Iron Flows and Camera Blows

July 21st, 2014

Guest Bloggers:  Sarah McGrath (’17) and Chloe Wallace (’17), both members of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH — No longer rookie bloggers Chloe and Sarah here, coming at you from the sweet comfort of our couch in Utah. Before collecting pounds of oncolites and encountering countless kill sites, we were just two inexperienced field geologists spending our long days becoming pros with the Trimble. The Trimble is a survey grade GPS unit. We used it to map the many iron concretions throughout the Six-Mile Canyon Formation. Over the course of a day and a half we were able to map over 200 points on one single rib of the outcrop.

As you will see below it takes a truly skilled and brave geologist to be worthy of the power that is the Trimble. Lesson learned: do not forget to zip the pocket that is holding your camera as you lean over a steep cliff just to collect a single data point. Thankfully, Sarah’s camera survived the fall and still works somehow. Nikons, people! Also as Sarah was retrieving her camera she came upon some lovely iron staining that otherwise would not have been discovered. There’s always an upside!

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How to Trimble 101: This isn’t your basic car GPS.

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Seconds before Sarah dropped her camera down the side of the cliff. All in the name of science!

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The iron staining Sarah came upon while retrieving her camera at the bottom of the cliff.

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We’ve gotten too used to this view. We’re going to miss Utah! Thanks for an amazing two weeks full of scalding heat, accessibility to more Peace Tea than one human should consume, and unforgettable geology.

 

 

Oncolites and Kill Sites

July 21st, 2014

Guest Bloggers:  Sarah McGrath (’17) and Chloe Wallace (’17), both members of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH —  Rookie bloggers, Sarah and Chloe, coming at you from beautiful Ephraim, Utah! We’ll admit early on that are blogging skills are not the most proficient, but we’re giving it a shot (mostly because we are being “strongly encouraged”). We figure plenty of enticing pictures will make up for what we are lacking.

We began a new project in the field on Thursday. We gathered data and collected oncolites in the North Horn Formation. We measured over 50 oncolites within the rock face and collected about a dozen float samples. The following day we did more oncolite work, collecting at least 150 float samples, in the Flagstaff at “Snake Ridge,” which was cleverly named by Dr. Judge after countless rattlesnake sightings. Luckily for us, we have yet to see a single snake the entire trip. Knock on wood; still one day left in the field.

Although we haven’t seen any rattlesnakes, we’ve encountered enough kill sites to last us a lifetime. At our first sighting we ran away in disgust, but by our most recent kill site we were taking creative photos with them. We suspect our friend Freddy the mountain lion may be at fault.

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The view from the North Horn Formation.

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One bag out of many of the collected oncolites at the infamous “Snake Ledge.”  Note the medical tape holding one of the oncolites together!!

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Most recent kill site shot. Maggots don’t scare us.

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More wildlife encountered in the field. This jackrabbit kept us quite entertained for at least thirty minutes.

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Possible homestead of the one and only Freddy the mountain lion.

 

 

Hot Springs and I.S. Frenzy

July 17th, 2014

Guest Blogger:  Kelli Baxstrom (’16), member of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH —  A week into Utah, and feelings are mixed between slight hysteria for those who continue to fall off the couch in the evening due to exhaustion and an ongoing sense of awe of the beautiful world that exists outside Ohio.

Sunday was a day off for us, and so the four of us hopped in a van with some of the OSU field camp students – including recent CoW graduate Tricia Hall – and headed to some hot springs near Spanish Fork. We smelled like sulfur the rest of the day, but the waterfall and pools were worth it!

hotspring

​Wednesday was very I.S. focused for Michael and myself. For my part, I am a double major in Religious Studies as well as Geology. So in order to meld my I.S., Dr. Judge drove me to Nephi to meet the Chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. It was very enlightening to talk to a native and political spokeswoman of the tribe, and I learned so much of political, historical and socioeconomic activity of the Paiutes for the last millennia. Dr. Judge also enjoyed the meeting – possibly more than myself – in learning all the ways that the Paiutes have lived and prospered in the areas where she has worked and researched for several years.

After Dr. Judge and I got back from Nephi, Michael and I spread out on the floor with a multitude of topographic maps of Utah trying to decide what we would like to do for I.S. At the moment, that is a prospect Michael and I irrationally believe is completely​ unattainable. But Dr. Judge has faith in us.

Hey, Team British Columbia, here’s proof that there’s some real wildlife out here in Utah…

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Brain-melting Heat in the Sanpete Valley

July 16th, 2014

Guest Blogger:  Michael Williams (’16), member of Team Utah 2014

 

EPHRAIM, UTAH –Team Utah 2014 is now approaching the one-week mark of being in the field. For the past four days we’ve been working on one of Dr. Judge’s pet projects: deformation bands and fluid flow in the Sixmile Canyon Formation. This Cretaceous sandstone underwent some serious deformation during the building of the Rocky Mountains, and this strain reveals itself in several remarkable features, including jointing, deformation bands, and bizarre outcroppings of iron. Team Utah has been working hard to measure, categorize, date, and record these features, all while enduring non-stop, brain-melting heat.

We agreed early on that work would begin every morning at 8:00am, so naturally we don’t actually make it out in the field until 9:00am or later. It’s a short drive followed by an even shorter hike to our field site, so it’s typically still mid-morning as we begin the day’s work. Each day has had us focusing on different features in our area. Our most productive days involve measuring the orientations of joints. Other days we hike for hours, looking for the perfect outcrop of deformation bands. No matter our mission, the charge is led by Measurement Machine Shelley Judge, Brunton in hand and field notebook at the ready.

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Some nice sets of joints in a nearly horizontal wall of sandstone. On our first day alone we managed to measure just over 200 individual joints.  Brunton Compass for scale.

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Kelli examines some bizarre iron fins protruding from the rock face. We suspect that these were caused by fluid flow through the porous rock.

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A beautiful example of deformation bands forming Riedel ladders. Unfortunately, this particular rock had fallen off the outcrop, and so it couldn’t be included in our data.

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Michael down below (bottom center), measuring orientations of deformation bands, while Kelli records from above (top right).

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Sometimes, when the heat starts getting to us, we decompress by falling off of cliffs.

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You can’t help but occasionally stop to admire the postcard-like beauty of the Sanpete Valley.

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Even temperatures upward of 100 degrees can’t stop the Scott spirit.

Meet Team Utah 2014

July 15th, 2014

EPHRAIM, UTAH — On July 9, four Wooster students traveled to Utah to begin structural and stratigraphic research with me.  They will be out here until July 22, when we will all fly back to Ohio together.  I’d like to introduce these students to you!!

Team Utah

Above is a great picture of Team Utah on the morning of their first day in the field.  From L to R, the students are:  Michael Williams (’16), Kelli Baxstrom (’16), Sarah McGrath (’17), and Chloe Wallace (’17).  Don’t they look enthused, happy, and eager?  (At this point, they do not actually realize that impact of desert heat:  temperatures will soon be 95-100 degrees by noon each day!!  Utah at the end of July can definitely be hot, making field work strenuous.)

During our time in Utah, we have 3 projects that require our attention.  Our primary objective will be to collect data for the deformation band work that I have been doing for a few years.  We will take a comprehensive look at some additional Cretaceous units that may contain deformation bands.  Also, we want to undertake two reconnaissance projects for future I.S. research.  One involves the Cretaceous to Paleogene North Horn Formation, and the other involves the Paleogene Colton Formation.  If there is time left, we will undertake more reconnaissance work in the Jurassic Arapien Formation, which is the core of an amazing diapir in the Sanpete Valley.  Because Mark Wilson has also been interested in the Jurassic of Utah for several years, I’m hoping that I can convince Mark to join forces with me one summer for a joint I.S. research project in Utah.  I really love the stratigraphy of central Utah, so I want to incorporate more I.S. research on the units out here (which have experienced the spectrum of Sevier orogenesis to Basin and Range extension.)

In the coming days, I’m going to ask each of the students to blog in order to reflect on their time in Utah thus far.  They have nearly been here for one week, so stay tuned for some additional news from Ephraim!!

After 5 weeks in the field…my first blog!!

July 15th, 2014

EPHRAIM, UTAH — My apologies for not blogging sooner, but things have been very, very busy out here in the Sanpete Valley.  I spent the first 4 weeks doing my usual summer teaching at Ohio State’s Geology Field Camp.  This summer, we have 22 students — one of whom is Tricia Hall (’14).  During her time at Wooster, Tricia spent 2 summers with me in Utah doing research that eventually culminated in her I.S. on deformation bands within the Sixmile Canyon Formation.  She decided to pursue graduate studies at Ohio State, and her new advisor (Terry Wilson) is the director of the field camp.  So, Tricia is currently completing field camp this summer before beginning her M.S. research in the fall.  It has been wonderful for me to continue to teach her about the joys of Utah geology!!

I’ve been teaching with a great cast of characters:  Terry (OSU), Cristina Millan (OSU), and Dan Kelley (BGSU).  We have had rotating faculty the past 5 weeks, and I have enjoyed every minute of teaching with them this summer.  I always cherish these summer nights in Ephraim, because although they are filled with work, they are also filled with a ton of laughter.  Days are long (6 am to 10+pm with students), so making sure that you are enjoying the teaching is paramount.

Below is a photo that I took from an overlook of Palisade State Park, with its golf course and swimming hole in view.  One of our field camp exercises involves a cross-section W-E across the Sanpete Valley.  This view to the SW encompasses much of the cross-section transect.  Although I cannot give away any field camp secrets for next year’s class, I will say that there is some amazing geology here, with spectacular faults, folds, and unconformities.

Palisade Overlook

One of the most exciting evenings at field camp this year began as a very typical night after dinner.  Students were all extremely busy, diligently trying to finish an assignment by 10 pm.  All of a sudden, there was a low “roar”, and the apartment building began to shake.  We were actually experiencing a nearby earthquake!!  How cool is that?  Needless to say, myself and Cristina (co-instructor) quickly exited our apartment — only to witness all of the other geologists racing out of their rooms in excitement.  You can read about all of the details of the Spring City 4.2 earthquake (which was only about 10 miles to the NE) at: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/pager/events/uu/60075207/index.html

I was exceptionally excited, because its epicenter was on the flanks of the Wasatch monocline, where I did much of my dissertation research.  Although we had several aftershocks, field campers only felt the one episode of shaking.  It was a great educational moment, because Ephraim lies in the transition zone between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range Province.  This region exhibits some of the easternmost normal faulting associated with Basin and Range extension in Utah.

Please look for additional blogs in the very near future.  I currently am working with 4 Wooster students since finishing my teaching duties at field camp.

 

 

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: “Star-rock” crinoids from the Middle Jurassic of Utah

May 18th, 2014

Isocrinus_nicoleti_Encrinite_Mt_Carmel_585This little slab of crinoid stem fragments comes from the Co-op Creek Member of the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic) exposed in northwestern Kane County, Utah. I collected it with my friend Carol Tang as we explored a beautiful encrinite (a rock dominated by crinoid skeletal debris) exposed near Mount Carmel Junction. In 2000, Carol and her colleagues published a description and analysis of this unit and its characteristic crinoid, Isocrinus nicoleti (Desor, 1845). This piece sits on a shelf in my office because it is so ethereal with its star-shaped columnals (stem sections). In fact, the local people in the area collect pieces of the encrinite and sell them as “star rocks“. As I recall, some folks were rather territorial about the outcrops!

Isocrinus nicoleti is one of only three crinoid species known in the Jurassic of North America. (The others are I. wyomingensis and Seirocrinus subangularis.) Tang et al. (2000) showed that this species migrated into southwestern North America by moving southward through a very narrow seaway for thousands of kilometers. I. nicoleti had long stems and relatively small crowns, so it left us zillions of the columnals and very few calices. These washed into large subtidal dunes creating the cross-bedded encrinite.
Isocrinus asteriaThe genus Isocrinus is still alive, most notably in the deep waters around Barbados in the Caribbean. Above is a diagram of Isocrinus asteria originally published by Jean-Étienne Guettard in 1761. The long stem is star-shaped in cross-section.
Pierre Jean Edouard DesorThis gentleman is Professor Pierre Jean Édouard Desor (1811-1882), who named Isocrinus nicoleti in 1845. He is shown here 20 years later. Desor was a German-Swiss geologist who studied two very disparate subjects: glaciers and Jurassic echinoderms. He trained as a lawyer in Germany, but got caught up in the democratic German unity movement of 1832-1833 and had to flee to Paris. In 1837 he met Louis Agassiz and began to collaborate with him on a variety of projects paleontological and glaciological. He even had a trip to the United States where he helped survey the coast of Lake Superior. He took a position as professor of geology at the academy of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 1852, eventually retiring in genteel affluence. (This is not how these geological biographies usually end!)

References:

Ausich, W.I. 1997. Regional encrinites: a vanished lithofacies. In: Brett, C.E. and Baird, G.C. (eds.): Paleontological Events, p. 509-519. Columbia University Press, New York.

Baumiller, T.K., Llewellyn, G., Messing, C.G. and Ausich, W.I. 1995. Taphonomy of isocrinid stalks: influence of decay and autotomy. Palaios 10: 87-95.

Desor, É. 1845 Résumé de ses études sur les crinoides fossilies de la Suisse. Bulletin de la Societe Neuchateloise des Sciences Naturelles 1: 211-222.

Hall, R.L. 1991. Seirocrinus subangularis (Miller, 1821), a Pliensbachian (Lower Jurassic) crinoid from the Fernie Formation, Alberta, Canada. Journal of Paleontology 65: 300-307.

Peterson, F. 1994. Sand dunes, sabkhas, streams, and shallow seas: Jurassic paleogeography in the southern part of the western interior basin. In: Caputo, M.V., Peterson, J.A. and Franczyk, K.J. (eds.): Mesozoic Systems of the Rocky Mountain Region, USA, p. 233-272. Rocky Mountain Section-SEPM, Denver, Colorado.

Tang, C.M., Bottjer, D.J. and Simms, M.J. 2000. Stalked crinoids from a Jurassic tidal deposit in western North America. Lethaia 33: 46-54.

Wooster’s Team Utah completes its presentations at the 2013 GSA meeting in Denver

October 29th, 2013

Tricia102913DENVER, COLORADO–Tricia Hall (’14) stands before her 2013 Geological Society of America poster: “Petrologic and kinematic analysis of deformation bands in the Late Cretaceous Sixmile Canyon Formation, central Utah“. She worked hard this summer with Dr. Shelley Judge pounding away at deformation bands to use them as keys to sorting through complex structural events. Kyle Burden (’14) is below with his collaborative poster: “Reconstruction of eruption conditions based on crater rim stratigraphy at Miter Crater, Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Black Rock Desert, Utah“. Michael Williams (’16), Candy Thornton (’14) and Cam Matesich (’14) are also co-authors on this presentation of summer work in the Black Rock Desert with Dr. Judge and Dr. Pollock, along with students and faculty from Albion College.

Kyle102913Team Utah closed out the 2013 Wooster student presentations at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver. The faculty is very pleased … and not a little exhausted!

Team Utah’s first presentation at GSA 2013

October 28th, 2013

Michael102813DENVER, COLORADO–Michael Williams (who chose a particularly impressive shirt and tie today) and Dr. Shelley Judge presented a poster at the Geological Society of America meeting entitled: “Evidence for inflation and deflation in lavas flows west of Miter Crater, Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Black Rock Desert, Utah.” This was the first offering from this year’s Team Utah. Michael proved to be an effective and animated communicator — and possibly the only sophomore presenting at the meeting!

Home Sweet Home…(after 2 months of research and teaching in Utah!!)

August 9th, 2013

WOOSTER, OH — Two months in the field is great for my geologic soul, but I admit that there is an excitement on campus as I prepare for classes to begin in the next few weeks.  I last blogged about my time in Utah weeks ago, when Tricia Hall (’14) and I collected data in central Utah for her I.S. project on deformation bands.  It was difficult for me to blog while teaching field camp in June and July (32 students; 24/7 questions), but I wanted to catch everyone up on some of the sights from this summer.

During our last days in the field together, Tricia and I were both geologists and naturalists, witnessing “survival of the fittest” first-hand.  Check out these action shots:

Snake and Bat 1This snake has caught a bat, which was hiding in one of the fractures in the rock.  Oh…by the way…we just so happened to be taking measurements in this very area!!  As I was taking measurements, my head came within inches of the snake’s rear end.  But, lucky for me, he didn’t see me, as he had shoved his head inside one of the fractures to grab the bat.  Needless to say, when I saw our friend, I broke the world record for the 100 m dash (well, it was more like the steeplechase as I bounded across the rocks).

Snake and Bat 2Our friend ate several bats that afternoon; you can see here that he is busy swallowing one of the bats completely.  But, we still had to grab data, so I sent Tricia back in to get some of the measurements!!  As the diligent advisor, I decided to be “on the look-out” while she took the measurements (placing Tricia between the snake and me).

After my time with deformation bands, I spent time in Ice Springs Volcanic Field with ‘Team Utah 2.0’ (Meagen Pollock, 6 Wooster geology students,  and a group from Albion College led by Thom Wilch).  Meagen did a great job blogging our exploits of our field season, which was definitely enjoyable!!

Then, for the rest of the summer, I taught at Ohio State’s field camp based in Ephraim, Utah, and field camp this year had a record number of students.  While I cannot show you pictures of our mapping areas and tell you about all of the really outstanding geology there (after all, I don’t want to spoil the fun and give away all of the answers for next year’s students), I will say that central Utah has some amazing geology.  The field camp is located in the Sevier fold-thrust belt, and so wonderful foreland basin deposits are the basis of many of our mapping areas.  However, the area has been overprinted by more recent extension, making it a very complex transition between the Basin and Range and the Colorado Plateau.

I would like to share with you some of the really awesome field trips that we took the students on…

Waterpocket MonoclineEarly on, we traveled to Capitol Reef National Park, where the view of the Waterpocket Monocline is phenomenal.  The structure is one of the classic monoclinal folds formed during the Laramide Orogeny.  But, even though I absolutely LOVE monoclines, there was more to see at Capitol Reef…

Capital Reef - Jn Cross-beddingHere is a picture of the Navajo Sandstone and its amazing cross-bedding in all of its glory.  Can you just imagine yourself standing in this large desert environment during the Jurassic?  Picture yourself as a sand grain, saltating along a dune surface…

Capital Reef - GoosenecksBut, I cannot forget to show you a picture from the Goosenecks Overlook in Capitol Reef.  Seeing the stratigraphy in this portion of the part was very helpful to all of the students, as they began to mentally correlate units from southern Utah toward central Utah.

After days of mapping back in central Utah, we took another field trip to Great Basin National Park and the Northern Snake Range (eastern Nevada); this trip with the field camp students is always a highlight for me each summer.

Lehman CavesAt Great Basin National Park, you can take a guided tour of Lehman Caves.  Some of the views inside of the caves are incredible.  The delicate and fragile cave morphologies are spectacular and include stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, shields, and popcorn!!  The added plus to the Lehman Caves tour is that the temperature is always in the 50s, which is such a contrast to the desert heat that I am in all summer.

From Great Basin National Park, we traveled to the Northern Snake Range…

Northern Snake RangeThe Northern Snake Range, seen above, reveals a remarkable metamorphic core complex (MCC).   A MCC is a result of extreme crustal extension, and so you can see highly metamorphosed basement rocks that have been exhumed.

NSRD ScenicAbove is a scenic view of the Northern Snake Range detachment surface (NSRD; note the white rock unit in the picture).  The detachment surface is really a low-angle fault, which reveals metamorphosed rock in the footwall and normal faulted units in the hanging wall.

NSRD FoldingHere is a look at the highly folded metamorphosed rocks of the NSRD.  It literally takes the field camp class hours to walk a transect through all of the rock units leading up to the NSRD, but once they get there, the view is well worth the hike.  This year, we were able to have an amazing view of a forest fire in the Great Basin National Park (Lexington Arch Road wildfire, July 2013).

After a day looking at the NSRD, it was time to examine some other extensional characteristics of this region…

Hendrys CreekTake a look at all of these conjugate, normal faults near the mouth of Hendrys Creek!!  Aren’t they absolutely beautiful?  We were able to take the class up close and personal to these faults, getting accurate measurements for a computer-based exercise for later in the summer.  Students were able to take joint and fault measurements at this locality and foliations and lineations at several other localities within Hendrys Creek.  Then, using Stereonet, they could analyze and interpret the tectonic significance of the area!!  I get to visit Hendrys Creek each summer, and one of my former I.S. students (Joe Wilch ’13) worked in Hendrys as part of his I.S. project with the summer 2012 Keck Geology Consortium.

At the end of the summer, it was back to mapping in central Utah, and this — mapping and teaching mapping — makes me very happy.  I just love to be out in the field.  Each and every day, I get to look at the magnificent Wasatch Monocline with its fantastic Mesozoic-Cenozoic stratigraphy and antithetic normal faults (shown below in a view up Manti Canyon).

Monocline - MCP

IT IS GREAT TO BE A FIELD GEOLOGIST!!

 

 

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