First GSA Event: The Paleontological Society Short Course — “Reconstructing Earth’s Deep-Time Climate”

November 3rd, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–This iPhone snapshot of a dark lecture room may record the time and place, but it hardly does justice to the event, so let’s see an image of the colorful special volume printed for this year’s Paleontological Society Short Course:

Much better. The Paleontological Society has a short course every year at its annual meeting with the Geological Society of America. I’ve been to nearly every one since my graduate school days. They are designed to bring paleontologists up to speed on the latest innovations and ideas in the science. They are also — sometimes in contradiction — supposed to review basic concepts for non-experts in a particular subdiscipline. This year’s course, developed by Linda Ivany (Syracuse University) and Brian Huber (Smithsonian Institution), was even more ambitious than most: it brought together paleontologists and geochemists to address how we deduce ancient climates, and by implication Earth’s history of climate change. As an indication of its interdisciplinary nature, this short course was also sponsored by the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM) and the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research. Linda and Brian succeeded in not only bringing us introductory level description of paleoclimatological theory and practice, they also showed us some of the most exciting new developments in the field. And unlike every other short course, this one even had food and drink!

I learned a great deal in this course, especially about some geochemical techniques for estimating ancient seawater temperatures such as clumped isotope and lipid paleothermometry, oxygen isotope analysis, and Mg/Ca ratio determination. Each has particular advantages in particular circumstances, and each has significant limitations in other settings. They all produce varieties of what Greg Wiles calls “wiggly lines” open to interpretation as to what they mean about ancient temperature histories. We also saw several examples of how climate analysis actually works with invertebrate, vertebrate and plant fossils. As always, one of the primary lessons was that biological systems are not easily modeled or predicted — that what geochemists call “vital effects” can make complicated natural processes even more convoluted.

Wooster Geologists at GSA

November 2nd, 2012

Many of the Wooster Geologists have embarked on the journey to Charlotte, NC, for the 2012 National Meeting of GSA. If you’re attending the meeting, be sure to check out one of our presentations:

Don’t miss us at the Group Alumni Reception on Monday at 7 pm in the Westin Grand Ballroom CD. We’re taking our annual alumni photo at 8 pm. GSA President and Wooster Alum George Davis (’64) will also be joining us at 8 pm.

Real-life photos to come!

 

Upside-down and inside-out: Cryptic skeletobiont communities from the Late Ordovician of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky — An abstract submitted to the Geological Society of America for the 2012 annual meeting

August 14th, 2012

Editor’s note: The Wooster Geologists in Indiana this summer wrote an abstract for the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, this November. The following is from student guest blogger Kit Price in the format required for GSA abstracts:

Upside-down and inside-out: Cryptic skeletobiont communities from the Late Ordovician of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky

PRICE, Katherine W. and WILSON, Mark A., Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691

In the majority of the studies in which skeletobiont communities are described, they are found on the exteriors of shell substrates. Skeletobiont communities that inhabited cryptic environments inside some of these same organisms are poorly known. In those instances where cryptic skeletobiont communities have been described, they are on a much larger scale (i.e., cavities in bryozoan reefs and under hardground ledges) and do not include smaller cryptic communities. The Cincinnatian Series of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky has many examples of these cryptic communities. Skeletobionts encrusted the interiors of gastropod, monoplacophoran, and nautiloid shells post-mortem, and are mostly made up of sheet and runner-type bryozoans and cornulitids, along with some craniid brachiopods and microconchids. Interestingly, in contrast to other studies on skeletobionts, the majority of the encrusters in our study do not appear to have been concerned with the location of the host aperture. Only the runner-type bryozoans (Cuffeyella and Corynotrypa) appear to have some directional preference, generally increasing their crypticity and branching away from the aperture. However, increasing crypticity is not always the case; sometimes the bryozoans branch parallel to the aperture or even grew towards it. Aside from shedding light on the life habits of these encrusters, these cryptic skeletobionts also inadvertently preserved their hosts through bioimmuration. Bioimmuration is a type of fossil preservation in which a skeletal organism overgrows another, preserving its negative relief. These cryptic communities not only tell us more about the organisms living in these isolated cavities, but they also have preserved detailed external and internal molds of their host aragonitic fauna. This provides information about shell morphology that would have otherwise been lost to dissolution. Because of the abundance of skeletal bioimmuration in the Cincinnatian, a comparison of cryptic to exposed skeletobionts living in the same environments can be made.

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The header photograph is of an internal mold of a monoplacophoran mollusk. At the left you can see the branching runners of the bryozoan Cuffeyella, shown in closer view below.

Above is a close-up of the monoplacophoran internal mold. This bryozoan (Cuffeyella) was growing on the inside of the monoplacophoran shell. That shell filled with sediment and then dissolved, leaving the cemented sediment and the underside of the encrusting bryozoan. (Thus the “upside-down and inside-out” preservation.)

This is a view of the underside of skeletobionts that grew inside a nautiloid conch. The conch dissolved, leaving the undersides of various encrusters. A = the inarticulate brachiopod Petrocrania; B = sheet-like bryozoan; C = a rare microconchid with an extended apertural tube; D = another sheet-like bryozoan; E = one of many Trypanites or Palaeosabella borings.

Kit Price (’13) on one of her outcrops in Indiana (C/W-149) on July 28, 2012.

Sclerobionts and Extinctions: A Wooster Geologist Faculty Talk at the 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

October 12th, 2011

The last day of a professional meeting is very different from the first. At least half the attendees have gone home. Those that remain move a little slower and have that glazed look from late night dinners, too little sleep, and dreams of getting on that flight out of here. The convention staff is clearly oriented now towards the next event of cheerful conventioneers. (The “RAM SWANA” conference. I was so hoping this was about a mystical Indian guru, but instead it is a joint meeting of the “Recycling Association of Minnesota” and the “Solid Waste Association of North America”. I’ll give it a skip.)

My friend Paul Taylor and I organized a topical session on sclerobionts and mass extinctions, and we have the honor of ending the meeting this afternoon. With generous support from the Paleontological Society, we’ve brought in an international team of paleontologists who specialize in hard-substrate marine organisms, including Michał Zatoń of Poland, Silvio Casadio of Argentina, and Liz Harper of England. Our students Megan Innis and Caroline Sogot are participating as well. The audience may be the speakers themselves, but it will be enthusiastic. (Too bad we won’t get even a small fraction of the attention the pseudoscientific and embarrassing talk on the “Triassic kraken” received earlier in the meeting.)

I’ve started this entry with the first slide of the first talk, and ended it with our conclusions. We hope we’ve at least planted the seeds of a new topic in extinction studies. We’ve certainly had fun getting this diverse group of scientists together in one room.

And yes, we are also dreaming of that flight home!

Posters Round Two at GSA – Minneapolis

October 11th, 2011

 

Sarah Appleton presents her research in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Her IS topic Tree-Ring Dating of the Glacial History of Wachusett Inlet, Glacier Bay was part of a special session honoring Dr. David Michaelson (U. Wisconsin – Madison) a long time worker in Glacier Bay.

Andrew Collins presents his work on The Use of Geophotography as a Permanent Resource in Higher Education - this is a collaborative project that Andrew is doing with Drs. Judge and Wiles and The College of Wooster librarians – Marsha Bansberg and Jessica Clemons. The database has gone live and can be found here. In the future all those trips to Spangler and other field sites around Wooster will be archived at this site. If alumni have some photos in their collection they would like to contribute to the effort, that would be greatly appreciated.

Lindsey Bowman presented her geochemical data to the geologists. He poster describes results of her ongoing IS work with Dr. Meagen Pollock in Iceland. Her poster is entitled: Geochemical and Field Relationships of Pillow and Dike Units in a Subglacial Pillow Ridge, Undirhlithar, Southwest Iceland.

Dr. Shelley Judge leads a lively discussion of her work summarizing 65 Years of Pedagogical Scaffolding and Sequencing in the Sanpete Valley of Central Utah – although it sounds like a series of structural geology terms, Dr. Judge’s poster was about assessment. In addition to being a leader in the field of structural geology, Dr. Judge is a leader in learning assessment, which makes her Chair very happy.

 

Wooster Geology Alumni Gather at the 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

October 10th, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA–It is a tradition that Wooster geology alumni, faculty, students and friends gather at the Geological Society of America meeting on Monday evening. Twenty-three of us were there tonight, although we never seem to get everyone in the same place at the same time for the photograph. It’s interesting how we actually talk very little about past Wooster experiences. Most of the time we’re comparing notes about our current projects and planning when we will see each other again. That and apologizing for missing each other’s talks!

First Wooster student presentations: The Estonia team

October 9th, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA–The first Wooster students presented today at the Geological Society of America annual meeting. Above is Nick Fedorchuk who talked about his work in Estonia studying the Wenlock-Ludlow boundary on Saaremaa Island and its implication for Silurian stratigraphy and depositional environments in Baltica.

Rachel Matt (above) presented her work on the Lower Silurian fauna found in the Hilliste Formation on Hiiumaa Island, Estonia. These fossils are critical evidence for the recovery of marine communities following the end-Ordovician mass extinctions.

It was fun watching Nick and Rachel interact with geologists who stopped by to see their posters. Not only did they learn a great deal about the rocks and fossils they are studying, they could also see how they fit into larger questions about Silurian plate tectonics and evolution.

Two other Wooster students also showed posters today: Lindsey Bowman and Andrew Collins. Photos and profiles of their work will be posted later.

Wooster Geologists in Minneapolis! (Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America)

October 9th, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA–Wooster Geologists are again attending the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in force. It is strangely very warm and sunny here in mid-October Minneapolis. The convention center looks like a late summer college campus with people sunning themselves in grassy gardens surrounding the convention buildings.

We have all four faculty and six students at the meeting this year making various presentations from Sunday through Wednesday. We will soon show you our students giving poster presentations, along with comments on the meeting itself.

Minneapolis skyline from the Convention Center. Note the blue sky!

Another GSA presentation from a Wooster Geologist: Long-term tree ring records from Glacier Bay National Park

November 3rd, 2010

A happy Greg Wiles on the shore of Glacier Bay, Alaska.

(by Stephanie Jarvis, ’11)

Professor Greg Wiles, the Ross K. Shoolroy Chair of Natural Resources at Wooster, finished off the series of Wooster presentations at this year’s Geological Society of America Annual Meeting with his talk: “Multi-millenial-scale tree ring records from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve: Paleoenvironmental reconstruction and placing ongoing cryosphere-ecosphere changes into a long-term context”. He presented this work in a session on research in National Parks this morning.  Highlighting this study with Dan Lawson and Wooster students in the park and surrounding area (see the Alaska tag for this blog), Greg described the timing of glacial advances and retreats as determined by dendrochronology, and the applications of these results to understanding the history of the native Tlingit people.  As the National Parks belong to everybody, and our projects are often funded by government agencies (i.e., taxpayers), the communication of this research in a coherent and understandable manner is one of the many duties of scientists and a great way to close out the 2010 Annual GSA Meeting!

International Research Experiences for Undergraduates (Posters Part II)

November 2nd, 2010

Dr. Meagen Pollock discusses the challenges and rewards of leading international expeditions for undergraduates. She contributed her insights during a special poster session on International Research Experiences for Undergraduates sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Dr. Pollock is a Geoscience Councilor for CUR. Her contribution was coauthored with Dr. Mark Wilson. Wooster students and faculty presented results of international research from Iceland and Israel during this GSA Annual Meeting.

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