Enhancing undergraduate research with social media: the last presentation by a Wooster Geologist at GSA 2012

November 7th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–Our very last presentation at the 2012 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America was by Professor Meagen Pollock. She is shown above in an iPhone photograph near the middle of her talk about the educational and research value of social media in a geology undergraduate setting. (You can read her abstract here.) Appropriately, I posted this image on Facebook while she was still talking!

Digital Geology

May 10th, 2011

With all of the excitement over digital presentations in Wooster’s Senior I.S. Symposium, we thought that it’s about time to highlight recent digital presentations with a geology twist. Enjoy!

Here’s a Vuvox collage of Becky’s Senior I.S. Project on the geochemistry of Icelandic subglacial pillow basalts:

Now try Lindsey’s Junior I.S. Prezi presentation, which explores the mineral compositions of Becky’s basalts.

If you like Prezi, you’ll want to see how Sarah used Prezi to present her Petrology project on trachyte.

While Prezi walks the viewer through the presentation, Glogster works more like a digital poster. Whitney used Glogster to illustrate her progress as she worked on her monzonite sample.

Of course, there’s always the classic documentary, like Andrew’s Dacite documentary. The documentary is closely related to the mockumentary – see Will’s petrology project on how to make a thin section as an example:

Even cartoons can convey geological information. Katharine’s Xtranormal characters discuss the identification of anorthosite.

And finally, if you’re looking for that certain geological bedtime story for your child, you’ll not want to miss Matt’s thrilling story about poikilitic textures and the case of the broken thin section.

A muddy but successful encounter with the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary in southern Ohio

April 30th, 2011

Lindsey and Richa work their way up the Pennsylvanian section with their Jacob's staffs.

JACKSON, OHIO — Usually the Sedimentology & Stratigraphy class from Wooster meets no one at this Carboniferous outcrop on US 35 in Jackson County. This morning, though, we arrived to find geology students from Wright State University (under Professor David Dominic) hard at work on the section, and the clubhouse for the Apple City Motorcycle Club had a busy (and noisy) crowd as well. We waded right in and started measuring and describing the rocks.

The recent rains had their predictable effect on the shale units, producing a thick mud in some places, but we did well enough staying on the sandstones and conglomerates when we could. I noted that the outcrop is much more overgrown than when I first visited with a Sed/Strat class in 2000. (The better exposures made for better photography of the rock units, as you will see.) Here is another set of images from the 2009 field trip to this site.

This is one of the best places in the state to see the unconformity between the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian subsystems. It is a sharp disconformity above the Logan Formation siltstones and below pebble-rich sandstones of the Sharon Conglomerate equivalent. We drew measured stratigraphic columns through this interval and then met as a group on the top of the outcrop to assess the ancient depositional environments.

We all returned home safely with muddy boots and new ideas about the local stratigraphy.

Joe and Will confer on an outcrop of black, carbon-rich shale.

If it’s spring in Ohio, it’s time for fieldwork!

April 28th, 2011

WOOSTER, OHIO–My geology colleagues have already been braving the weather to get their students into the field after the long winter. I like to wait until the end of April when it’s all sunshine and flowers. This week the Sedimentology & Stratigraphy class started its fieldwork with a visit to the Logan Formation exposed in an overgrown quarry an easy walk from campus. The Tuesday section experienced a bit of rain near the end of their work, but today’s section had a glorious day (much like last year at this time and place). In the image above we see Whitney, Jenn and Melissa describing and measuring the sandstones and conglomerates of the Logan with their fancy Jacob Staffs.

Kevin, Anna and Genevieve arrayed on the outcrop.

Oscar and Marytha conferring on the composition of the granules in the conglomerate.

The conglomerate in the midst of the very fine sandstones of the Logan Formation is the most distinctive unit.

The conglomerate has a sharp lower base and shows graded bedding.

Our little afternoon field trip is practice for this weekend’s class expedition to the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian boundary sections in Jackson County, southern Ohio. Hope we have the same kind of weather!

Achieving Wooster’s Mission

April 20th, 2011

The theme of today’s Petrology lab is summarized by the last sentence of Wooster’s Mission Statement: “Wooster graduates are creative and independent thinkers with exceptional abilities to ask important questions, research complex issues, solve problems, and communicate new knowledge and insight.” Petrology students have been hard at work on a semester-long research project that required them to do all of the above: first describe and identify an unknown rock, then use the mineralogy and textures to interpret the rock’s petrogenesis. Geologists communicate their research in a number of ways, including poster presentations. In fact, many of our students give poster presentations about their I.S. research at National GSA Meetings and in Wooster’s I.S. Symposium. So today’s Petrology lab was transformed into a “Junior GSA” Petrology Poster Session. The hallways of Scovel were buzzing with discussions about exsolution, fractional crystallization, and magma mixing. The walls were plastered with gorgeous images of perthite, compositional zoning, and reaction rims. (Imagine a petrology paradise, if you will.)

Travis Louvain ('12) explains how his sample showed a contact between two rocks.

Can you feel the excitement?

This poster session made some students look forward to GSA in the Fall.

Here’s a small sample of some of the posters:

A tale of two feldspars by Anna Mudd ('13)

Formation of Trachyte by Sarah Appleton ('12)

Of course, one of the goals of this project is to practice and improve their ability to make poster presentations, so students evaluated themselves and each other according to the Poster Rubric. The feedback they get will help improve their future poster presentations, and by using this rubric throughout their academic careers, we’ll be able to assess the development of effective communication skills in our major.

If this post has only whetted your appetite for petrology, stay tuned! Next week, we’ll unveil the petrology digital presentations.


Minerals in My Toothpaste

April 16th, 2011

WOOSTER, OH – I can’t think of a more exciting thing to do on a Saturday morning than play with minerals and X-rays! Wooster’s Geology Department and the Expanding Your Horizons Program girls explored how minerals are used on a daily basis.  First, we tested the physical properties of minerals and made educated guesses about which minerals are used in common household products, like cleaners and toothpaste. Then we analyzed the products on the new X-ray diffractometer (XRD) to see whether our guesses were correct. Finally, we made our own mineral toothpaste. I don’t think we’ll be going into the toothpaste business any time soon, but the lab now smells minty fresh!

One of the EYH girls prepares a sample of powdered drywall for the XRD.

An EYH student places a prepared sample in the XRD.

After the sample is secured, an EYH student starts the run.

The XRD bombards the sample with X-rays, which diffract at specific angles. Meanwhile, the detector circles the sample and measures the intensity of X-rays at different angles. Each mineral has its own unique spectrum, sort of like an X-ray fingerprint.

Once the girls have their spectrum, they compare their sample to the spectra of known minerals to determine which minerals are in which products.

Mrs. Robertson helps the EYH girls make their own mineral toothpaste. Mmmm!

Melissa Torma ('13) and Ana Wallace ('12) volunteered to help the EYH girls and even had a chance to make their own toothpaste. (Stephanie Jarvis '11 helped, too, but had to lead the EYH girls to their next workshop before I could snap her picture).

The EYH girls search through our collection of polished stones for a souvenir. Thanks for a wonderful time, girls!

Wooster Geologists Celebrate I.S. Monday

March 28th, 2011

WOOSTER, OH – Alumni will fondly recall the tradition of I.S. Monday, our annual celebration of the completion of I.S. Today, seniors celebrate their hard work by donning their commemorative t-shirts and marching in the I.S. parade. We salute you, seniors, and wish you luck on your upcoming oral defenses!

Congratulations to the Wooster Geology Class of 2011 for making it to I.S. Monday! Pictured from left to right: Micah Risacher ('11), Dr. Shelley Judge, Elizabeth Deering ('11), Michael Snader ('11), Megan Innis ('11), Dr. Meagen Pollock, Andrew "the Shark" Retzler ('11), and Becky Alcorn ('11). Members of the class of 2011 not pictured here: Jesse Davenport, Stephanie Jarvis, Sam Spencer, and LaShawna Weeks.



Wooster Geologists return to the Mojave Desert

March 13th, 2011

ZZYZX, CALIFORNIA–All four geology faculty members, our administrative coordinator Patrice Reeder, Jesse Wiles and eight students have safely arrived at the Desert Studies Center in the delightful Zzyzx.  We spent a few hours exploring the Jurassic sandstones exposed in the Red Rocks Conservation Area outside Las Vegas (with marvelous dune cross-bedding) and then slogged through horrible Los Angeles-bound traffic from Las Vegas to Baker, California.  (All too typical for a Sunday night here.)

Unfortunately bandwidth is highly restricted, so our posts will be infrequent until we return to Wooster.

Lichen and bits of desert varnish on the cross-bedded sandstone at the Red Rocks National Conservation Area.

Lindsey Bowman apparently saves Becky Alcorn with a dramatic backdrop of cross-bedding.

Experiential Learning in the Desert

March 11th, 2011

As Dr. Wilson so gleefully pointed out today, the last several blog posts have been about fossils. I think it’s about time for a change of subject, don’t you?

Spring break officially begins tomorrow, and this is what Wooster looks like tonight:

A view of the snow covered street from my living room. I had to take the picture tonight because Dr. Wilson would have undoubtedly beat me to it in the morning.

The Wooster Geologists are ready to leave all of the snow behind! In a few short days, we’ll be headed to the warm and sunny Mojave Desert. The Desert Studies Center will serve as our base camp while we explore Death Valley, the Mojave National Preserve, and Barstow, CA (Dr. Wilson’s hometown). We invite you to follow us on our week-long adventure. Be on the lookout for posts that feature blue skies, stunning vistas, and geologists learning about the desert through direct experience. (It’s good to be a geologist.)

Theory to Practice on Ice

February 1st, 2011

A group from the Wooster community, the University of Cincinnati, The College of Wooster and St. Lawrence University assembled in Wooster for the weekend to mount an expedition to recover many meters of lake mud from the bottom of Round and Long Lakes in Ashland County, Ohio.

Dr. Lowell goes over the theory.

The practice consists of extracting meters of mud from the lake bottom.

Steph takes the vital notes on each meter (left). Lindsey (right) steps up to core another hole in the 6 inch-thick ice.

After a day coring Round Lake the team moved onto Long Lake and targeted the upper several meters of sediment to be analyzed by Jon Theisen for his senior IS in Archaeology. Jon hopes to shed some light on the environmental changes that occurred approximately 1500 years ago during the end of the Hopewell era in Ohio.

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