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An Experience and an Upset

July 1st, 2016

Reykjavik, Iceland – Guest Blogger Ben Kumpf (’18)

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Carl-Lars Engen (Beloit ’17), among thousands of Islanders gathered in the capital, Reykjavik. Fans were cheering on the national team in the Euro Cup round of 16 against England. We were fortunate enough to see one of the biggest upsets of the year as a country with more volcanoes than professional soccer players defeated England 2-1.

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Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Iron-oxide oncoids (“snuff-boxes”) from the Middle Jurassic of southern England

July 1st, 2016

1 Snuffbox colection BBThese fossils (in the broad sense!) are inevitable for our weekly feature considering how much time we spent studying and collecting them during last month’s fieldwork in Dorset, southern England. “Snuff-boxes” are the subject of Cassidy Jester’s (’17) Senior Independent Study project, so here we’ll just broadly cover what we think we know about them.

These discoidal objects are called “snuff-boxes” because their carbonate centers (usually a bit of limestone or shell) often erode faster than their iron-oxide exteriors, making them weather a bit like boxes with lids.
2 Quote from Buckman 1910 67This quote from Buckman (1910, p. 67) is the earliest reference I can find to the snuff-box term. Snuff-boxes were sometimes works of art in the 18th and 19th centuries, although quarrymen probably had more homespun varieties in mind.
1 Snuffbox serpulidssWe’re counting these snuff-boxes as fossils here because they formed through biotic and physical processes. The cortex of a snuff-box has layers of serpulid worm tubes, as shown above.
4 Palmer Wilson Fig 3There are also cyclostome bryozoans embedded within the iron-oxide layers, as shown in this image from Palmer and Wilson (1990, fig. 3).
3 Snuff-box horn 061716We believe the snuff-boxes grew by accretion of microbially-induced layers of iron-oxide formed on their undersides, which would have been gloomy caverns on the seafloor. They then would have occasionally turned over and grew layers on the other side. Many snuff-boxes have extensions on their peripheries that look in cross-sections like horns, as seen above. The layers are separate from those that formed around the nucleus. They may have grown after the snuff-box became too big to be overturned by currents or animals.
6 Platy minerals pdt19573Paul Taylor and I looked at the cortex of a snuff-box with Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and had the above surprising view. The odd platy materials may be limonite, an iron-oxide that is amorphous (non-crystalline).
7 Hebrew letters pdt19572Sometimes the plates look like they’ve partially evaporated, leaving remnants that resemble Hebrew letters!
8 iron ooid pdt19576Associated with the snuff-boxes are small “iron ooids” that are about sand-size. They too have the platy materials, and so their origin may be similar to that of the snuff-boxes.

Cassidy has an interesting project ahead of her testing various origin hypotheses and sorting out the paleontology, mineralogy and geochemistry.

References:

Buckman, S.S. 1910. Certain Jurassic (Lias-Oolite) strata of south Dorset and their correlation. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society 66: 52-89.

Burkhalter, R.M. 1995. Ooidal ironstones and ferruginous microbialites: origin and relation to sequence stratigraphy (Aalenian and Bajocian, Swiss Jura mountains). Sedimentology 42: 57-74.

Gatrall, M., Jenkyns, H.C. and Parsons, C.F. 1972. Limonitic concretions from the European Jurassic, with particular reference to the “snuff-boxes” of southern England. Sedimentology 18: 79-103.

Palmer, T.J. and Wilson, M.A. 1990. Growth of ferruginous oncoliths in the Bajocian (Middle Jurassic) of Europe. Terra Nova 2: 142-147.

Wooster Alumni in Iceland

June 29th, 2016

Hafnarfjörður, Iceland – Guest Blogger Ben Kumpf (’18)

There is never a dull moment in the life of a Wooster geologist. This afternoon at the Lava Hostel, Keck students were surprised with a visit from Brian S. Carl, Wooster alumni class of ’87. Brian, now a Senior Production Geologist for Shell, stopped by after hearing word from Dr. Wilson that Wooster students were in the area doing research. Brian and his wife Karen were enjoying their their vacation in Iceland; we just missed visiting with their daughter, Alena, who is a current Wooster student.

From left to right, Wooster alumni Karen Carl, Brian Carl, Meagen Pollock, and Ben Kumpf.

From left to right, Wooster alumni Karen Carl, Brian Carl, Meagen Pollock, and Ben Kumpf.

23 Hours of Sunlight and 22 Hours of Bugs (Part 1)

June 26th, 2016

Guest bloggers: Andrew Wayrynen and Jeff Gunderson

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First attempt at collecting wood in Muir Inlet with Dan Lawson 

Two College of Wooster geologists in the Alaskan wilderness is always a recipe for success. Thanks to Dr. Wiles and the geo gang, we took our interests in glaciology and dendroclimatology to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Southern Alaska, where scrambling up glaciers, maneuvering slippery alders, and finally sampling old growth trees became daily routine. As the first time in Alaska for Andrew and the second for Jeff, the beauty of the historic place was stunning and allowed scientific inquiry to flourish in its wake. Jeff’s tall task stood as “bridging the gap” of Glacier Bay’s glacial and climate history and Andrew, an English major by night, explored the location’s history in accordance with the writing of esteemed preservationist John Muir.

We were met by none other than Nick Wiesenberg at the Juneau airport, where we promptly sorted out food supplies and last minute gear checklists. After a few quick stops around town and a quiet night in the state’s capitol we were set to take off for Glacier Bay and to enter the field. We spent the night in a park-designated campsite and the next day we, as a trio, embarked a national park service boat to scoop up Dr. Wiles and his bright-eyed photographer Jesse who were already at Marble Mountain. Thereafter, we voyaged up-Bay to Muir Inlet where we set up camp between the Eastern-Arm’s McBride and Riggs Glaciers.

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Carrying supplies in the sand dunes to cross the river and find the log

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The older generation showing us how it’s done

The following day, the five of us kayaked to Wolf Lake in hopes of finding logs that would bridge the 2000-year old gap in the Glacier Bay tree-ring chronology. This totaled to a 14-mile round trip venture, where 6 miles were by foot and 8 were by kayak. The trek followed a decent sized creek, through marshy, bug-infested alders up a ridge to a drainage divide. From the top, a beautiful lake was visible whose crystal waters contained the remnants of an icy past. Down the other side of the divide was our goal- the roaring braided streams and the encasing alluvial fans. The mosquitoes brandished whatever the hell it is that they so eagerly stab us with and we set forth, mesh bug nets swaying in the wind, serving as a sort of lifeline. At last in the outwash plain, we spread out and surveyed the area for the missing pieces to our chronological puzzle. Our efforts proved fruitful, for there was more wood than we could conceivably carry.

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A teachable moment for us in the field

5.5We’re considering making a show called Alaskan Bushwhackers

This first day of fieldwork truly set the tone for the remainder of the project. Sunny skies would subsequently outweigh threatening thunderous clouds, and complacency would never overcome hard work. The following afternoon the crew seized the opportunity to explore McBride Glacier by sea kayak, both resting tired legs and experiencing the immensity of one of the only remaining tidewater glaciers left in the Bay. We found it incredibly rewarding and inspiring to be so close to the very living beings that we have, and indeed will continue to, spend so much time studying. That afternoon, ice appeared the most brilliant shade of blue. Later that night, rice and beans never tasted so good.

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Glaciers make us smile… stay posted for part 2

 

Pillows, Trolls, and Dried Fish

June 26th, 2016

Hafnafjörður, Iceland – Cara Lembo (Amherst), official Keck Iceland 2016 Guest Blogger.

Greetings from rainy Iceland! After spending 4 full days in the field we are spending a rainy day inside discussing projects and compiling our data.

Inside the Lava Hostel on a rainy Sunday morning.

Inside the Lava Hostel on a rainy Sunday morning.

We spent our first day and a half in Iceland inside the Undirhlíðar quarry – an ideal place to observe cross sections of pillow lavas and other volcanic deposits.

Michelle Orden and Anna Thompson with a shelved lava tube in the Undirhlíðar quarry. The tube was likely refilled with the darker lava.

Michelle Orden (Dickinson) and Anna Thompson (Carleton) with a shelved lava tube in the Undirhlíðar quarry. The tube was likely refilled with the darker lava.

A pillow in the Undirhlíðar quarry.

A pillow in the Undirhlíðar quarry.

After getting a feel for many different types volcanic deposits in the quarry, we headed out to survey the ridge South of the quarry and observe these deposits “in the wild.”

 

Keck students hiking across the ridge.

Keck students hiking across the ridge.

We surveyed the ridge for the next day and a half. Highlights include discovering an unexpected tephra cone and learning how to tell the difference between goats and sheep. According to Ben you say, “Goaty, Goaty raise your tail!”

Students and Ben observing a diamict deposit on the ridge.

Students and Ben observing a diamict deposit on the ridge.

Once we surveyed the whole ridge, we started our mapping project with a gully on the southwest side of the ridge.

 

The gully we mapped. We discovered lots of fractured pillow lavas and dikes.

The gully we mapped. We discovered lots of fractured pillow lavas and dikes.

Michelle looking for trolls in the lava field below the gully. (The trolls we are looking for: http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/p__/images/f/fa/The_Trolls_(Frozen).jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140116003401&path-prefix=protagonist)

Michelle looking for trolls in the lava field below the gully (the trolls we are looking for).

We’ve also sampled some local Icelandic cuisine such as Skyr, chocolate covered licorice and, to Dr. Pollock’s dismay, Harðfiskur (dried fish).

 

 

Ben with Harðfiskur. The dried fish has an incredibly potent smell that we cannot get out of the van.

Ben with Harðfiskur. The dried fish has an incredibly potent smell that we cannot get out of the van.

Overall it has been an exciting first week in the field. More to come as we continue working in the field and trying to adjust to the never-ending daylight.

 

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Encrusting cyanobacteria from the Upper Ordovician of the Cincinnati region

June 24th, 2016

1 pdt19598 D1253Deep in the basement of the Natural History Museum in London, Paul Taylor and I were examining cyclostome bryozoans encrusting an Upper Ordovician brachiopod with a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). This is one of our favorite activities, as the SEM always reveals tiny surprises about our specimens. That day the surprises were the smallest yet – fossils we had never seen before.

2 Infected brachWe were studying the dorsal exterior surface of this beat-up brachiopod from a 19th Century collection labelled “Cincinnati Group”. (Image by Harry Taylor.) We knew it was the strophomenid Rafinesquina ponderosa, and that the tiny chains of bryozoans encrusting it were of the species Corynotrypa inflata. We’ve seen this scene a thousand times. But when we positioned the SEM beam near the center of the shell where there was a brown film …

3 pdt16920 D1253… we saw that the bryozoans were themselves encrusted with little pyritic squiggles. These were new to us.

4 pdt19580 D7139In some places there were thick, intertwining mats of these squiggles. We later found these fossils on two other brachiopod specimens, both also Rafinesquina ponderosa and from 19th Century collections with no further locality or stratigraphic information.

5 pdt19578 D7139Last week Paul and I scanned these specimens again and began to put together an analysis. We believe these are fossil cyanobacteria. They are uniserial, unbranching strands of cells that range from 5 to 9 microns in length and width. Some of individual strands are up to 700 microns long and many are sinuous. The cells are uniform in size and shape along the strands; there are no apparent heterocysts. They appear very similar in form to members of the Order Oscillatoriales.

6 CyanobacteriaCyanobacteria are among the oldest forms of life, dating back at least 2.1 billion years, and they are still abundant today. The fossils are nearly identical to extant forms, as seen above (image from: http://www.hfmagazineonline.com/cyanobacteria-worlds-smallest-oldest-eyeball/).

7 pdt19599 D1253Paul made this remarkable image, at 9000x his personal record for high magnification, showing the reticulate structure preserved on some of the fossil surfaces. Note that the scale bar is just 2 microns long. These are beautiful fossils in their tiny, tiny ways.

We have not seen these cyanobacteria fossils before on shell surfaces, so we submitted an abstract describing them for the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver this September. We are, of course, not experts on bacteria, so we are offering our observations to the scientific community for further discussion. Here is the conclusion of our abstract —

“We suggest the cyanobacterial mats developed shortly before final burial of the brachiopod shells. Since the cyanobacteria were photosynthetic, the shells are inferred to have rested with their dorsal valve exteriors upwards in the photic zone. That Cincinnatian brachiopod shells were occupied by cyanobacteria has been previously well demonstrated by their microborings but this is the first direct evidence of surface microbial mats on the shells. The mats no doubt played a role in the paleoecology of the sclerobiont communities on the brachiopods, and they may have influenced preservation of the shell surfaces by the “death mask” effect. The pyritized cyanobacteria can be detected with a handlens by dark squiggles on the brachiopod shells, but must be confirmed with SEM. We encourage researchers to examine the surfaces of shells from the Cincinnatian and elsewhere to find additional evidence of fossilized bacterial mats.”

References:

Noffke, N., Decho, A.W. and Stoodle, P. 2013. Slime through time: the fossil record of prokaryote evolution. Palaios 28: 1-5.

Tomescu, A. M., Klymiuk, A.A., Matsunaga, K.K., Bippus, A.C. and Shelton, G.W. 2016. Microbes and the Fossil Record: Selected Topics in Paleomicrobiology. In: Their World: A Diversity of Microbial Environments (pp. 69-169). Springer International Publishing.

Vogel, K. and Brett, C.E. 2009. Record of microendoliths in different facies of the Upper Ordovician in the Cincinnati Arch region USA: the early history of light-related microendolithic zonation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 281: 1-24.

Keck 2016 Arrives in Iceland

June 21st, 2016

Hafnafjörður, Iceland – What a fantastic day! Dr. Ben Edwards and I are leading a 6-student Keck trip to Iceland to study a glaciovolcanic ridge. It was a long travel day, but everyone (and their luggage) arrived safe and sound. No need to waste any time – soon after we set up camp, we headed to the field.

Ben Edwards (left) and the Keck students discuss their initial observations of pillow lavas and dikes.


A beautiful day welcomed us to our field site, but we couldn’t stay for too long because we had a birthday to celebrate.

Carl-Lars celebrated his birthday today during his first visit to Iceland, among his newfound Keck friends.

Today’s introduction was brief, but we’ll continue to post about our work and adventures over the next month.



Wooster Geologist high in the air!

June 20th, 2016

1 Fig 7 062016Editor’s note: The following post is from guest blogger Annette Hilton (’17) about her extraordinary research experiences this summer. Annette gets around: You may remember her post last summer from the American Museum of Natural History.

This summer I have the privilege of working an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) internship with NASA Student Airborne Research Program (NASA SARP). The program has employed 32 undergraduates from all over the United States to explore airborne Earth science with four amazing mentors, all associated with NASA and universities from around the USA.

2 Seal 062016The program takes place in southern California—the first week spent in Palmdale, CA, where the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center is located. The second week SARP is split into four teams of eight students for specific research areas—Coastal Ocean and Remote Sensing, Forest and Remote Sensing, Atmospheric Chemistry, and Whole Air Sampling—and team field trips. The remaining six weeks will be spent in Irvine, on the UC Irvine campus, for data analysis.

Fig 1 062016Figure 1. Armstrong Flight Research Center, where all of NASA’s Earth Science airborne campaigns take place. The hangar pictured above houses several planes, including the DC-8.

SARP flies two missions on board the DC-8, NASA’s airborne laboratory. On Saturday June 18th I flew on board the DC-8 for a six hour flight over the Central Valley and Santa Barbara Channel.

Fig 2 062016Figure 2. Map of flight plan for the DC-8 on June 18th. The red circle indicates an area we had to unexpectedly plan around, as President Obama was camping with his family in Yosemite. This map does not include our added flight path above the Santa Barbara channel.

Fig 3 062016Figure 3. The DC-8 outside the hangar at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Fig 4 062016Figure 4. As you can see, the plane has been heavily modified for all the scientific equipment it houses! Most instruments on board sample and analyze data real time.

Fig 5 062016Figure 5. Inside the DC-8. The aircraft had just returned from a six week mission in South Korea, called KORUS-AQ, an international cooperative air quality field study. Because of this, the DC-8 was decked out with all the KORUS-AQ instruments, which SARP was able to have access to! When I was on board there were at least 40 different instruments, as well as most of the KORUS-AQ team.

Fig 6 062016Figure 6. More scientific goodies!

During the six hour flight we primarily flew in the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) (~1000-4000 ft altitude) in order to be close to emissions over the Central Valley. Our flight plan included flyovers of large dairy farms, oil fields, agricultural fields, and the Santa Barbara channel. We flew a few missed approaches where we got to about 40 feet above ground before flying back up to the PBL in areas of particular interest as well as a vertical spiral to create a profile of the atmosphere. I was even able to ride for 20 minutes in the cockpit and speak briefly with the pilots! Luckily, I was not one of the students on board who became ill during the flight. Flying in the PBL is very hot and a bumpy ride!

Fig 8 062016Figure 7. Outside my window in the PBL over the Central Valley.

Fig 9 062016Figure 8. Outside my window over the Santa Barbara channel, in smoke from the Sherpa Wildfire.

The first SARP flight on June 17th flew over the Los Angeles Basin. In addition, SARP has access to another one of NASA’s planes, the ER-2 (a pilot only plane), which will fly two missions for SARP above the same areas the DC-8 flew in order to obtain high altitude data (the ER-2 can fly up to 70,000 ft). SARP will also have access to the data obtained during the KORUS-AQ mission, as well as ground-based data during the second week field trips. My group, Coastal Ocean and Remote Sensing, will be traveling to Santa Barbara for a day cruise out on the channel to collect water samples. These data will eventually be used to calibrate and validate both airborne and satellite data obtained during SARP over the coastal area.

Fig 10 062016Figure 9. The Coastal Ocean and Remote Sensing group in front of the DC-8.

I am very excited to be in California this summer working with a wonderful group of peers and mentors at SARP. SARP has access to a plethora of data which I will utilize to design my own research project for the summer, which I also hope to continue during my senior independent study at Wooster.

A shout out to all the wonderful professors in the Wooster Geology Department who I owe many thanks to for their help in being able to participate in such an amazing experience! Thank you for all you do.

Wooster Geologists in England: Team Dorset

June 19th, 2016

Cassidy Bridport Sands 060716Cassidy Jester (’17) and I have now finished our fieldwork in southern England this month. Cassidy traveled through Britain afterwards, and I went on to London and the Natural History Museum. It was all a success thanks to my friends and colleagues Tim Palmer and Paul Taylor, with critical help from our new friends Bob Chandler and John Whicher. Our daily blog entries can be accessed at the UK2016 tag.

Team Dorset 0n Hive BeachTim Palmer, Cassidy Jester (’17) and Mark Wilson on Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock, Dorset, England.

Here is a table of our locality information for reference:

GPS# Latitude Longitude Location
138 50.96268903 -2.503268039 Frogden Quarry
139 50.96319797 -2.501848983 Frogden Quarry older
140 50.93710503 -2.601833018 Babylon Hill
141 50.94292902 -2.556813983 Louse Hill
142 50.79496597 -2.71623401 Coombe Quarry, Mapperton
143 50.70015801 -2.734380998 Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock
145 50.81626003 -2.771674013 Horn Park
146 50.70154396 -2.737065973 Burton Bradstock snuffboxes

Final day at The Natural History Museum … and one more Jurassic snuff-box

June 17th, 2016

1 Chandler snuff-box cutLondon, England — My last day in London was spent working on GSA abstracts and examining one last ferruginous oncoid (“snuff-box”) from the Jurassic (Bajocian) of southern England. Bob Chandler donated to the cause a large discoidal snuff-box. We cut it (cross-section through the center shown above) and revealed its intricate internal structure.

2 Chandler snuff-box nucleusThe typical limestone nucleus is smaller than I expected, but it still shows typical features such as bioerosion.

3 Snuff-box horn 061716This specimen has beautifully-developed “horns” around the periphery. They are made of laminae not connected to the central cortex. Paul Taylor suggested that they form when the snuff-box is no long being moved about. Nice specimen. Cassidy Jester (’17) will have much to figure out in her Independent Study focused on these objects.

I’ve had a great and productive time on this expedition to England. Thank you again to my amigos Tim Palmer and Paul Taylor, as well as John Whicher, Bob Chandler and Consuelo Sendino. Science marches on.

Addendum: This is the way I like my Tube stations — empty! Take me home, District Line to Paddington. Saturday, June 18, 5:08 a.m.

Fulham Broadway tube station at 0508

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