Thingvellir and the trip North

July 6th, 2011

Blonduos, Iceland-

[Guest blogger: Travis Louvain]

So as we completed the research on the Reykjanes Penninsula, we traveled up north to the Skagi Peninsula to a town called Blonduos.

Car pictures are always a necessity.

On the way we stopped at a place called Thingvellir. This site is home of the first Icelandic Parliament and a beautiful national park.

A beautiful stream that cuts right through the middle of the main fissure.

The place was chosen by the early Icelanders because it was relatively easy to access and because it is a amazingly flat valley. Why is this? Well that’s where the geology comes in. This national park is not only home to the first parliament but also it is a site of active rifting.

 

Path through the middle of a large fissure leading to the site of the original parliament. When it met they used to make speeches from the taller side of the fissure to a crowd listening on the other side.

So the flat valley is actually the result of the two plates rifting away from one another. This can clearly be seen in the large fissures which are a highlight of this site.

 

Large fissures run through the ground all over the place. Some are only a foot deep, but some drop for tens of feet.

The rift valley from atop the large fissure.

After this we continued driving north mostly along the coast. At one point we went under a large fjord by way of tunnel and under the following mountain before coming out on the other side where we stopped for lunch. As we drove we saw many sheep and horse farms. We also drove up into the mountains where the mountain tops were still covered with snow.

Snowy mountaintop. We continued seeing sheep roaming even at these high altitudes.

As we drove to Blonduos we passed my field site and decided to ask permission to go up the mountain side. As I sat in the car wondering whether or not I was going to have an I.S. or not, I couldn’t help but laugh at Dr. Pollock making gestures with her arms while talking to the lady who owned the land. It turns out that the lady spoke English fairly well and Dr. Pollock was just using large hand gestures cause she liked to, but the good news was that she gave us permission to go up the mountain.

After this, we continued to Blonduos which happened to be very close. We checked in to our cabin which was complete with a kitchen, bathroom, fridge, propane grill, and a hot tub. Yes, a hot tub!

Well to wrap up today I finished a video that I’ve been working on from our fourth day where we explored the southern portion of the Reykjanes Peninsula. I hope you enjoy it.

The Southern Reykjanes Adventure

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.

Hederelloids: Pulled from obscurity! (Well, maybe …)

September 11th, 2010

PARMA, OHIO–This afternoon I gave a talk at a meeting of the North Coast Fossil Club in this suburb of Cleveland. I chose the poorly-known fossil group called hederelloids as my topic because I knew that many people in that enthusiastic group had likely seen and collected them without knowing. They are very common encrusters on Devonian fossils, especially brachiopods, corals and bryozoans from the Middle Devonian of northwestern Ohio. I was not disappointed as several keen members brought me specimens from their collections or told me about large numbers of hederelloids they can send to me for study. Paul Taylor and I have been studying hederelloids for the past five years (as far as I know we are the only paleontologists in this little subfield!) and believe they may hold a key to some curious events in the Devonian and may expand what we know about lophophorate evolution. We need many more specimens, though, for our systematic work. The hard-working, knowledgeable amateur paleontologists in the North Coast Fossil Club are now going to help! Here is a link to the PowerPoint slides of my hederelloid talk. If you just have to know more, here’s a 2008 Taylor and Wilson hederelloid paper as a pdf.

I very much enjoyed talking with members of this club. They love fossils for their beauty, complexity, and historical wonder. To be able to contribute to science is a bonus.

Paleoenvironmental analysis of the Silurian Jaani Formation on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia (Senior Independent Study Thesis by Rob McConnell)

February 18th, 2010

Editor’s note: Senior Independent Study (I.S.) is a year-long program at The College of Wooster in which each student completes a research project and thesis with a faculty mentor.  We particularly enjoy I.S. in the Geology Department because there are so many cool things to do for both the faculty advisor and the student.  We are now posting abstracts of each study as they become available.  The following was written by Rob McConnell, a senior geology major from Darby, Montana.  Here is a link to his final PowerPoint presentation on this project.

In the summer of 2009, Wooster paleontologists Dr. Mark Wilson, Palmer Shonk, and I traveled to Estonia with fellow Ohio State University paleontologist Dr. Bill Ausich. Olev Vinn of the University of Tartu greeted us at the Tallinn Airport. We then proceeded by car to the island of Saaremaa in western Estonia. The city of Kuressaare would serve as our home for the next week as we conducted our research on the island.

My research describes two members of the Jaani Formation (Silurian, Wenlock): the older Mustjala Member and the younger Ninase Member. Samples of these two members were collected from three sites along the northern Saaremaa coast:  Liiva Cliff, Suuriku Cliff, and Panga Cliff (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Jaani Formation at Panga Cliff, Saaremaa, Estonia.

Figure 1. Jaani Formation at Panga Cliff, Saaremaa, Estonia.

The purpose of my research is to describe and recreate the paleoenvironment of the Jaani Formation. I am doing this by analyzing thin-section slides, stromatoporoid sponges (Figure 2), and various other fossils such as corals and brachiopods. It appears thus far that the lower Mustjala Member is far more fossiliferous and contains larger stromatoporoids, many of which are still in life position. This indicates a tranquil shallow marine environment. Smaller and flatter sponges are found in the upper Mustjala Member, close to the Mustjala/Ninase boundary. This is likely because of a shallowing of the water through time (a regression).

Figure 2. Stromatoporoids from the Mustjala Member, Jaani Formation (Silurian, Wenlock) on Saaremaa, Estonia.

Figure 2. Stromatoporoids from the Mustjala Member, Jaani Formation (Silurian, Wenlock) on Saaremaa, Estonia.

The Ninase Member has different characteristics than the Mustjala. In general, it is better cemented and contains fewer fossils. It also contains more brachiopods and fewer sponges. It may have been deposited in a higher energy environment. Continued analysis of both members is required to gain a better understanding of this approximately 420 million year old environment.

Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction of the Late Silurian (Pridoli) Äigu Beds of Saaremaa Island, Estonia (Senior Independent Study Thesis by Palmer Shonk)

February 15th, 2010

Editor’s note: Senior Independent Study (I.S.) is a year-long program at The College of Wooster in which each student completes a research project and thesis with a faculty mentor.  We particularly enjoy I.S. in the Geology Department because there are so many cool things to do for both the faculty advisor and the student.  We are now posting abstracts of each study as they become available.  The following was written by Palmer Shonk, a senior geology major from Dublin, New Hampshire.  Here is a link to his final PowerPoint presentation on this project.

I traveled to Estonia in July of 2009 with my advisor, Dr. Mark Wilson, Dr. Bill Ausich of The Ohio State University, and fellow Wooster geology major Robert McConnell. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Dr. Olev Vinn, his wife Ingrid, and their baby daughter. Olev is a geology professor at Tartu University in Estonia. The seven of us then headed for the island of Saaremaa, where I carried out my research. We stayed in the town of Kuressaare, on the southern shore of the island. My field site, the Äigu Beds, is about a 20 minute drive southwest of Kuressaare, on the western shore of the Sõrve Peninsula.

The Äigu Beds (Figure 1) are part of the Kaugatuma formation, named after the nearby town of Kaugatuma. My goal is to use the fossils and lithology at the beds to reconstruct an environment 418 million years old. My group assisted me in collecting fossils from three distinct layers. The first layer, about 8 cm thick, is an argillaceous limestone and contains many fossils still in life position, particularly crinoid holdfasts (Figure 2). This layer represents a calm, shallow-marine environment with soft, submarine dunes. The second layer, about 17 cm thick, shows evidence of a high energy event such as a storm. Fossils in the second layer have been crushed and are cemented together. The third layer, about 30 cm thick, is comprised again of the argillaceous limestone of layer one, but also shows evidence of a small scale high-energy event due to its “mashed” fossil specimens.

Figure 1. Part of the Äigu Beds on Saaremaa Island, Estonia; Late Silurian in age; note green pen for scale.

Figure 1. Part of the Äigu Beds on Saaremaa Island, Estonia; Late Silurian in age; note green pen for scale.

Figure 2. Crinoid holdfast from the first layer at the Äigu Beds; note tip of pen for scale.

Figure 2. Crinoid holdfast from the first layer at the Äigu Beds; note tip of pen for scale.

Wooster Geologists Speak on the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

February 11th, 2010

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WOOSTER, OHIO–The Wooster Geology Department faculty spoke today to the campus about the geological framework of the cataclysmic January 2010 earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Greg Wiles started with an overview of plate tectonic theory and how the dynamic Earth makes earthquakes inevitable.  Meagen Pollock discussed the mechanics and measurements of earthquakes and why they can cause so much damage.  Shelley Judge explained the particular Caribbean fault system which produced the Haiti earthquake.  Mark Wilson then finished with a review of the historical major earthquakes along that fault zone.  You can view their Haiti Earthquake PowerPoint slide presentation here.

A Wooster Geologist on the 2012 Doomsday Phenomenon: Pseudoscience, Baseless Fears, and the Mysterious Planet Nibiru

January 31st, 2010

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WOOSTER, OHIO–Last week I gave a talk about the coming End of Time scheduled for December 21, 2012.  You may have heard that the Mayan Long Count Calendar ends on the day before the 2012 winter solstice, and that all sorts of global catastrophes have been predicted to mark the event.  I was invited by Ohio State University Mansfield and North Central State College to describe the cataclysmic ideas about 2012 and explore the pseudoscience behind them.  It was a good opportunity to explore the value of science and scientific thinking … and hearty skepticism.

I’ve attached the 2012 lecture here as a PowerPoint file which should open in your browser with a click-through display.  There is no audio, alas, so you’ll just have to imagine the jokes.

You might also be interested in the “living syllabus” of our First-Year Seminar course on “Nonsense“.

Lunar Ilmenite

January 6th, 2010

Lunar Ilmenite: Next Gen Fuel Source Part 1 and Part 2 presented by Andrew Retzler ’11.

Mineralogy of Hotspots

December 8th, 2009

The Mineralogy of Hotspots by Elizabeth Deering (’11).

Mineralogy of Acid Mine Drainage

December 4th, 2009

The Mineralogy of Acid Mine Drainage, presented by Lindsey Bowman (’12).

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