Cutting through the Paleozoic in northern Utah

July 15th, 2010

LOGAN, UTAH–Logan Canyon cuts perpendicularly through the Bear River Range in Cache County, northern Utah. It neatly dissects a complex section of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks in the Logan-Huntsville Allochthon noted in my last post. Conveniently, US Highway 89 runs through the length of the canyon providing spectacular views of the quartzites, dolomites and limestones.

The mouth of Logan Canyon as viewed from Logan, Utah.

After exiting the canyon in the east, Highway 89 meets a most unusual body of water with a prosaic name: Bear Lake. Running north-south across the Utah-Idaho border, Bear Lake is one of the oldest existing lakes in North America. Studies of its sediments show the lake has existed for at least 220,000 years, and maybe more. Its water is strangely blue because it contains lots of dissolved calcium carbonate from the surrounding limestone mountains in its watershed. The lake was formed by tectonic processes, sitting now in a half-graben which is still active. Its human history is interesting too — in the early 19th Century it was a gathering point for mountain men, including Jim Bridger and my hero Jedediah Smith.

Bear Lake viewed from the west in the Bear River Range.

Yet another Wooster geologist in Utah

July 14th, 2010

LOGAN, UTAH–I’m here to spend a few days with my parents who are “summer citizens” on the Utah State University campus. Logan is in the far northeastern corner of Utah near Idaho.  Like all of the state, it has fascinating geology. Only California can match Utah for geological diversity and splendor. There is a reason why so many geologists find themselves coming back often to Utah.

This evening we walked to the eastern edge of the USU campus and looked at the Bear River Range a few kilometers away. It is a very complex packet of rocks, part of the Logan-Huntsville Allochthon (an allochthon is a set of Paleozoic rocks pushed out of place by tectonic activity). The East Cache Fault Zone separates the valley which contains Logan from the mountains.  Some geologists believe it represents the boundary between the Basin and Range Province to the west and the Middle Rocky Mountains Province to the east.  In the image below you can see that the zone is primarily a set of normal faults. In the Logan area it shows movement during the Holocene, and it is still active today.

Looking east at the Bear River Range from Logan, Utah. The East Cache Fault Zone is in the foreground. Note the faceted spurs on the flanks of the mountains.

Tomorrow we explore Logan Canyon, which cuts perpendicularly through the Bear River Range, and look at the exposed carbonate rocks in detail. I can smell the fossils from here.

Mishaps with Hammers

July 13th, 2010

Today was definitely another adventure in the field. Although we didn’t travel far from our home base in Ephraim (less than 1 mile from home), there was plenty of excitement. We tackled the Green River Formation at Gal Hill, which provided a 60 foot strat column of wonderful carbonates (and a 4 foot tuff bed).

Above is a scenic photo of Gal Hill.  The thick, massive bed about 8-10 feet off the road is a air fall tuff.  The stromatolite layer that we targeted is immediately below the tuff.  Poor stromatolites...they never had a chance!!

Above is a scenic photo of Gal Hill. The thick, massive bed about 8-10 feet off the road is a air fall tuff. The stromatolite layer that we targeted is immediately below the tuff. Poor stromatolites...they never had a chance!!

Of course, stratigraphy is all serious business, as Elizabeth and Jesse prove in the photo below:

Wooster's rock climbing team hard at work.

Wooster's rock climbing team hard at work.

We had to bring out “The Big Dog”, Jesse’s mega sledge hammer for some of our work today, as we needed to sample a continuous silicified stromatolite layer exposed along Gal Hill.

Elizabeth shows her enthusiasm for the silicified stromatolite layer, which is at hand level in this photo.

Elizabeth shows her enthusiasm for the silicified stromatolite layer, which is at hand level in this photo.

Throughout the morning, Jesse used the mega sledge hammer, chisels, and regular rock hammers to extricate a number of beautiful laterally linked and small domal stromatolites that we were measuring. In the end, though, I’m not too sure who came out on top: Jesse or the stromatolites.

Our motto of the day:  No pain, no gain!!

Our motto of the day: No pain, no gain!!

Ohio, Some Fun, A Little Bit of Geology, and Back

July 13th, 2010

Guest Blogger: Jesse Davenport

We always hear about how all geologists have the opportunity to go to fantastic places in far away lands. Or at least that was what I thought, while I envied my professors from afar. However, this summer I have had the opportunity to travel across the United States, on a road trip no less. From conquering Grays Peak, Torreys Peak, and Pikes Peak in Colorado to backpacking 83 miles in 10 days in the New Mexico backcountry (not to mention being attacked by a black bear) to spending a few days in the Sawtooth National Forest, to climbing Mt St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, and back to central Utah. And yet my trip isn’t even halfway complete. After assisting Dr. Judge and Elizabeth in her I.S. fieldwork, I will then head to southwestern Montana to begin my fieldwork in the Tobacco Root Mountains, where I will be working with Archean metamorphic and igneous rocks, some of the oldest you can find in North America. Being able to drive everywhere also has had a number of exciting perks. I have visited Colorado School of Mines and University of Utah, two schools I have looked at and am very interested in for graduate school for a Mining Engineering degree. I will also have the opportunity to visit the Bingham Canyon Cooper mine near Provo, Utah with the OSU folks. Hopefully I will be able to send out another update once I begin my work in Montana!

Jesse on top of the Colorado National Monument at 6,106 feet near Fruita, Colorado.

Jesse on top of the Colorado National Monument at 6,106 feet near Fruita, Colorado.

From Ohio to the west coast. A view of the Pacific Ocean near Ocean Shores, Washington.

From Ohio to the west coast. A view of the Pacific Ocean near Ocean Shores, Washington.

A New Way to do Stratigraphy / Paleontology

July 12th, 2010

Elizabeth is completely fixated with stromatolites, and the obsession became even stronger today when we found ~200 feet of stromatolites within the massive Quarry Bed at Temple Hill. As Elizabeth and I oohed and awed over each stromatolite on the bedding plane at the top of the Quarry Bed, Jesse began leaping and bounding over quarry rubble, looking for additional “outcrops”.

We decided to forgo “conventional” stratigraphy and paleontology for a short while, and most anything in the quarry became our outcrop.

Elizabeth is working on one of our fabulous outcrops. As you can see, the stratigraphy is shown perfectly.

This blog would not be complete without some pictures of our “finds”. The top photo below is an example of one of our stromatolites in cross-section, while the bottom photo is a collection of …???…

Green River Stratigraphy at Temple Hill

July 12th, 2010

On Sunday, we traveled a short way down the road to Manti to work on Temple Hill, home of the Manti Temple. Our goal was to learn about the stratigraphy of the Green River Formation at this locality, and we accomplished that through measuring a strat column through the upper “member” of the Green River and the overlying Crazy Hollow Formation. We had a great day in the field, producing a 120 foot strat column and just beating the storm clouds as they rolled in later in the afternoon.

Take a look at the photo below, which is a view of a small portion of the massive “Quarry Bed”. Used as a building stone in the Sanpete Valley, this bed is 8-9 feet in places and is filled with (often silicified) ooids, pellets, and ostracodes — a dream for a carbonate lover!!”

Here you can see that we have nearly completed our strat column. We are through the Green River Formation and nearly done measuring the overlying Crazy Hollow. Elizabeth is hard at work with her Jacob's Staff, while Jesse is...posing for his photo shoot for outdoor clothing and equipment on top of the Crazy Hollow.

Field Camp in Utah – A Woo Reunion

July 11th, 2010

Hello from Ephraim, Utah!! I just finished teaching my three week portion of Ohio State’s field camp with David Elliot (OSU, igneous petrology). To my surprise this year, field camp became a mini Wooster reunion, because Elyssa Krivicich (’09) was enrolled in field camp as a student. Elyssa moved on from Woo to OSU’s School of Earth Sciences, where she is focusing on paleontology under Bill Ausich, a colleague of Mark Wilson from their Estonia days (and a good friend of mine from my time at OSU).

Field camp this year has been just as great as usual. What possibly could be bad about spending each day in the Utah sun mapping? Yes, the days can be long and sometimes tiring (especially when you are grading), but the time mapping makes up for everything. Most of the mapping thus far was in Paleogene strata of the Sanpete Valley, but we did venture off for a camping trip to Marysvale, one of Utah’s volcanic provinces.

Because field camp is over, I can now turn my attention to field work with my I.S. students. Elizabeth Deering arrived in Utah on Saturday and is working with me here in Utah on the Green River Formation stromatolite lithofacies. I’m looking forward to days of fossil collecting in carbonates with Elizabeth. My other I.S. student, Jesse Davenport, is also here with us in Ephraim, assisting with field work. However, he will leave near the end of July to work in the Tobacco Root Mountain region of Montana on a Keck project. So, he’ll have to switch gears from Paleogene lacustrine strata to Archean metamorphics. Please stay tuned for more on our adventures in Utah, as we just completed our first day in the field!!

Elyssa Krivicich ('09) is hard at work during field camp, studying the packstone intervals in the Green River Formation on White Hill (Ephraim, Utah).

CUR 2010

June 19th, 2010

I’m at the 2010 National Conference of the Council on Undergraduate Research at Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Tonight, the conference kicked off with a talk by Dr. Robert Full (University of California, Berkeley) on “The Value of Interdisciplinary Research-based Instruction.” I immediately thought of Wooster’s Environmental Studies class that our own Dr. Wiles will be co-teaching with Dr. Susan Clayton (Psychology and Chair of Environmental Studies) as an excellent example of “interdisciplinary research-based instruction.” Tomorrow, I have the privilege of serving on a panel with Dr. Jeff Ryan and Dr. Laura Geurtin, my fellow GeoCUR Councilors, in an interactive session on “How Working with Undergraduate Researchers has Changed with Time.” I’ll be discussing wikis, digital field applications, and international research, but how is a geologist supposed to concentrate when surrounded by such wonderful scenery?

Wasatch Range, as viewed from the Welcome Reception at CUR 2010.

Wooster Geologists in the Air!

March 6th, 2010

CLEVELAND TO LAS VEGAS–The Wooster Geology Department has started a week-long Spring Break field trip to the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada and California.  Our Desert Geology course has been so far eight weeks of preparation for this expedition, which includes all four faculty members, ten students, and Jesse Wiles (intrepid son of Greg Wiles).  We will post images and comments throughout the week when we get internet access.  You can read about our itinerary posted on Week #8 of our online course syllabus.

We left snow-bound Wooster early this morning under clear and cold (21°F) skies.  Perfect weather to take a few photos of the changing landscape beneath us as we flew from Cleveland to Las Vegas.

Snowy Ohio farmland southwest of Cleveland.

The Rockies somewhere in Colorado.

An entrenched meandering river on the Colorado Plateau of southern Utah.

Beautiful structures in southern Nevada. The red rocks in the lower left are Mesozoic sandstones exposed in a tectonic window through the folded gray Paleozoic rocks thrust above them.

We landed safely in the very crowded Las Vegas airport, rented three vans, and then headed northwest to visit the Red Rocks National Conservation Area at the base of the Spring Mountains.

Saying Goodbye to 6 Weeks in Ephraim, Utah

July 27th, 2009

Ephraim, Utah.  July 27.

Today, I’m spending most of the day packing rocks, field equipment, and personal belongings in order to get ready to fly out of Salt Lake City tomorrow. Leaving Ephriam most summers is often bittersweet. I’m excited to get back to Wooster to begin analyzing all of the data that was collected this summer. However, I am also amazed that the 6 weeks out here has come to an end so soon. Hiking all day long while mapping and collecting data for stratigraphic and structural projects is good for my soul and always works to rejuvenate me as a geologist. So, naturally, a part of me wants to remain out here and continue to explore the geology of central Utah, a region of geologic complexity and intrigue. Responsibilities in Wooster await, and I’m sure that Phil and Bill are as eager as I am to begin sifting through their Senior I.S. data. Wooster, here I come!!

« Prev - Next »