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.

A Contribution to Understanding Tree Growth and North Pacific Climate

November 2nd, 2010

Stephanie Jarvis contributes to a special session on Pacific Climate. Her talk was title Non-Stationarity in Mountain Hemlock Growth Along the Gulf of Alaska . She summarized a portion of her undergraduate thesis work and its relevance to understanding tree-ring proxy records along the Gulf of Alaska.

Steph is a veteran of undergraduate research and of contributing at GSA. Last year she presented a poster at the National Meeting in Portland Oregon on a REU project she participated in during the summer of 2009.

Wooster Geology Alumni Gather at the 2010 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting

November 1st, 2010

DENVER, COLORADO — It has been a tradition for decades that Wooster Geology alumni, faculty and students meet one evening during the annual GSA conference. This year we had forty people come by; a good number of them are pictured above. There were many other Wooster alumni who were running their own events at the same time and could not attend. What a joyous gathering it was … and an excellent opportunity for our current students to meet a diverse group of successful geologists who shares their academic heritage.

Anomalocaris now not so scary

November 1st, 2010

Whitey Hagadorn beginning his GSA talk on the feeding abilities of Anomalocaris. The large room was packed.

DENVER, COLORADO — I very much enjoyed a talk this afternoon by Whitey Hagadorn (a Wooster favorite since his Osgood lecture last year) entitled: “Putting Anomalocaris on a soft-food diet?” Even though Whitey says Anomalocaris “may still have been a fearsome predator”, slurping up worms from the mud is not the same as crunching trilobites. Spaghetti vs. steak.

Whitey’s presentation was an excellent example of testing a hypothesis with fossil evidence. If Anomalocaris really did bite through trilobite cuticle, surely it should have been able to at least close its mouth more than halfway and be able to apply the necessary forces? Whitey and his colleagues modeled the mouthparts of Anomalocaris and the exoskeletons of trilobites and subjected them to various engineering analyses. Turns out that the story of these nektic predators grabbing and killing trilobites just can’t be true. Their mouths could exert significant sucking forces, though, so maybe they were predators on soft-bodied worms they pulled from the sediment. Their “teeth” then may have served mainly to keep the worms from sliding out once in the mouth. Not nearly so dramatic, but a much more sensible take on the fossil evidence.

Stromatolites, Basalt and Sharks: Wooster Geology Student Posters at GSA (Part 1)

November 1st, 2010

DENVER, COLORADO — The first set of Wooster geology student posters have been successfully delivered at the Geological Society of America annual meeting. Three of our students did very well with their clear graphics, intelligent explanations, and winning smiles.  Elizabeth Deering (’11) presented her I.S. work on Eocene stromatolites in Utah, Becky Alcorn (’11) described her work with Icelandic sub-glacial basalts, and Andrew Retzler (’11) discussed his Cretaceous shark and other fish teeth from Israel.

Elizabeth Deering ('11) and her GSA poster.

Becky Alcorn ('11) and her GSA poster.

Andrew Retzler ('11) and his poster.

George Davis (Wooster ’64) receives a prestigious award from the Geological Society of America

October 31st, 2010

DENVER, COLORADO — George H. Davis, structural geologist extraordinaire and a 1964 geology graduate from Wooster, will receive the Structural Geology and Tectonics Career Contribution Award from the Geological Society of America at this annual meeting. This honor is given “to an individual who throughout his/her career has made numerous distinguished contributions that have clearly advanced the science of structural geology or tectonics.” George has certainly done that. He is now Regents Professor (Emeritus) and Provost Emeritus at the University of Arizona. Here is the award citation and George’s response as a pdf from GSA.

George Davis ('64) in his element. (From his website.)

Thoroughly bored at GSA: A Wooster Geologist Faculty Talk

October 31st, 2010

DENVER, COLORADO — How I very much enjoy those few minutes AFTER giving a presentation, especially a Geological Society of America talk. That sense of renewed life, the rush of completing a task which was months in preparation, and the step back into the inviting shadows of the lecture room. I’ll just repeat my first and last slides below, and then link to the abstract. You will, I hope, see the joke in my blog post title!

Tree Rings and the Huna Tlingit People: A Wooster Student Geologist Talk

October 31st, 2010

Sarah Appleton ('12) presenting her research at the 2010 GSA meeting.

DENVER, COLORADO — The Wooster Geologists are very proud today of our own Sarah Appleton, who just gave a professional talk at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting this morning.  Her topic was sorting out a historical mystery about Eighteenth-Century migrations of the Tlingit in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Sarah did a superb job.  This is the first time in my memory that one of our junior geology majors gave a national talk.  Well done, Sarah.  (And now I have to prepare for my own talk!)

Teaching Paleontology in the 21st Century

October 31st, 2010

My friend Leif Tapanila from Idaho State University giving his presentation in the Teaching Paleontology session this morning. If you look closely you'll see he's wearing a monkey hat for eccentric reasons of his own.

DENVER, COLORADO — The teaching of paleontology has changed dramatically over the course of my teaching career, and this excellent topical session at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting was designed for direct conversations about paleontological pedagogy. It was convened by four paleontologists (Peg Yacobucci, Rowan Lockwood, Warren Allmon and Bruce Macfadden) and had an array of successful teachers explaining what they do, what they want to do, and where they see opportunities.  Wooster geology alumna Tricia Kelley was a participant talking about how to present evolution to students who may not be open to the idea.

The primary lesson I learned, along with a dozen examples of better ways to teach, was that we must emphasize to our students and the public that paleontology is a science at the intersection of geology and biology and so it has much to offer to debates about evolution, climate change and public policy.  Too often we get caught up in the details of taxonomy (brachiopods are usually given as the example!) and forget to make the connections from ancient fossils to concerns we have in the world today.

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