Wooster Geologists participate in the historic March For Science on Earth Day, 2017

April 22nd, 2017

Wooster, Ohio — It was a chilly day downtown, but several hundred people gathered for the national March For Science. We were one of over 500 local events across the country advocating for science awareness, education and funding. Thank you very much for retired Wooster Professor of Biology Lyn Loveless for organizing such a complex meeting with speakers and break-out discussions in local businesses. It was a great success. Above are some of the signs held by children in attendance. Several Wooster Geologists were in the diverse crowd, and some participated directly.

One view of the attendees. We all see the distinctive profile of Dr. Wiles in the foreground. Kelli Baxstrom may recognize someone on the far right!

One of the speakers was ace Wooster physicist and former dean Dr. Shila Garg. Note her coat on this mid-April day.

I include this photo (taken by Wooster political scientist Matt Krain) of Dr. Wiles and me to show my Paleontological Society colleagues that I wore The Shirt, even if no one noticed under the jacket.

One of the break-out sessions was on climate change. Greg Wiles and Clara Deck (’17) did great outreach work explaining their research to the large gathering. Wooster’s paleoclimate and climate change research and education is making a difference. Visit the Tree-Ring Lab website to see more details about the operation.

It was an inspiring afternoon, especially seeing the many young scientists and scientists-to-be who participated. Of course, for someone my age it is astonishing that we have to advocate for something so self-evidently beneficial as science, but such are our times.

Dr. Rob Thieler delivers the 36th annual Richard G. Osgood, Jr., Memorial Lecture at Wooster

March 2nd, 2017

One of the pleasures of being in the Geology Department at The College of Wooster is that we have the annual Richard G. Osgood, Jr., Memorial Lecture series. These presentations, given in honor of the late Professor Osgood, have significantly enriched our intellectual lives. Funds from the endowment are used to bring to Wooster internationally-recognized Earth scientists. Last night the 36th Osgood Lecture had an overflow crowd in Lean Lecture Room. It was an excellent event in every way.

Our speaker was Dr. Rob Thieler, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Science Center. His title was “Changing Climate, Changing Coasts”.

Dr. Thieler outlined the causes and consequences of sea-level rise on coastal systems. It is a complex topic, but he made it accessible to everyone. The projected changes are grim enough, but he emphasized to students the critical need now and in the  future for people who can communicate science effectively to the public, and for decision-makers to have strong foundational awareness of geological context. Sounds like the ideal mission for a liberal arts geology program.

Dr. Rob Thieler on, appropriately, a coastline. We thank him for his clear, provocative and information-rich talk, and his wonderful interactions with our students. Thank you again to the Osgood family for endowing this spectacular lecture series.

Wooster Geology Alumni at GSA 2016

September 26th, 2016

gsa-wooster-2016-585DENVER, COLORADO — Many of the Wooster Geology alumni at GSA, along with current students and professors Pollock and Wilson, gathered this evening for conversations. It was great fun with many stories and lots of good advice for our students.

dr-sophie-lehman-092616We celebrated Sophie Lehman’s (’08) brand new PhD. Congratulations, Dr. Lehman! We remember your first GSA presentation.

steph-and-amineh-092616Here is Wooster alumna Steph Jarvis talking to current student Amineh AlBashaireh. Many connections made tonight.

More later on the day of talks and posters.

Another day of Wooster Geology at GSA 2016: Volcanoes and Fossils

September 26th, 2016

jester-092616DENVER, COLORADO — On this second day of the Geological Society of America meeting we had several Wooster presenters. Above Cassidy Jester (’17) describes her developing Senior Independent Study work on Jurassic “snuff-boxes“.

wallace-and-kumpf-092616Dr. Pollock’s students Chloe Wallace and Ben Kumpf talked about their work on the geochemistry of a volcanic system in Iceland.wilson-092616

And there was me! This is my poster (With Caroline Buttler of the National Museum of Wales) on an Ordovician cave fauna.

taylor-092616Honorary Wooster Geologist Paul Taylor of the Natural History Museum in London also presented in our session. His project is the interpretation of a magnificent set of Carboniferous bryozoans.

poster-session-092616Finally, here is what a typical GSA poster session looks like. You can imagine the accompanying loud buzz of several thousand voices.

Wooster Geology Alumnae in the Bearded Lady Project

September 24th, 2016

bearded-lady-signWooster has produced many paleontologists over the last century. I’m not sure exactly why we’ve had such an abundance of people who chose to devote their lives to the study ancient life, but I am most grateful to the tradition. Women have been prominent among the Wooster paleontology cadre. There is currently a developing project celebrating the accomplishments of women working in paleontology and “challenging the face of science”. It is called The Bearded Lady Project. Two of our alumnae are featured in a photographic exhibit about the project at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver this week.

kelley-blpThis is Tricia Kelley, recently retired as a distinguished professor of geology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She is also a past president of the Paleontological Society. I would not have recognized her in this bearded state without a caption on the photo! (Sorry I can’t avoid reflections in the glass.)

clites-blpErica Clites was one of my students. She is presently a Museum Scientist at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley. I do recognize her!

We have other accomplished women paleontologists from Wooster — and other geologists. Tricia and Erica represent them well. We are very proud!

Wooster Geologists prepare for the 2016 annual Geological Society of America meeting

September 22nd, 2016

216-copyThe Geology Department at The College of Wooster is sending a record number of students to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver next week. Seventeen students, eleven of whom are presenting in some way, will be going to this large gathering of geologists (some 7000 are expected to attend). As part of our preparations, the Geology Club holds a “Mock GSA” in which students show their posters for the first time and practice their poster patter. In the foreground above is Geology Club president (and epic student leader of this trip) Sarah McGrath (’17) discussing her poster with emeritus faculty Dr. Sam Root.

205-copyWe needed two rooms to display all the posters. It was fun!

More later from Denver.

2016 Wooster Paleontologists Field Trip

September 11th, 2016

paleo-class-2016-smallIt was a beautiful day for fieldwork. Every fall I take Wooster’s Invertebrate Paleontology class into the field to collect specimens for study and analysis during the rest of the semester. It’s fun because these students have only completed two weeks of the course and almost everything is new. One steady change over the years has been in the number of paleo students. Gone are the days when we could all pile into a 15-passenger van and spend three days in Kentucky. Now we have to take a bus, and tight student schedules limit us to one day. These constraints mean that going to Caesar Creek Lake in Warren County, Ohio, is the best choice. We’ve been here now several times. here we examine Ordovician fossils in limestones and shales of the Waynesville, Liberty and Whitewater Formations (all of which equal the Bull Fork Formation).

collecting-091116The weather was ideal, but the night before saw heavy rains. Bit of a mud fest today. Here we’re at our main collecting site in the Waynesville at the lakeshore (39.482788°N, 84.052376°W).

brach-slab-091116The fossils, of course, are world-class in the Cincinnati area. Here’s a wonderful slab of strophomenid brachiopods with Josh Charlton’s hand for scale. At least the rains washed the rocks clean!

lab-sink-091116Next stop for the students: washing their specimens in the lab sink at Wooster. Anyone who has worked in the Cincinnatian knows that the clay can be particularly tenacious. Students learn paleo from the very basics!

 

Wooster Geologists begin the 2016-2017 academic year

September 1st, 2016

Geology Club 2016 585The Wooster  Geologists have started the school year with our traditional Geology Club group photo on a fine late summer morning. We’re looking forward to an exciting time with healthy course enrollments and enthusiastic Senior Independent Study students. Dr. Meagen Pollock is on leave this year, bless her heart, so Dr. Greg Wiles, Dr. Shelley Judge and I have extra opportunities. Dr. Wiles is again our valiant Chair. This is also one of the biennial years we run our spring Mojave Desert field trip.

Geology Seniors 2016 585And here are those seniors, most of them anyway, with their summer data collections completed and their advising schedules set. You’ll be hearing more from them in this space.

Our previous group images can be found at these links: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008.

Thanks to our Administrative Coordinator Patrice Reeder, our 2016 annual report is available online as a pdf. You can check out our curriculum, yearly schedule, faculty profiles and the like on our Wooster Geology Department pages.

Wooster Geology’s 2016 Annual Report

August 23rd, 2016

reportsThanks to the hard work, skills and dedication of Administrative Coordinator Patrice Reeder, our 2016 annual report is now available.

Wooster Geologist at Argonne National Laboratory

July 16th, 2016

ANL_PMS_P_HEditor’s note: The following post is from guest blogger Clara Deck (’17) about her research experience this summer with an internship at one of the world’s most prominent laboratories. She is working on an important climate change project involving the carbon budget of permafrost. Last summer Clara completed a dendrochronology climate project in Wooster with Dr. Greg Wiles.

This summer I am working as a research intern at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois as part of the ten week Student Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program. The laboratory occupies 1500 acres located just north of Chicago and is a Department of Energy (DOE) facility. I have the privilege of joining Dr. Julie Jastrow and her terrestrial ecology research team on a project focused on organic carbon stocks in permafrost across Alaska. Soils serve as the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir, containing more than two times the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere.
Image 2About 25% of land mass in the northern hemisphere is dominated by permafrost soils. The long term goal of this project is to improve estimates of the total quantity of C contained in permafrost, as findings to-date are immensely variable. This is important because soil carbon will be affected by environmental change, especially in high latitude regions.

(Canadian Soil Information Service)

(Canadian Soil Information Service)

Field sampling targets features known as ice wedge polygons, which form similarly to mud cracks, but then fill with ice. The soil within these polygons is characterized by substantial cryoturbation, or mixing, due to freeze-thaw processes.

(Julie Jastrow, Argonne National Laboratory)

(Julie Jastrow, Argonne National Laboratory)

A trench like this is dug across a polygon, in order to sample from each distinguishable layer across an entire transect. This summer, I am performing fractionation procedures on these samples, which means separating the soil into different size components. The fractions will then be analyzed for carbon content.  I will then use GIMP Image Manipulation Software to convey C density data in a cross sectional image of the polygon.

(J.D. Jastrow (Argonne National Laboratory) and C.L. Ping (University of Alaska Fairbanks), unpublished data)

(J.D. Jastrow (Argonne National Laboratory) and C.L. Ping (University of Alaska Fairbanks), unpublished data)

(IJ.D. Jastrow (Argonne National Laboratory) and C.L. Ping (University of Alaska Fairbanks), unpublished data)

(IJ.D. Jastrow (Argonne National Laboratory) and C.L. Ping (University of Alaska Fairbanks), unpublished data)

These diagrams illustrate the progression from a field sketch to a digital image showing C density in a polygon cross section. Ice wedge polygons adhere to large scale patterns across the landscape, so data from each polygon has upscaling potential for larger models. Further studies will include analysis of the carbon decomposability and the depth to which permafrost will thaw with predicted temperature rise.

I am excited to be at Argonne conducting research so closely related to modern climate change, and will be continuing these studies throughout the year for my Senior Independent Study. Thanks for reading!

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