Finishing our Tour of Yellowstone

August 20th, 2010

After hiking through the Tetons, we continued our tour of Yellowstone by visiting a number of places in the eastern and northern portions of the park. We visited Signal Mountain Summit, which is a great overlook of the glacial outwash plain due to the glaciation of Yellowstone. (However, I was just as fascinated by the little black bear that we saw on the drive up to the summit.) We also stopped at Artist Point, south of Canyon Village. (We actually stayed the night in Canyon Village’s cabins.)

Then, our journey took us to Norris Geyser Basin, Obsidian Cliff, Sheepeater Cliff, and the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces. All I can really say is “Wow”!!

Above is a scenic view of one section of Norris Geyser Basin, which had some of the most interesting thermal activity in the park.

Above is a scenic view of one section of Norris Geyser Basin, which had some of the most interesting thermal activity in the park.

Take a look at Sheepeater Cliff, which is composed of basalts that exhibit columnar jointing.  Sheepeater Cliff is a result of the bimodal volcanism that was present in Yellowstone.

Take a look at Sheepeater Cliff, which is composed of basalts that exhibit columnar jointing. Sheepeater Cliff is a result of the bimodal volcanism that was present in Yellowstone.

Mammoth Springs provided some wonderful exposures of travertine terraces, several of which were very active.

Mammoth Springs provided some wonderful exposures of travertine terraces, several of which were very active.

Of course, along our journey we made some friends, such as this moose grazing along the river bank.  It was amazing how one creature could tie up so much traffic!!

Of course, along our journey we made some friends, such as this moose grazing along the river bank. It was amazing how one creature could tie up so much traffic!!

Yet another friend...a very, very large bison.

Yet another friend...a very, very large bison.

The day ended with a trip to the Gardner River.  The picture above shows a small stream of thermally-influenced water flowing into the Gardner River.  Along the river bank, temperatures are easily over 100-110 degrees F, and thus many people enjoy one of nature's very own hot tubs.  But, if you walk just a few feet out into the main portion of the Gardner, the water is ice cold.

The day ended with a trip to the Gardner River. The picture above shows a small stream of thermally-influenced water flowing into the Gardner River. Along the river bank, temperatures are easily over 100-110 degrees F, and thus many people enjoy one of nature's very own hot tubs. But, if you walk just a few feet out into the main portion of the Gardner, the water is ice cold.

From Bozeman to Yellowstone to Jackson Hole

August 20th, 2010

The Teaching in the Field Workshop left Bozeman for a whirlwind tour of Yellowstone and the Tetons. Our goal was to actually think about teaching in the field — while in the field!! Some of us concentrated on how we could incorporate our surroundings (particularly Yellowstone) in modules for specific courses that we teach; others of us were more focused on devising a department field trip. I could not think of better surroundings. The field trip leader was Dave Mogk, petrologist at Montana State University, who has done much research in the area.

On the first leg of our journey from Bozeman to West Yellowstone, we stopped at a talc mine just south of Ennis, Montana. The talc mine is within the Montana metasedimentary terrane in a marble-hosted deposit. Nearby, we also looked at algomin-type banded iron formation exposures that contained small isoclinal folds. Afterwards, we headed toward Hebgen Lake to view the site of the 1959 earthquake that registered 7.5 on the Richter Scale and then onward to West Yellowstone.

When in Yellowstone, we were able to visit a number of locations, but we only concentrated on the western and southern portions of the park. Never being to Yellowstone before, I was able to visit Fountain Paint Pot in the Lower Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring, before driving south toward Grand Teton National Park. Along the way, Dave introduced us to the regional geology, discussing such topics as the Huckleberry Ridge, Mesa Falls, and Lava Creek eruptive events, the Absaroka volcanics, the thermal anomaly vs mantle plume argument, and the structural history of the area.

Above is a photo of Spasm Geyser, located in the Lower Geyser Basin.

Above is a photo of Spasm Geyser, located in the Lower Geyser Basin.

The colors of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring were incredibly beautiful.

The colors of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring were incredibly beautiful.

Palisade Falls in Hyalite Canyon, Montana

August 16th, 2010

Today, we ended the indoor classroom portion of the Teaching in the Field Workshop with a lively discussion on the use of technology in the field. Everyone seemed to agree about its usefulness in research; however, there were many different views when the discussion turned to the use of technology in the field when teaching students how to map. Digital mapping is used by state geological surveys and the USGS, but the techniques are not universally used in the classroom and in field camps across the country. When this friendly debate was concluded, it was time for dinner. Instead of eating in the conference room in the student union, the workshop coordinators had organized a picnic for us overlooking Hyalite Reservoir.

Hyalite Canyon is located just south of Bozeman in the Gallatin Range, and it exposes rocks of all ages — Archean gneisses through Eocene volcanics. Before dinner, we hiked to Palisade Falls for a spectacular view that underscored the fact that I was definitely not in Ohio.

As we walked to Palisade Falls in Hyalite Canyon, we followed a wonderful stream flowing through a sub-alpine forest.

As we walked to Palisade Falls in Hyalite Canyon, we followed a wonderful stream flowing through a sub-alpine forest.

Palisade Falls, shown above, was gorgeous during the early evening light.

Palisade Falls, shown above, was gorgeous during the early evening light.

Notice the wonderful columnar jointing that makes up the wall for Palisade Falls.  It was very difficult to pull 50+ geologists off of this outcrop, but dinner was ready!!

Notice the wonderful columnar jointing that makes up the wall for Palisade Falls. It was very difficult to pull 50+ geologists off of this outcrop, but dinner was ready!!

The rest of the week, the workshop on Teaching in the Field is actually taking to the field to put boots on the ground.

Summer coming to an end…

August 16th, 2010

Guest Blogger: Jesse Davenport

Dear Meagen and Shelley, I hope you both like extremely sheared metamorphic and igneous 2 billion year old rocks because I have about 100 of them coming to Scovel in about a week.

But really I have had an amazing time in Montana and am sad to see my time out west coming to an end, yet I am happy to be returning home after 3 months of travel. I would have liked to update you all a little more often on what has been happening in Big Sky country, but the internet situation and the communication in general is rather limited.

On our daily traverses we encountered diorite, tonalite, mica schist, marble, mylonite, amphibolites, quartzite, and Yellowstone related volcanics (although we weren’t particulary interested in these). We saw many signs of wildlife both actually seeing and other signs. Cattle sightings were especially common, but we also saw elk, antelope, moose, golden eagle, bald eagle, badger, marmot, ferret, fox, and hawks. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we didn’t see any bear but all the locals tell us they are there black and grizzly.

There is still a lot of work to be done even though field work is over. We came into the project with some general questions, but now we have the data, the rocks, and the field observations that we need to make a significant scientific contribution to the understanding of the geologic evolution of the area. This project marks a pinnacle achievement in the area which has had very little work done and is already misunderstood in the scientific community geologically speaking.

I am looking forward to working with Meagen and Shelley on my project and taking the opportunity that the Keck Consortium COW Geology Department gave me to produce a significant piece of scientific literature.

Our field area, Antelope Basin.

Our field area, Antelope Basin.

A view of Saddle Mountain.

A view of Saddle Mountain.

Some nicely sheared rocks in an outcrop in Antelope Basin.

Some nicely sheared rocks in an outcrop in Antelope Basin.

Sacagawea Peak in the Bridger Range

August 15th, 2010

The entire group at the On the Cutting Edge Workshop (Teaching Geoscience in the Field) spent a few hours in the field talking about various teaching strategies. Our field site for this exercise was the Bridger Range, and we climbed to Sacagawea Saddle. Fortunately, on the climb up, Terry Pavlis (structural geologist at UTEP) gave me a Trimble Juno with ArcPad to use so that I could try this digital mapping technology out in the field once again.

The view from Sacagawea Saddle was gorgeous, and we had a great conversation about teaching pedagogy at the top.

View of the Paleozoic carbonates that are wonderfully exposed along the climb toward Sacagawea Saddle.  This area is in the Gallatin National Forest.  Notice the huge talus pile and the remnant snow in the photo.

View of the Paleozoic carbonates that are wonderfully exposed along the climb toward Sacagawea Saddle. This area is in the Gallatin National Forest. Notice the huge talus pile and the remnant snow in the photo.

The photo above illustrates the magnificent view that you have from the Saddle. (View to the west)

The photo above illustrates the magnificent view that you have from the Saddle. (View to the west)

View of Sacagawea Peak from the Saddle.  All of the rocks in the photo are the Paleozoic carbonates, which straddle the entire spectrum from lime mudstones to wackestones to packstones, grainstones, and boundstones.  It was fantastic for me to walk through this thick Paleozoic sequence that had been caught up in thrusting and was now exposed in the Bridger Range.  (By the way, Dr. Wilson, there sure are some great fossils here!!...Tabulate corals, rugose corals, brachiopods, crinoids, stromatoporoids, and yes -- even some bryozoans.)

View of Sacagawea Peak from the Saddle. All of the rocks in the photo are the Paleozoic carbonates, which straddle the entire spectrum from lime mudstones to wackestones to packstones, grainstones, and boundstones. It was fantastic for me to walk through this thick Paleozoic sequence that had been caught up in thrusting and was now exposed in the Bridger Range. (By the way, Dr. Wilson, there sure are some great fossils here!!...Tabulate corals, rugose corals, brachiopods, crinoids, stromatoporoids, and yes -- even some bryozoans.)

Another Wooster Geologist in Montana

August 15th, 2010

In an earlier blog, Jesse Davenport (2011) described some of this experiences this summer while working on his Keck project in Montana. Jesse is still in SW Montana, although his official last day in the field is August 16. He should have plenty of great geology stories to tell from his time out here in Big Sky Country.

Speaking of Big Sky Country…
Earlier this month (August 8), I also came out to Montana State University to attend two On the Cutting Edge Workshops. The first workshop (August 8-11) was called “Using GIS and Remote Sensing to Teach Geoscience in the 21st Century”. This workshop has revolutionized the way that I will teach GIS in spring 2011, and it also has contributed to significant changes to other courses that I teach in the curriculum. I am so glad that I was able to participate with other faculty from all over the country who teach GIS and Remote Sensing courses.

The second workshop, which I am still participating in this week, is called “Teaching Geoscience in the Field in the 21st Century”. I love teaching in the field, so this workshop will help my activities each year with our I.S. program and with field camp. In fact, I gave a presentation on Wooster’s I.S. program twice to the audience of geologists, and it seemed to be well-received. There is definitely some commonality between capstone courses at various institutions, but there are some distinct differences, too. For example, no other school boasts of an I.S. Monday in which the Registrar dresses as a Tootsie Roll and the Dean dresses in the MacLeod tartan!!

In between each workshop, we spent a day in the field in which we were shown several different uses of technology in the field. I was able to play with (1) a tablet PC that ran GeoMapper software, (2) a toughbook that ran ArcMap, (3) a Trimble Juno that ran ArcPad, and (4) a GeoClino that allows simultaneous measurements of strike and dip (of bedding) and trend and plunge (of a lineation) within seconds!! The day was fantastic, because you typically do not get to try so many different digitial mapping technologies in one setting.

Now I know why they call it Big Sky country…

August 9th, 2010

Guest Blogger: Jesse Davenport

That is, when you look outside all you see is sky for miles upon miles upon miles upon…well you get the picture. It is extremely beautiful here. In Island Park, Idaho, we are sitting right on the border of Montana. Yellowstone is just a mere 30 miles away. It is one thing to read and study an area like I did for my junior thesis, but is an entirely different to actually be able to see the areas that I read about.

After a shaky first two days of traveling arrangements at the lovely Bozeman airport, everyone was finally together. Everyone including me, Caleb Lucy from Williams College, Danielle Lerner from Mt. Holyoke, Kristina Doyle from Amherst, Parker Haynes from the University of North Carolina, and Ali Walker from Smith College. And of course our two lovely professors, Tekla Harms from Amherst and John Brady from Smith. Saturday, Sunday and Monday we traveled out into our field areas in the Antelope Basin of the Gravelly Range to conduct some reconnaissance work. We familiarized ourselves with the rock formations, practiced our Brunton skills, and talked about the upcoming month.

Today, we sat down with Tekla and John to discuss our specific projects and what we would be doing individually. I will be doing geochemistry in what is termed the Madison Mylonite zone to try to determine the protolith of these highly sheared rocks by also doing the geochemistry on some of the other rock types around the region. These include diorite, schist, marble, phyllite, and many others.

The rock here is a biotite schist. The main significance, however, are the wonderful crenulations in the rock (very small folds in the rock).

The rock here is a biotite schist. The main significance, however, are the wonderful crenulations in the rock (very small folds in the rock).

The rock you are looking at here is one of the many mylonites in the area, which I will be taking samples from to do my analyses.

The rock you are looking at here is one of the many mylonites in the area, which I will be taking samples from to do my analyses.

Another Beautiful Montana Day

June 19th, 2009

We have beautiful weather again here in Montana. The CUR meeting is moving along swiftly and we’re all working hard to accomplish as much as possible in the short time that we have. Some committees managed to take advantage of the warmth and sunshine this afternoon by holding their discussions on the lawn. Fortunately, mine was one of them! Soon, we’ll head back indoors to vote on issues like the merger of CUR with NCUR (National Conference on Undergraduate Research). I bet you thought they were one in the same, didn’t you? Well, they may be soon! Until then, I’ll be reading about the most influential leaders in undergraduate research (as the newest member of the CUR Fellows Committee) and enjoying the sweet, fresh Montana air.

Plaque detailing the journey of Lewis and Clark

A plaque detailing the expedition of Lewis and Clark.

View of Baldy Mountain from the steps of my dorm.

View of Baldy Mountain from my dorm (sigh).

The sticker on my nametag shows how infinitely cool geologists are

The sticker on my nametag shows how infinitely cool geologists are

Wooster Geologist in Bozeman, MT

June 19th, 2009

Promoting undergraduate research doesn’t always mean that we’re trekking across some exotic landscape sampling rocks with our students. Sometimes, it means tackling difficult issues through in-depth conversations with faculty who mentor undergraduate researchers in a variety of settings. That’s why I’m here in Bozeman, MT. I’m on the campus of Montana State University at the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) business meeting. Even the gorgeous weather didn’t distract us from setting an ambitious agenda. We’re going to spend all day tomorrow talking about issues that impact undergraduate research, such as how to advocate for funding, how to convey the benefits of undergraduate research to a broader audience (e.g., policy makers, administrators, institutions), and how best to address the needs of the geoscience research community. CUR’s mission is to support and promote high-quality undergraduate student-faculty collaborative research and scholarship. Undergraduate research is rapidly becoming main-stream pedagogy, and it’s thrilling to be a member of the organization that is paving the way.
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