Hot Springs and I.S. Frenzy

July 17th, 2014

Guest Blogger:  Kelli Baxstrom (’16), member of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH –  A week into Utah, and feelings are mixed between slight hysteria for those who continue to fall off the couch in the evening due to exhaustion and an ongoing sense of awe of the beautiful world that exists outside Ohio.

Sunday was a day off for us, and so the four of us hopped in a van with some of the OSU field camp students – including recent CoW graduate Tricia Hall – and headed to some hot springs near Spanish Fork. We smelled like sulfur the rest of the day, but the waterfall and pools were worth it!

hotspring

​Wednesday was very I.S. focused for Michael and myself. For my part, I am a double major in Religious Studies as well as Geology. So in order to meld my I.S., Dr. Judge drove me to Nephi to meet the Chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. It was very enlightening to talk to a native and political spokeswoman of the tribe, and I learned so much of political, historical and socioeconomic activity of the Paiutes for the last millennia. Dr. Judge also enjoyed the meeting - possibly more than myself – in learning all the ways that the Paiutes have lived and prospered in the areas where she has worked and researched for several years.

After Dr. Judge and I got back from Nephi, Michael and I spread out on the floor with a multitude of topographic maps of Utah trying to decide what we would like to do for I.S. At the moment, that is a prospect Michael and I irrationally believe is completely​ unattainable. But Dr. Judge has faith in us.

Hey, Team British Columbia, here’s proof that there’s some real wildlife out here in Utah…

moose

Another Perspective on British Columbia

July 17th, 2014

Guest blogger: Liz Plascencia

15 days. 22 bears. 4 bald eagles. 47 rock samples.

Wow. What a trip. I, a native Los Angeles city dwelling kid, have had the utmost pleasure of accompanying such a dynamic and energetic team of geologists to Mt. Edziza. Northern British Columbia is absolutely unreal. Far from the city lights and piercing sirens, our camp was nestled between Pillow Ridge and Tsekone Ridge. We spent a solid five days in the field collecting a variety of physical samples such as pillow lava, breccia, lapilli tuff, xenoliths, etc. We also spent a great deal of time quantitatively and qualitatively describing pillow lava from the west side of Pillow Ridge with trend and plunge measurements, vesicularity estimates, phenocrysts estimates, and horizontal and vertical measurements. Within those five days we celebrated a birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEAGEN), Canada Day, The Fourth of July, and overall triumph of a great trip.

The team observing a dyke at Second Canyon, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC.

The team observing a dyke at Second Canyon, Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC.

Eve Cone in the distance at dusk.

Eve Cone in the distance at dusk.

Quite possibly the greatest thrill of my life, so far.

Quite possibly the greatest thrill of my life, so far.

We are back in lab for these next couple of weeks processing the rock samples from the field. I am really going to miss these two goons. Mary and Julia were the most welcoming Scots. Hopefully there will be more Dickinson College and The College of Wooster collaborations in the near future.

Returned from British Columbia

July 16th, 2014

Bears = 22

Bald Eagles = 4

Wolves = 2

Stone Mountain Sheep = 4

Marmots = Too many

Helicopter Rides = 2

Impromptu Trip to Hyder, AK = 1

Samples Collected = 47

Successful Trip? Most definitely

Fieldwork in British Columbia was hard. We covered a lot of ground both in transit and during hikes, made a number of pillow descriptions, and brought back more samples than we had initially intended. It was also cold, it rained, it snowed, it hailed, the wind blew, bears roamed near camp, and the talus slopes were unforgiving. But it never felt like work because each day was met with laughter, learning, beautiful sunsets, Nutella, and a definite feeling of accomplishment. It is so difficult to explain just how amazing our time in British Columbia was, because it was one of the most unforgettable experiences ever. The images below allow for a visual story of our trip, when words simply don’t suffice.

Photo credit to Mary R; The provincial park where we camped (located near Pillow Ridge) allows no vehicle access, which makes traveling by air critical. Note basecamp in the background.

Photo credit to Mary R; The provincial park where we camped (located near Pillow Ridge) allows no vehicle access, which makes traveling by air critical. Note basecamp in the background.

Photo credit to Liz P; A nice pillow exposure interlaid with tuff breccia on Pillow Ridge, with Julia F. for scale.

Photo credit to Liz P; A nice pillow exposure interlaid with tuff breccia on Pillow Ridge, with Julia F. for scale.

Photo credit: Mary R; Mount Edziza stratovolcano located west of basecamp.

Photo credit: Mary R; Mount Edziza stratovolcano located west of basecamp.

Photo credit: Julia F; A sunset view from basecamp. Pictured on the horizon is Eve Cone, one of the youngest cinder-cone volcanoes in the provincial park.

Photo credit: Julia F; A sunset view from basecamp. Pictured on the horizon is Eve Cone, one of the youngest cinder-cone volcanoes in the provincial park.

Photo Credit: Ben E. British Columbia field excursion summer 2014, we made it (more or less) in one piece.

Photo Credit: Ben E. British Columbia field excursion summer 2014, we made it (more or less) in one piece.

Brain-melting Heat in the Sanpete Valley

July 16th, 2014

Guest Blogger:  Michael Williams (’16), member of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH –Team Utah 2014 is now approaching the one-week mark of being in the field. For the past four days we’ve been working on one of Dr. Judge’s pet projects: deformation bands and fluid flow in the Sixmile Canyon Formation. This Cretaceous sandstone underwent some serious deformation during the building of the Rocky Mountains, and this strain reveals itself in several remarkable features, including jointing, deformation bands, and bizarre outcroppings of iron. Team Utah has been working hard to measure, categorize, date, and record these features, all while enduring non-stop, brain-melting heat.

We agreed early on that work would begin every morning at 8:00am, so naturally we don’t actually make it out in the field until 9:00am or later. It’s a short drive followed by an even shorter hike to our field site, so it’s typically still mid-morning as we begin the day’s work. Each day has had us focusing on different features in our area. Our most productive days involve measuring the orientations of joints. Other days we hike for hours, looking for the perfect outcrop of deformation bands. No matter our mission, the charge is led by Measurement Machine Shelley Judge, Brunton in hand and field notebook at the ready.

joints

Some nice sets of joints in a nearly horizontal wall of sandstone. On our first day alone we managed to measure just over 200 individual joints.  Brunton Compass for scale.

kelli

Kelli examines some bizarre iron fins protruding from the rock face. We suspect that these were caused by fluid flow through the porous rock.

reidel ladder

A beautiful example of deformation bands forming Riedel ladders. Unfortunately, this particular rock had fallen off the outcrop, and so it couldn’t be included in our data.

michael below

Michael down below (bottom center), measuring orientations of deformation bands, while Kelli records from above (top right).

falling

Sometimes, when the heat starts getting to us, we decompress by falling off of cliffs.

sanpete

You can’t help but occasionally stop to admire the postcard-like beauty of the Sanpete Valley.

WOO

Even temperatures upward of 100 degrees can’t stop the Scott spirit.

Meet Team Utah 2014

July 15th, 2014

EPHRAIM, UTAH — On July 9, four Wooster students traveled to Utah to begin structural and stratigraphic research with me.  They will be out here until July 22, when we will all fly back to Ohio together.  I’d like to introduce these students to you!!

Team Utah

Above is a great picture of Team Utah on the morning of their first day in the field.  From L to R, the students are:  Michael Williams (’16), Kelli Baxstrom (’16), Sarah McGrath (’17), and Chloe Wallace (’17).  Don’t they look enthused, happy, and eager?  (At this point, they do not actually realize that impact of desert heat:  temperatures will soon be 95-100 degrees by noon each day!!  Utah at the end of July can definitely be hot, making field work strenuous.)

During our time in Utah, we have 3 projects that require our attention.  Our primary objective will be to collect data for the deformation band work that I have been doing for a few years.  We will take a comprehensive look at some additional Cretaceous units that may contain deformation bands.  Also, we want to undertake two reconnaissance projects for future I.S. research.  One involves the Cretaceous to Paleogene North Horn Formation, and the other involves the Paleogene Colton Formation.  If there is time left, we will undertake more reconnaissance work in the Jurassic Arapien Formation, which is the core of an amazing diapir in the Sanpete Valley.  Because Mark Wilson has also been interested in the Jurassic of Utah for several years, I’m hoping that I can convince Mark to join forces with me one summer for a joint I.S. research project in Utah.  I really love the stratigraphy of central Utah, so I want to incorporate more I.S. research on the units out here (which have experienced the spectrum of Sevier orogenesis to Basin and Range extension.)

In the coming days, I’m going to ask each of the students to blog in order to reflect on their time in Utah thus far.  They have nearly been here for one week, so stay tuned for some additional news from Ephraim!!

After 5 weeks in the field…my first blog!!

July 15th, 2014

EPHRAIM, UTAH — My apologies for not blogging sooner, but things have been very, very busy out here in the Sanpete Valley.  I spent the first 4 weeks doing my usual summer teaching at Ohio State’s Geology Field Camp.  This summer, we have 22 students — one of whom is Tricia Hall (’14).  During her time at Wooster, Tricia spent 2 summers with me in Utah doing research that eventually culminated in her I.S. on deformation bands within the Sixmile Canyon Formation.  She decided to pursue graduate studies at Ohio State, and her new advisor (Terry Wilson) is the director of the field camp.  So, Tricia is currently completing field camp this summer before beginning her M.S. research in the fall.  It has been wonderful for me to continue to teach her about the joys of Utah geology!!

I’ve been teaching with a great cast of characters:  Terry (OSU), Cristina Millan (OSU), and Dan Kelley (BGSU).  We have had rotating faculty the past 5 weeks, and I have enjoyed every minute of teaching with them this summer.  I always cherish these summer nights in Ephraim, because although they are filled with work, they are also filled with a ton of laughter.  Days are long (6 am to 10+pm with students), so making sure that you are enjoying the teaching is paramount.

Below is a photo that I took from an overlook of Palisade State Park, with its golf course and swimming hole in view.  One of our field camp exercises involves a cross-section W-E across the Sanpete Valley.  This view to the SW encompasses much of the cross-section transect.  Although I cannot give away any field camp secrets for next year’s class, I will say that there is some amazing geology here, with spectacular faults, folds, and unconformities.

Palisade Overlook

One of the most exciting evenings at field camp this year began as a very typical night after dinner.  Students were all extremely busy, diligently trying to finish an assignment by 10 pm.  All of a sudden, there was a low “roar”, and the apartment building began to shake.  We were actually experiencing a nearby earthquake!!  How cool is that?  Needless to say, myself and Cristina (co-instructor) quickly exited our apartment — only to witness all of the other geologists racing out of their rooms in excitement.  You can read about all of the details of the Spring City 4.2 earthquake (which was only about 10 miles to the NE) at: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/pager/events/uu/60075207/index.html

I was exceptionally excited, because its epicenter was on the flanks of the Wasatch monocline, where I did much of my dissertation research.  Although we had several aftershocks, field campers only felt the one episode of shaking.  It was a great educational moment, because Ephraim lies in the transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range Province.  This region exhibits some of the easternmost normal faulting associated with Basin and Range extension in Utah.

Please look for additional blogs in the very near future.  I currently am working with 4 Wooster students since finishing my teaching duties at field camp.

 

 

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Silicified chonetid brachiopods from the Permian of West Texas

July 11th, 2014

Dyoros planiextensus Cooper and Grant 1975 585Above are four valves of the chonetid brachiopod Dyoros planiextensus Cooper and Grant, 1975. They are preserved by silicification and were recovered from a block of the Road Canyon Formation (Roadian Stage of the Guadalupian Series of the Permian System) from the Glass Mountains of southwestern Texas. It is from the same unit and location as the rhynchonellid brachiopod presented two weeks ago in this blog. (Please see that entry for additional links and explanations of the preservation.)

It took me awhile to work out the systematics of this species, so I must show you in exquisite detail —

Phylum Brachiopoda
Class Strophomenata Williams et al., 1996
Order Productida Sarytcheva and Sokolskaya, 1959
Suborder Chonetidina Muir-Wood, 1955
Superfamily Chonetoidea Bronn, 1862
Family Rugosochonetidae Muir-Wood, 1962
Genus Dyoros Stehli 1954
Species Dyoros planiextensus Cooper and Grant, 1975

Like music!

The chonetid brachiopods (at the suborder level) can be extremely common in Permo-Carboniferous units. I’ve seen hillsides in southeastern Ohio that seemed coated with them as they eroded from the shales beneath. They were well adapted to living on soft sediments with their flat, thin shells. In life they had a series of small hollow spines extended from the hinge line (the straight parts of the shell where the valves articulated; top in the photos above) to help anchor them as juveniles and possibly serve as extensions of their sensory systems.

Just a short entry this week. If all proceeded by plan, I’m somewhere deep in China right now!

References:

Cooper, G.A. and Grant, R.E. 1975. Permian brachiopods of West Texas, III. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 19:795-1921.

Racheboeuf, P.R., Moore, T.E. and Blodgett, R.B. 2004. A new species of Dyoros (Brachiopoda; Chonetoidea) from Nevada (United States) and stratigraphic implications for the Pennsylvanian and Permian Antler Overlap assemblage. Geobios 37: 382-394.

Stehli, F.G. 1954. Lower Leonardian Brachiopoda of the Sierra Diablo. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 105: 257-358.

An unexpected early return from China, but at least I got to see the inside of a Chinese hospital

July 7th, 2014

Sign Abdominal PainWOOSTER, OHIO — I am safely home far too early from my China adventure, and here begins a painful tale. I tell it first to complete the 2014 China Expedition story, and because there may be some lessons for geologists on field trips far from home. It is also a record to remind me of unexpected events in the field. I’ll say at the start that I’m fine now and was never in danger.

On my very first morning in China, after a good sleep in a Shenyang hotel, my host Zhang Yongli picked me up for a tour of Shenyang Palace. It was great, as you can see from the blog post, but I was not feeling well. Yongli took me to a restaurant with excellent dumplings, but I ate little because of stomach discomfort. I attributed it to the long series of flights that ended the previous evening. Yongli took me back to the hotel for a rest in the early afternoon. It was only when I returned to my hotel room that a familiar pain slowly manifested in my left-side lower back. It began to ramp up and I knew exactly what it was: a kidney stone was starting its own long journey through my urinary system. Since I had a very bad kidney stone episode two years ago that lasted for many days and required an operation, I knew I was in trouble. I telephoned Yongli and he arrived to take me to a hospital for assessment and pain medication. (Please note that I unknowingly brought this kidney stone with me. It had nothing to do with conditions in China.)
Shenjing Hospital of China Medical University WikimediaAfter walking to one hospital (which was actually less painful than sitting), we were directed to another with better facilities: Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University (shown above with a Wikipedia image). We took a taxi to get there. Quick-thinking Yongli telephoned his wife, Wang Fei, to meet us there because she had better English skills for translation. She was a critical player for the next several hours. Alas she now only knows me as a grimacing American gamely smiling through a long series of procedures and waits. She and Yongli were fantastic, supportive and generous friends of mine during this odyssey. They were, in fact, my only friends in China, and I had just met them.

The emergency room at Shenjing Hospital is a series of large connected spaces lined with various medical speciality stations. There were hundreds of people there when we arrived. Despite my first impression (and fear) of chaos, the medical system was efficient and effective. If I was in an American big city emergency room my time from arrival to diagnosis would have likely been the same. The processes, though, were very different from anything I’ve experienced state-side.

Fei and Yongli first took me to a check-in at the “abdominal pain” counter. We received several slips of paper that would eventually be passed through stations, signed and stamped before and after procedures were completed. They next took me to the ultrasonic scanning station to get a slip of paper in queue, and then do the same for a CT scan. I was clearly not the only kidney stone sufferer there. I may have been Kidney Stone #12 for all I could tell. While we waited for these procedures, I joined a line to provide a blood sample. When my time came I just extended my arm and they did the job, applying tags to the vial to be delivered to the lab.

At each station Fei would explain my situation to the nurses. Since there was always a crowd listening, I could tell when she got to the description when a dozen faces would turn to sympathetically gaze on my misfortune. I was the only Westerner I could see, but I heard there was another being shepherded around.

Kidney stone CT scanClose up of a CT scan of my innards showing the offending stone as that little light point. [Update: My doctor in Wooster was able to easily use the Chinese CT data to confirm the diagnosis.]

Kidney stone records 070314After the procedures, we waited two hours for an assessment by a doctor. For that we returned to the abdominal pain counter. Fei worked her way in and talked to the doctor on the other side of a computer monitor (above). She had my analysis results and the CT scan summary film, along with a CD of the scan itself. The doctor, in one sentence as far as I could tell, said there was a stone indeed present, it was “5 millimeters”, and it “will pass”. Case closed.
Medicine boxAt that point with a diagnosis in hand Fei and Yongli went to the pharmacy counter and got the above pain medication. At least we thought it was for pain. Note how it is labeled specifically for kidney stones with the image. It is called “Quercus salicina Extract” and now I’ve learned from Mr. Google that it is a treatment directly for kidney stones. Whether it is an herbal remedy or effective treatment is something I’ll ask my doctor in Wooster tomorrow. It did nothing for the pain, but I imagined that it did. Lesson there.

That evening the pain considerably diminished, so much that I thought the stone had passed and I would be OK. The next morning I was doing OK enough to leave with our team of four geologists on a flight to Guiyang, even enjoying a dinner there that night. The Fourth of July was pain-free. I didn’t know that the stone just found a place to rest.

At dawn of July 5 in my Guiyang hotel room the pain had fully returned. I knew then I could not continue with the expedition. We were going to be driving for several hours into the countryside. The remoteness and chance of a complication, let alone the continuing pain, made it clear it was time for me to go home. My new colleagues were completely supportive and worked hard to get me back to Beijing and a flight the next afternoon to the USA. Because I had good wireless I could text my wife Gloria, who called our travel agency’s emergency number and booked me a new set of tickets. Professor Gong very kindly accompanied me on the flight from Guiyang to Beijing, and then booked me into a Beijing hotel for that night. He stayed there too, making sure I knew how to get to the airport and my flight on July 6.
Beijing airport 070614Soon after Professor Gong left Beijing to return to his home in Shenyang, my brutal little kidney stone emerged in my hotel room and I captured it. This good news meant my long flight back home would be far more comfortable. (The start in Beijing is recorded in the image above.) That was indeed the case, and I arrived in Cleveland at about 10:00 pm on July 6. Home and family never felt better.
Stone 2 070714And here’s an image I made of my very inconvenient kidney stone this morning in the lab. I can’t tell, but it appears to be the common variety made of calcium oxalate, making the mineral weddellite. (See, there is some geology here!) I’ll update this composition after a lab analysis. [Update: Calcium oxalate monohydrate confirmed.]
Stone 3 070714While that first side may look all smooth and rounded, this other side shows one crystal spike in the upper right still in place. There are many broken spike bases around the stone’s periphery. Evil, eh? This stone will soon be analyzed in the Wooster urology lab to give me a better idea of how to prevent these from occurring again.

What did I learn from all this about becoming ill while on a field trip? A list —

1. Have good colleagues in the country or region who know well the local language, customs and laws. My new Chinese friends were fantastic, even though my malady had disrupted elaborate plans made months ago.

2. Book airline tickets through a good travel agency. We use the Professional Travel office in Wooster, with the incomparable Suzanne Easterling as our agent. She has saved us from travel problems numerous times, and when she is out of the office we are covered by a 24-hour service that is fantastic. It would have been very difficult for us to rebook tickets on our own, especially with me in extremis.

3. Bring a variety of electronic devices for communication. I had my iPhone, iPad and Macbook laptop computer. Often only one of these could catch the wireless signal enough to send and receive messages, and I could never predict which would be best.

4. Take all the medications you might possibly need. I was ready for intestinal disorders, infections, and malaria, and I had diphtheria and polio vaccinations in advance, but I didn’t imagine a kidney stone would chose this Chinese interval to start its fateful descent. I had no special pain medications other than aspirin — the good stuff is still sitting in my medicine cabinet at home.

5. Make sure all emergency numbers and addresses are easily available in a variety of formats. This is obvious to anyone who has taken students in the field. I print out and electronically store this information in multiple places. I could easily slip a list from my pack to show colleagues and officials.

6. For foreign trips, register your schedule with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. I always do this when I’m taking students to Israel, but I didn’t even think of doing the same for me alone in China. I could have been admitted to a Chinese hospital, or been detained by the police, without any US representative knowing where I was. I had all the correct USA numbers, but on this trip I learned that making telephone calls in China is not easy for a beginner.

7. If you have a condition that might cause problems, have a medical analysis before a long trip. Now this looks painfully obvious. I didn’t think I had a “condition”, though, because I thought the lack of a stone in the past two years meant that my diet changes had eliminated the problem. That was naive.

8. Finally, listen very carefully to your body’s clues. I may have been able to detect that my stone hadn’t passed while still in Shenyang, thus cutting probably two days out of the time it took to actually go home. I think I denied the small signs because I so much wanted to go into the field.

What did I gain from this brief trip to China? Quite a bit, when I think it through. A list again —

1. I met my new Chinese colleagues. We had worked together on manuscripts in the past, but this was the first time we could talk. I like them very much, and they are enthusiastic about geology and paleontology. Zhang Yongli is very interested in pursuing fossil hard substrate studies like I do along with my friends Paul Taylor, Michal Zaton, Olev Vinn, Leif Tapanila and others. Yongli will be the first in China to do this in earnest, so he will make a huge contribution to the field. I hope he can visit me in Wooster so that we can study together the hard substrate collections we have and visit classic field localities. In a way we had a successful conference during this short interval.

2. I saw China! Shenyang Palace was an inspiring historical location, downtown Shenyang showed me a developed northeastern Chinese city in action, and Guiyang was an example of a lesser-developed southwestern city. I even got to taste the special air in Beijing. I saw everyday China, and I conversed with top Chinese geologists. With no exceptions Chinese people were kind, considerate and helpful everywhere I went. They smile and laugh often, which is a contrast to people in most countries I’ve visited.

3. Through my discomfort I experienced much compassion and understanding from people I had just met. I disrupted their plans, but they adapted and had not a whisper of complaint.

My kidney stone was not life-threatening, so as far as medical emergencies go this was minor in scale and consequence. I had to leave a great field trip, though, without seeing the rocks and fossils. Way too bad, but such was fate. In her China travel advice to me before leaving, my friend Susan Clayton said, “Just remember if you’re uncomfortable with something on the trip that ‘this too shall pass’.” Who knew that she would be so literally correct!

The karst topography around Guiyang, China

July 5th, 2014

Karstic Guiyang 1GUIYANG, CHINA — I find this karstic landscape enchanting. Photo taken at the airport.

Karstic Guiyang 2

An evening dinner in Guiyang, China

July 4th, 2014

Guiyang Dinner 070414GUIYANG, CHINA — After the long flights from Shenyang via Nanjing, Team China (let’s just call it that!) arrived in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province. We had an excellent view of the surrounding karstic mountains. I hope to have images of these tomorrow because they are simply enchanting. Above is our evening dinner, hosted by two men from the city. On the far left is Guan Changqing, an associate professor of geology at Northeastern University, then Wang Lin Song, chief engineer of a steel company in Guiyang, Professor Gong En-Pu from the Geology Department of Northeastern University (and our leader), Guo Shu Wei, a senior engineer at the local steel company, and me. Zhang Yongli took the photo with my iPhone. A classic Guizhou dinner is before us. It was very good. Among the many toasts, Yongli and I managed to get one in to the Fourth of July.

Sea cucumber dish 070414One of the dishes contained these green slices of holothurian (sea cucumber). Turns out this delicacy is specially provided for honored guests, so I have now eaten my first echinoderm. I can cross them off the list of invertebrate phyla to taste. I’m sure I’ll have many more culinary surprises.

Speaking of surprises, just before bedtime a team of policemen visited my room asking many questions and studying my passport and visa closely. I’m assured this is standard practice when a foreigner comes to town.

Tomorrow we drive for about three hours to Ziyun County for the start of our fieldwork.

 

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