Wenlockian). The story of Caleb’s Quarry is well told in the linked American Museum of Natural History article. It is near Lockport, New York, and one of the most famous fossil sites in the region. I’m lucky to be here.

This late summer expedition to New York is to help my German friend Andrej Ernst (University of Hamburg/University of Kiel) collect bryozoans from the Rochester Shale. This bryofauna is inadequately described for phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses, so Andrej has a grant to do the deed from outcrop sampling to preparation, analysis and publication. While assisting Andrej, I am also scouting out new localities for future geology Senior Independent Study projects at Wooster. We will be in Niagara and Erie Counties for a week doing this work.

2 CarlCalebsAbsolutely critical to the project is the field advice and direction of Carl Brett (University of Cincinnati). Carl is without peer when it comes to many paleontological and geological topics, but for the Silurian of New York he is one of the gods. Carl grew up in the region and has been studying the rocks and fossils since he was a young teenager. He gave us two days of magnificent stratigraphic instruction, and he introduced us to the amateur team digging at Caleb’s Quarry. We were also joined for three days by Brian Bade, a citizen scientist from Ohio with an extraordinary passion for fossils, along with deep knowledge and appreciation for how science works.

3 FredandCarlCalebsFred Barber, one of the excavators at Caleb’s Quarry, is here showing Carl Brett magnificent crinoids collected from this locality.

4 Crinoid Calebs 080515The gray shale matrix is homogenous and soft enough to be removed from the fossil by an expert preparator. This crinoid shows outstanding preservation down to the pinnules on its arms.

5 Bryozoan Calebs reconstructedOf course, Andrej and I are most interested in the bryozoans from Caleb’s Quarry. Here is a beautiful specimen that has been carefully reconstructed.

6 StriispiriferCalebsI found these brachiopod-rich beds intriguing. Striispirifer is a new name to me.

7 DalmanTriloCalebsTrilobites are always the stars of Paleozoic fossil sites like this. While we were at the quarry we watched one of the excavators (Kent Smith) unearth this gorgeous specimen. I believe it is Dalmanites limulurus.

8 ChondritesCalebsThe trace fossils here are very interesting. There may be project possibilities with this ichnofauna because of the diversity present at the quarry and the bedding plane exposures. This is the trace fossil Chondrites.

9 Jungle Jeddo tributaryAfter our quarry visit today we then stopped at some other exposures of the Rochester Shale. This scene shows what fieldwork is like without quarries and roadcuts! We are here along a tributary of Jeddo Creek, at the top of Lewiston Member B of the Rochester Shale. Hard to tell, eh?

10 Brian Jeddo Tributary Lewiston BHere Brian Bade is examining a deeply weathered section along the creek. Years ago Carl Brett took advantage of this disaggregation of the Rochester Shale to sieve the sediment for small fossils. He has generously given us the “washings” from this cut, which represent months of his work as a graduate student. They are loaded with tiny bryozoan bits, along with many other taxa.

11 Cherokee UnconformityWe ended the day with a look at several other outcrops in the Lockport area. The impressive contact here between the massive sandstone and the underlying red shales is called the Cherokee Unconformity. It is a megasequence boundary correlated across most of North America. It was thought until recently to be the Ordovician-Silurian boundary, but now all you see in this image is considered latest Ordovician.

 

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