Taking a break to see York

June 12th, 2015

1 Mae Meredith SW York MinsterSCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 12, 2015) — Team Yorkshire went on a holiday today with a visit to York, only a short train ride inland from Scarborough. We needed a break, and in any case the tides were not in our favor at Meredith’s Independent Study field site. It was another extraordinarily warm, clear and dry day. (Unlike the cold, foggy and damp Scarborough we returned to in the evening.)

Above Meredith and Mae stand in front of the southwestern portion of the iconic York Minster.

2 Mae Meredith York StreetHere we are walking down a York street. The city felt very large and busy after our days in Scarborough.

3 River Ouse in York from Skeldergate Bridge 585The River Ouse in York from Skeldergate Bridge. This river divides the city and has been an important transportation and trade route for centuries.

4 Constantine 061215This statue of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great is a monument to his accession to the office in 306 CE while in York, then known as Eboracum.

We spent time at the Viking archaeological center (Jorvik) and the York Castle Museum before taking the train back “home” to Scarborough. It was a great cultural excursion as we prepare for our last days of fieldwork.

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Chaetetids from the Upper Carboniferous of Liaoning Province, North China

June 12th, 2015

1 Benxi chaetetid 2a 585Last year I had a short and painful trip to China to meet my new colleague and friend Yongli Zhang (Department of Geology, Northeastern University, Shenyang). The China part was great; the pain was from an unfortunately-timed kidney stone I brought with me. Nevertheless, I got to meet my new colleagues and we continued on a project involving hard substrates in the Upper Carboniferous of north China. Above is one of our most important fossils, a chaetetid demosponge from the Benxi Formation (Moscovian) exposed in the Benxi area of eastern Liaoning Province. We are looking at a polished cross-section through a limestone showing the tubular, encrusting chaetetids.
2 Chaetetid Benxi Formation (Moscovian) Benxi Liaoning China 585This closer view shows two chaetetids. The bottom specimen grew first, was covered by calcareous sediment, and then the system was cemented on the seafloor. After a bit of erosion (marked by the gray surface cutting across the image two-thirds of the way up), another chaetetid grew across what was then a hardground that partially truncated the first chaetetid. This little scenario was repeated numerous times in this limestone, producing a kind of bindstone with the chaetetids as a common framework builder.
3 Chaetetid Benxi cross-section 585Here is the closest view of the chaetetids, showing the tubules running vertically, each with a series of small diaphragms as horizontal floors.

Last week’s fossil was a chaetetid, introducing the group. They are hyper-calcified demosponges, and the classification of the fossil forms is still not clear. Their value for paleoecological studies, though, is clear. This particular chaetetid from the Benxi Formation preferred a shallow, warm, carbonate environment, and it was part of a diverse community of corals, fusulinids, foraminiferans, brachiopods, crinoids, bryozoans, gastropods, and algae. Such hard substrate communities are not well known in the Carboniferous, and this is one of the best.

References:

Gong, E.P, Zhang, Y.L., Guan, C.Q. and Chen, X.H. 2012. The Carboniferous reefs in China. Journal of Palaeogeography 1: 27-42.

West, R.R. 2011a. Part E, Revised, Volume 4, Chapter 2A: Introduction to the fossil hypercalcified chaetetid-type Porifera (Demospongiae). Treatise Online 20: 1–79.

West, R.R. 2011b. Part E, Revised, Volume 4, Chapter 2C: Classification of the fossil and living hypercalcified chaetetid-type Porifera (Demospongiae). Treatise Online 22: 1–24.

Zhang, Y.L., Gong, E.P., Wilson, M.A., Guan, C.Q., Sun, B.L. and Chang, H.L. 2009. Paleoecology of a Pennsylvanian encrusting colonial rugose coral in South Guizhou, China. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 280: 507-516.

Zhang, Y.L., Gong, E.P., Wilson, M.A., Guan, C.Q.. and Sun, B.L. 2010. A large coral reef in the Pennsylvanian of Ziyun County, Guizhou (South China): The substrate and initial colonization environment of reef-building corals. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 37: 335-349.

Museum work and a castle visit in Scarborough

June 11th, 2015

1 Scarborough museum workSCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 11, 2015) — It is always useful when doing paleontological fieldwork to visit the local museum to see what specimens they’ve curated over the years. Today Team Yorkshire explored the collections at the Scarborough Museums Trust Woodend storage facility, courtesy of Jennifer Dunne, Collections Manager. Above are Mae Kemsley (’16) and Meredith Mann (’16) examining boxes of specimens from the Speeton Clay and Coralline Oolite, the two units they’re working with.

2 Peltoceras williamsoniThis specimen of the ammonite Peltoceras williamsoni is an example of the kind of material we find in museum collections. It comes from the Passage Beds of the Coralline Oolite — Meredith’s unit. We are not likely to come across such a well-preserved fossil in our short interval of fieldwork. This is not the first Peltoceras in this blog.

3 Peltoceras noteThis note that accompanied the above specimen is from J.K. Wright, an expert with these fossils.

4 Scarborough castle keepAfter our museum work, we took an opportunity to visit Scarborough Castle. (We couldn’t do more fieldwork this afternoon because of the high tides.) This is a spectacular place with over 3000 years of history. It was the site of settlements in about 800 BCE and 500 BCE, and then a Roman signalling station around 370 CE. The castle itself dates back to the 12th Century. In 1645 it was the subject of a long Civil War siege, with Parliamentarians on the outside shelling Royalists on the inside. (The cannonades broke the above castle keep in half.) In December 1914, German battleships fired over 500 shells into it.

5 Team Yorkshire castle 061115Mae and Meredith with the castle keep in the background. Note the fantastic weather!

6 St Marys chapel castleThe remains of St. Mary’s Chapel within the castle walls were built on the site of the Roman signals station. Resident of the castle took shelter here during the 1914 German bombardment.

7 Scarborough from castleA view of Scarborough from the castle walls. We could see all of our field areas along the coast from this vantage point.

Another gorgeous day on the Yorkshire coast

June 10th, 2015

Dismantled pillbox Filey BeachSCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 10, 2015) — We certainly can’t complain about the weather for our fieldwork in Yorkshire this year. Today was spectacular with blue skies and cool sea breezes. It made the long beach hikes very pleasant.

1 Mae on Speeton 061015This was our first day without our English colleague (and Yorkshire native) Paul Taylor, so we were on our own for transportation. We figured out the bus system, though, and made it to the Lower Cretaceous Speeton Clay at Reighton Sands in good time. Here is the last view you’ll have of Mae Kemsley (’16) working on her outcrops of this gray, mushy unit. We collected sediment samples this morning, along with a few last fossils.

2 Meredith on Speeton 061015Here is Meredith Mann (’16) doing the same. We finished all of our fieldwork for Mae’s project by 10:30 a.m., so we could make a long beach hike from the Speeton Cliffs northwards to Filey.

3 Meredith waiting on tide

4 Mae waiting on tideWe hiked as far as we could on Filey Brigg, but had to chill because our sites were still cut off by the high tide. Waiting for a tide to drop is tedious, but the students had plenty of patience.

5 Thalassinoides 061015We reached the large slabs of Hambleton Oolite Member (Upper Jurassic, Oxfordian) with Thalassinoides burrows to begin Meredith’s data collection. These are impressive trace fossils, with numerous shelly fossils in the surrounding matrix. We took reference photos and collected what we could. Unfortunately only three slabs met our criteria for measurements, so we moved to a unit exposed just below the Hambleton.

6 Cannonball concretionsOn the north side of Filey Brigg there are these large “cannonball” concretions, which were excellent stratigraphic markers for us. They are in the Saintoft Member of the Lower Calcareous Grit Formation. They told us that the units above were the Passage Beds Member of the Coralline Oolite Formation.

7 Passage Beds 061015Mae and Meredith are here collected fossils from the Passage Beds above the concretions. This unit is interesting to us because it contains shelly debris that was apparently washed onto shore during storms. These shells are often heavily encrusted with oysters and serpulids. Such sclerobionts have been little studied in this part of the section.

8 MMbus 061015On our sunny ride home the students sat in the front of the top section of our double-decker bus. Not a bad commute for a day’s work!

 

Russian Birch Climate Reconstruction

June 9th, 2015

Guest blogger – Dan Misinay

During the summer of 2014 Dr. Wiles and I.S. student Sarah Fredrick traveled to Kamchatka, Russia. While there, they cored hundreds of birch (Bertula ermanii) and larch (Larix gmelinii) trees to bring back to the tree ring lab and be analyzed. The cores were mounted, sanded, counted, and measured. This study is important because very little work has been done with Russian birch regarding climate reconstruction. The work that I have been doing so far this summer has been strictly with the birch trees.

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Hard at work with COFECHA and measuring cores.

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The birch forest growing on steep slopes in Kamchatka.

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Photo of sample UG05 of normal growth rings in the birch.

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Rapid growth occurring in 90 percent of the samples. Possibly caused from warming or increased precipitation.

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One of the many challenges with the birch trees were these patches of narrow rings. This growth occurred from 1990-2013 and or 1930-1960 in many of the cores. This growth could be caused from climate change or pollution in the surrounding environment. Additionally the rings at this site may be reacting to being on a slope, or the tree is slowly dying.

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Birch with small rings, notice one of the rings is much lighter than the rest of the wood. These changes occur between 1825 and 1875 in some of the samples.

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Another photo of birch trees growing in Kamchatka. Some of the abnormal ring growth could be linked to the growing conditions. Trees the grow on slopes generally have reaction wood which will cause the ring to grow much larger on side of the tree than the other. The side opposite of the reaction wood is generally very narrow and rings are pinched out.

 

ug vs sono

UG site from Kamchatka plotted against results from Sano et al, 2009. These are raw ring width measurements correlated with one another. UG site measurements are represented by the green line and Sano’s data is the blue line.

STD PLOTn

The above graph is the UG site chronology after being standardized. The growth trend is removed so that the desired climate signal is only showing. There are many trends through out the graphed that will be addressed later in the summer when the climate reconstruction is completed. The blue line on the bottom represents the number of samples at each given year.

References

Sano, M., Furuta, F., and Sweda, T., 2009, Tree-ring-width chronology of Larix gmelinii as an indicator of changes in early summer temperature in east-central Kamchatka: J For Res, v. 14, p. 147-154.

A coincidence?

June 9th, 2015

a Shoe Zone SmithSCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 9, 2015) — Why do these geologists look so pleased to be standing in front of a nondescript shoe store? The answer is on the blue plaque above their heads.

b Smith plaque 060915Turns out we’ve been eating breakfast every morning next to the Scarborough home of the heroic geologist William Smith. Auspicious!

Return to the Speeton Clay

June 9th, 2015

1 Mae on Speeton 060915SCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 9, 2015) — Team Yorkshire returned to the Speeton Clay today to begin the fieldwork for Mae Kemsley’s Senior Independent Study project. Mae chose to work on the incredible diversity of belemnites found in this Lower Cretaceous unit. There are two aspects to her study: the paleoecology of the belemnites themselves, and the taphonomy of their distinctive bullet-shaped calcitic rostra (guards). We hope that Mae will be able to do some stable isotope work to help elucidate the paleoenvironments these pelagic creatures lived in. Oxygen isotopes in particular may indicate the seawater temperatures when the belemnites were forming their skeletons. The Speeton Clay has faunas from alternating Boreal (northern, colder) and Tethyan (southern) regions, so this will be interesting.

2 Middle Cliff SpeetonHere is the Speeton Clay forming the Middle Cliff along the shoreline. Virtually every outcrop of this unit is slumped from above, so sorting out the stratigraphy is a challenge.

3 Mae working 060915Here is Mae again working through a small patch of the Speeton Clay. There are four broad intervals of the unit (A, B, C, D) that we must recognize by the fossil content and the position of the outcrop relative to various field markers like abandoned pillboxes, breakwaters, and large rocks.5-SS-Laura-boilers

One of our intertidal landmarks is a set of boilers from the 1897 wreck of the SS Laura, an Austro-Hungarian cargo ship that ran aground near Filey Brigg. The heavy boilers have stayed in essentially the same place for over a century.

4 Speeton work 060915The weather could not have been better today. We got Mae’s project off to a fine start with several sets of samples collected from the four primary units of the Speeton Clay.

Paul Taylor returned to his home in Epsom at the end of the day, leaving the three Americans to their own devices. He was essential in our first week, getting us oriented to the local geology, expertly driving us around to the various sites, and entertaining us with his trademark puns. He trained us well to carry on into week two of the Yorkshire Expedition.

Team Yorkshire chooses projects

June 8th, 2015

5 Meredith on block 060815SCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 8, 2015) — When we do field Independent Study projects in the Wooster Geology Department, we never know the exact topic until we’ve tested ideas on the actual outcrops. Today we did the last of our general exploration, and then at lunch Meredith Mann (’16) and Mae Kemsley (’16) decided on what they wanted to do for their projects. Meredith chose to study the fossil community associated with Thalassinoides trace fossils in the Birdsall Calcareous Grit Member of the Coralline Oolite Formation (Upper Jurassic, Oxfordian) at Filey Brigg. She’s shown above on one of the exposed bedding planes she will soon be examining in detail. Mae’s choice? You’ll read it here tomorrow.

1 Cayton Bay 060815We started our day in Cayton Bay, south of Scarborough. We had a long walk at high tide from our car south along the coast. After we hit the boulders in the middle of the view above, we saw no one else for the rest of the morning. The cliff is capped by Oxfordian limestones, with the thick Oxford Clay beneath. We had a few drops of rain while in Cayton Bay, but they didn’t develop into more than a sprinkle.

2 Kellaways rockWe couldn’t cross the boulder field (boulders and steep slopes are a theme of this expedition) until the tide receded a bit, so we spent some time examining this cliff exposure of the Osgodby Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian).

3 Gristhorpe BayWe crossed over Yons Nab (you just have to love these English place names) into Gristhorpe Bay to the south. Again, no other souls on this sunny day. After a quiet lunch, we retraced our route back to the car. The general reconnaissance is done. Time to start our work.

4 Filey Brigg 585 070815Back to Filey Brigg. This is a view down the axis of the Brigg as it enters the sea. Note what a spectacular day it is.

6 Meredith outcrop 060815Our job this afternoon was to work out the protocols of Meredith’s research, and pick her work sites. This is a beautiful exposure of the Birdsall Calcareous Grit Member on the north side of Filey Brigg. Note the Thalassinoides in place above Meredith. Meredith will be measuring and describing a section of the units here, and doing her mapping and collecting on the loose block along the Brigg itself.

Tomorrow we start Mae’s project!

Shore defenses

June 8th, 2015

a Beached pillbox closerSCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 8, 2015) — We see many of these World War II concrete defenses along the Yorkshire coastline. This is a pillbox that was likely constructed in 1940 to defend the realm from the Germans. Of course, it was not placed on the sandy beach but up on the steep slopes overlooking the shore. Erosion of that headland since 1940 was complete, leaving this structure on the open beach.

b Slumped pillbox 060815It is a dilemma, building on these sea cliffs of the northern Yorkshire coast. The substrate here is a “boulder clay”, a Pleistocene glacial deposit known as a diamictite. It is easy to excavate, but flows readily under weight and when wet. The sea hammers away at the foot of these soft cliffs as their tops slump downwards. The heavy concrete gun emplacements and observation posts serve their purpose for a few years, and then eventually fall into the sea as the coast retreats. Seventy-five years of coastal erosion has removed a great deal of the cliffs.

c Destroyed pilbox 060815

Beached pillbox 061015

Dismantled pillbox Filey Beach

House with erosion problemGiven what you’ve seen above, would you buy this seaside house?

 

Speeton Cliffs and Filey Brigg on a fine English summer day

June 7th, 2015

1 Speeton 060715SCARBOROUGH, ENGLAND (June 7, 2015) — This steep and muddy slope may not look like much, but it is the man exposure of the famous Speeton Clay, a Lower Cretaceous unit rich with fossils. Team Yorkshire started here (N 54.16654°, W 00.24567°) this morning to continue our reconnaissance of the local geology. The weather could not have been better. (I can only imagine what this sediment is like when wet!)

2 Slumped Speeton Pillbox 060715The Speeton Clay is quite mobile, with slips and land slippages very common along its coastal exposure. This is a World War II pillbox, part of the sea defenses of Britain, making its way down slope on the clay. On the shore itself are bits of previous WWII concrete installations that are now on the beach.

3 Red ChalkAfter collecting dozens of belemnites from the Speeton Clay for future research, we visited an exposure of the Red Chalk (Hunstanton Formation), which has smaller belemnites of a different genus.

4 Chalk cliffs s SpeetonIf we continued to the south we would have met these imposing cliffs of chalk, the northern part of the series of white coastal chalks that extends south past Dover. Seabirds swirled around them in the thousands this morning.

5 Paul marine tutorialWhile walking back to our car, Paul Taylor showed Meredith Mann and Mae Kemsley various intertidal organisms exposed on the broad beach beneath the Speeton Cliffs.

6 Barnacle covered boulder SpeetonAt a certain mid-tide level, the boulders on the beach were entirely covered with tiny barnacles. The rock itself is completely hidden.

7 Barnacles limpets SpeetonHere is a closer view of the rock surface. The oldest barnacles are greenish, the younger are gray. You can easily see several small limpets, but do you see the three large individuals in the center? They are camouflaged by their covering of barnacles.

8 Speeton cliffs beachFor a Sunday afternoon on such a nice day, we were pleased to see very few people on large stretches of the beach along the Speeton Cliffs. We had much more company later in the day.

9 Hambleton oolite south 060715In the afternoon we visited Filey Brigg for a look at parts of the Coralline Oolite Formation (Upper Jurassic, Oxfordian; N 54.21674°, W 00.26922°). We found the Hambleton Oolite Member very accessible and with a good number of fossils that could be collected. We are here looking at the “Upper Leaf” of the unit.

10 Thalassinoides sediment 060715Down on the Brigg itself we saw these massive overturned boulders of the Birdsall Calcareous Grit Member with spectacular examples of the trace fossil “boxwork” Thalassinoides. These fossil burrow systems were made by shrimp, probably of the callianassid variety.

11 Thalassinoides full relief 060715Sometimes the sediment between the infilled Thalassinoides tunnels was washed away, leaving this beautiful network in full relief.

12 Hambleton Oolite north 060715On the north side of Filey Brigg we could continue to follow the Upper Leaf of the Hambleton Oolite Member. The exposure is very good and well above the high tide. The access to this place, though, requires a low tide like we had this afternoon.

13 Hambleton Oolite Lower Leaf 060715At this site on the north side of Filey Brigg (N 54.21823°, W 00.26908°) we can get to the Lower Leaf of the Hambleton Oolite Member, with the Birdsall Calcareous Grit Member just above. Again, the Hambleton has many fossils that can be collected. If you look at the undersurface of the yellowish rock above our field party, you may be able to make out the Thalassinoides trace fossils. We can thus place the loose blocks with this distinctive trace fossil in their original stratigraphic position.

Another delightful field day. One more expedition tomorrow, and then we decide on the specific student projects.

 

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