Construction of the new Life Sciences building begins, and the geologists welcome our new biologist labmates
Mark Wilson May 24th, 2016
Wooster, Ohio — The College of Wooster community will soon say goodbye to Mateer Hall (above), which has housed the Biology Department for decades. It will be demolished next month to make way for the new Ruth Williams Hall of Life Science. I haven’t heard anyone yet say they will miss the creaky and undersized Mateer. The new Life Sciences building, which will be joined to the existing Severance Hall (chemistry), will be beautiful, spacious, and filled with the finest of scientific equipment and facilities.
In the meantime the biologists (sensu lato, including neurobiologists, biochemists and so on) have to go somewhere with all their stuff for two years. Scovel Hall will be home for some of the biology labs, so the geologists have been making room throughout the building. I thought I’d record the process at its most chaotic in Scovel 216 (above) and Scovel 219 (below). The biologists have to move everything out of Mateer in just a few days, so our lab tables and just about every other flat surface in Scovel is occupied by specimens, equipment, and massive bottles of distilled water. I especially like the stuffed animals (including a small bear), the crocodile skulls, and the human skeleton in an ancient tall display cabinet.
We are looking forward to spending quality time with our biologist friends. We’re each going to learn a great deal about how the other group works, and we’ll have new appreciation for our disciplines. Science marches forward!
Mark Wilson May 9th, 2016
Editor’s note: The following entry was written by Chloe Wallace (’17), a student in this year’s Sedimentology & Stratigraphy course. One of our writing assignments was to write a blog post about our recent field trip to Spangler Park (also known as Wooster Memorial Park). I told the class that I would publish on this site the best entry, and Chloe won. It was a very close contest, though, with many other excellent entries. All the following words and images are Chloe’s.
Wooster, Ohio— On April 23, 2016, the Sedimentology and Stratigraphy class took a field trip to the local Wooster Memorial Park, also called Spangler Park. The goal was to study three separate outcrops, and then do a little exploring of our own.
The first stop was a short walk from the entrance to the park, specifically at 40.81475° North and 82.02383° West (above).
This outcrop contains rocks from the Logan Formation of the Lower Carboniferous. The rocks were non-laminated and of silt size, so it is made of siltstone. There are signs of a little bit of oxidation. There are also ripples present on some of the rocks, which is evidence of a shallow water environment. There were gray shale clasts within the siltstone, which were most likely deposited by storm events. The fact that some of the beds are thicker than others is more evidence of storm events because more sediment would have been deposited during storms and thinner beds would have built up during times of less activity. The bedding angles vary throughout the outcrop, also known as cross-stratification, which is more evidence that ripples and dunes were present as part of a flow regime at the time of deposition.
Burrow fossils, which are a form of trace fossil, were left behind by deposit feeding organisms on some of the rocks. This is more evidence of a shallow, marine environment. Based on all the sedimentary structures and characteristics found at this outcrop, these rocks were deposited on the shallow shelf, below the fair weather wave base and above the storm wave base.
The Logan Formation is made up of five members, but specifically the Byer member is likely exposed here. Layers of fine sandstone and siltstones with shale sometimes inter-bedded characterize the Byer member (Hunt, 2009). Although it isn’t present in the two photos above, another member is usually deposited right below the Byer Member. It is called the Berne Member and it is composed of molasse rock, which is a quartz-rich conglomerate formed when the eroded material from continental collisions gathers in a foreland basin. In this case it is eroded material from the continental collisions that built up the Appalachians. The eroded material was then deposited to the west in the foreland basin that covers Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The second outcrop we reached was at the bottom of a gorge, along Rathburn Run, specifically at 40.81784° N and 82.02946° W. The exposure was composed of laminated grey shale from the Cuyahoga Formation. It marked a formation boundary because Logan Formation sandstone lies directly above it. This means the grey shale is older than the Logan Formation. Similar to the Logan Formation, there are trace fossils of marine burrowing organisms within the shale.
In the above picture you can see an East-West trending joint running through the center of the Cuyahoga Formation grey shale caused by tectonic faulting, which is a phenomenon unrelated to the sedimentary structures.
Siderite deposits were also found in some sandstone at the Rathburn run outcrop, which form after deposition, a diagenetic property. Siderite forms in anoxic environments where iron is reduced and sulfur is present. The grey shale of the Cuyahoga Formation isn’t porous enough for siderite replacement to take place, but the sandstone is.
The third outcrop was father upstream along on a cut bank, located at 40.81903° N and 82.02953° W.
This photo is taken from across Rathburn Run, from the point bar. This outcrop is much younger in age, from the last time Ohio was affected by glaciation. During the Last Glacial Maximum, specifically the Pleistocene, glacial debris flows deposited the bottom section of the outcrop. The sediment is characterized by a fining upwards sequence and has two scales of support. Some areas of the deposit are composed of large grains within a matrix-support due to debris flow. Other areas of the deposit are composed of sandy conglomerate rock that is grain supported. Overall the sediment is poorly sorted and contains glacial erratics within the sediment, including boulders made of gneiss, granite, and some sedimentary rocks.
A channel cut through the original glacial debris flow deposit and was eventually filled in by wind-blown silt, also known as loess. Loess is characteristically different from the glacial deposit at the bottom of the outcrop. Loess breaks in sheets, which causes it to have steep angles. Overall, the history of this outcrop is that approximately 15,000 years ago debris flow events deposited the glacial sediment at the bottom of the outcrop, then a channel cut into the deposit and that channel eventually filled with eolian (wind-blown) silt.
After venturing a little on our own, a few other students and myself came across a fourth outcrop that was from the Logan Formation at an elevation above both the Cuyahoga Formation shales and the glacial deposits. There is more evidence of jointing and cross-stratification that can be seen in the picture.
We saw two separate formations from the Lower Carboniferous during the field trip. We also were able to see another type of sedimentary deposit that was glacial and eolian in origin. Spangler Park displays and exposes a variety of sedimentary structures and sedimentary characteristics. The park can be characterized as displaying a coarsening upwards sequence with the Cuyahoga shale at the bottom, followed by the coarser siltstone and sandstone of the Logan Formation. This kind of coarsening upwards is usually evidence of either regression or progradation.
Both the Logan and Cuyahoga Formations are representative of shallow marine environments, as was seen in the evidence found at Spangler. Further research shows that the Cuyahoga Formation was deposited as part of a marine environment where the shoreline was prograding during the Kinderhookian and possibly very early Osagean (Bork and Malcuit, 1979; Matchen and Kammer, 2006). The Logan Formation followed and was deposited within a marine proximal deltaic environment during the Osagean (Hunt, 2009; Matchen and Kammer, 2006). This explains the coarsening upwards sequence and the marine sedimentary structures and fossils seen throughout the field trip.
Bork, K.B., and Malcuit, R., 1979, Paleoenvironments of the Cuyahoga and Logan Formations (Mississippian) of central Ohio: Geological Society of America Bulletin II, v. 90, p. 1782-1838.
Hunt, H., 2009, Paleocommunities and Paleoenvironments of the Logan Formation (Mississippian, Osagean) of northeastern Ohio [Undergraduate thesis]: Wooster, The College of Wooster, 50 p.
Matchen, D.L., and Kammer, T.W., 2006, Incised valley fill interpretation for Mississippian Black Hand Sandstone, Appalachian Basin, USA: Implications for glacial eustasy at Kinderhookian-Osagean (Tn2-Tn3) boundary: Sedimentary Geology, v. 191, 89-113.
Mark Wilson April 29th, 2016
WOOSTER, OHIO–A dozen Wooster Geologists participated today in the annual Wooster Senior Research Symposium: A Celebration of Independent Study! All did superb presentations that were very well received. The geology portion began in the morning with talks from Team Utah 3.0, led by Dr. Meagen Pollock and Dr. Shelley Judge. Michael Williams (’16) gave his talk entitled “Emplacement Processes and Monogenetic Classification of Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Central Utah”. Here’s a link to Michael’s field work.
Kelli Baxstrom (’16) also spoke for Team Utah with her talk entitled: “Ice Springs Volcanic Field: New Insights and History for a Series of Complex Eruptions”. Here’s a link to Kelli’s field work.
Maddie Happ (’16) had a poster entitled: “Investigating Blue Light Intensity in Tree Rings to Generate High-Sensitivity Summer Temperature Records for Southern Alaska”. Here’s a link to Maddie’s field work.
Mae Kemsley (’16) presented: “An isotopic analysis of belemnites from the Speeton Clay Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Filey Bay, North Yorkshire, England”. Here’s a link to Mae’s field work.
Meredith Mann (’16) gave a poster entitled: “Paleoecology and Depositional Environments of the Passage Beds Member at Filey Brigg (Upper Jurassic, North Yorkshire, England)”. Here’s a link to Meredith’s field work.
Dan Misinay (’16) presented: “Late Holocene Glacial History of Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska”. Here’s a link to Dan’s field work.
Eric Parker (’16) presented: “Analysis of Water Quality Parameters and Preliminary Investigation into the Impacts of Human Access on the Water Quality of the Nisqually River, Mount Rainier National Park”.
Krysden Schantz (’16) gave: “The Use of Multiple Dating Methods to Determine the Age of Basalt in the Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Millard County, Utah”. Here’s a link to Krysden’s field work.
Adam Silverstein (’16) presented: “Regional Volcanic Extinction as a Mechanism for Subsidence in the Vatnsdalur Structural Basin, Skagi Peninsula, Northwest Iceland”. You can find Adam in Iceland in this post.
Kaitlin Starr (’16) is a double major in studio art and geology. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised to see her double-booked for the same time slot at the symposium. Her geology I.S. thesis poster was titled: “Reconstructing Glacial History from Forests Preserved in the Wake of the Catastrophic Retreating Columbia and Wooster Glaciers, Prince William Sound, Alaska”. Here’s a link to Kaitlin’s field work. She is shown above with her art exhibit: “Exploring the Unknown: A Ceramic Journey Through the Sea of Imagination”. She made fantastical representations of marine creatures that do not exist but look eerily like beautiful fossils.
Congratulations on your successful Independent Study projects, Wooster Seniors!
Mark Wilson September 5th, 2015
The Wooster Geology Department has started the 2015-2016 school year during beautiful late summer weather. Above is the traditional first-of-the-year image of the Geology Club. Everybody is happy to be a geologist.
All of our seniors collected field and laboratory data for their Senior Independent Study projects over the summer, as you’ve read in this blog, and are already starting their analyses and writing. It is going to be a great IS year.
The first day of the Invertebrate Paleontology course. They’re smiling now, at least.
One of the first paleontology labs involves “picking” microfossils (mostly foraminiferans) from sediment samples. This is the Tuesday lab section hard at work.
Shelley Judge’s Structural Geology course got outside in the first week to learn how to use the essential Brunton Compass. The students have a series of angled boards here as part of an exercise to improve their accuracy and measurement speed.
I couldn’t get a good time to photograph Meagen Pollock’s Mineralogy lecture and lab, nor her large Geology of Natural Hazards class. Shelley Judge is also teaching for the first time her new course titled “Geology of National Parks”. Greg Wiles is teaching a section of Environmental Geology, as is Caitlin Current. This year I’m the department’s contribution to teaching the First-Year Seminar course. My section is titled “Nonsense (and why it’s so popular)“.
In the office we have our essential Administrative Coordinator Patrice Reeder (on the left), with her assistant this semester, Alexandra Gustafson (a senior Philosophy major). They manage both the Geology and Philosophy Departments, as well as the Pre-Law program.
Throughout the building, and often in the field, we all benefit from the tremendous skills of our Geological Technician, Nick Wiesenberg.
Here’s to another great year of geological education, research and outreach!
mpollock August 6th, 2015
Guest bloggers: Julia Franceschi and Mary Reinthal
What do you get when you have zero cloud coverage, 90-degree heat, and a desert? Aside from the start of a bad joke, you get a snippet of the College of Wooster geology’s 2015 expedition to Black Rock desert Utah. It was here that some of the College’s senior geology students—Krysden Schantz, Michael Williams, and Kelli Baxstrom—collected some sunburns and samples for their Senior Independent Studies. These research projects range anywhere from trying to figure out the date of the lava flow to mechanisms of emplacement (e.g., channelized vs. inflated flows). Some of the students that went, however, went because they were able-bodied field assistants who could handle the heat. Geology major Julia Franceschi said this about her field assisting experience:
“Utah was extremely hot and there were some days (and by some days I mean everyday) where 3 liters of water were not enough. But we managed to get a lot of good data, even though my boots took a beating (R.I.P). ”
When the plane finally landed in Salt Lake City, Utah, a 2 ½ hour drive took the crew to Fillmore, the location of their field site. The first day, Friday, started around 11AM, but the crew learned quickly that the earlier they started, the less intense the sun (and heat) was.
Like for most groups, the first day was devoted as a get-accustomed-to-the-field day, that entailed some reconnaissance and exploration. The rest of the week was spent doing eight hours a day of research and studies. According to Dr. Meagen Pollock, walking on a’a is “nonsense” and more often than not, each day was faced with new challenges. Chloe Wallace and Julia conducted high resolution GPS location and elevation data. Dan Misinay took photographs and helped Krysden conduct transects to record vegetative cover. Michael and Kelli spent most of their days mapping the area and attempting to understand volcanic features. Some days, however, were graced with the occasional snake or rainbow to change up the scenery. It was a successful trip.
mpollock July 6th, 2015
Wooster, OH – [Guest bloggers Chloe Wallace and Mary Reinthal]
When thinking about geology, people tend to think first about rocks. We do love our rocks, preferably pillow basalts, but when Wooster’s campus hosted hundreds of young women science enthusiasts, we wanted to teach them a practical field skill: pace and bearing. Buckeye Women In Science, Education, and Research, or B-WISER got the chance to learn and apply an important skill for geologists. This type of outreach is important because it reminds students that science is fun.
For five days, girls ranging in ages from 14-16 were engaged in different fields of science hosted by departments around campus. The geology department was fortunate to have over thirty girls participate in a variety of super-awesome orienteering activities for two days. Each of the girls was supplied with packets outlining the daily activity and a compass to help them orient themselves. Even poor weather could not damper spirits, and inside activities were met with laughter and good energy.
On the first day, students were taught how to take a compass bearing and orient themselves to pinpoint a location. They learned their pace and how to use it to calculate distance. Professor of all things geology, Dr. Meagen Pollock, along with her summer research students Chloe Wallace, Julia Franceschi, and Mary Reinthal, guided activities and often participated alongside the students.
Mark Wilson February 20th, 2015
We haven’t had a local fossil featured on this blog for awhile. Above is an external mold of the spiriferid brachiopod Syringothyris typa Winchell, 1863, from the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous, Osagean, about 345 million years old) of southeastern Wooster, Ohio. The outcrop is along the onramp from north Route 83 to east Route 30. Older Wooster geologists may remember this area was called “Little Arizona” because of the large roadcuts made for a highway bypass that was never completed. That original outcrop was destroyed several years ago, but the same rocks are exposed in this new section. This is the area where Heather Hunt (’09) did her Senior Independent Study work, and long before her Brad Leach (’83) worked with the same fossils.
The Logan Formation is primarily fine sandstone, with some subordinate conglomerates, silts and shales. It was likely deposited in the proximal portion of a prodelta at or below wavebase. The fossils in the Logan are mostly these large Syringothyris and the bivalve Aviculopecten, along with scattered crinoids, gastropods, bryozoans, nautiloids and ammonoids. This fauna needs more attention. Funny how the fossils in your own backyard are so often ignored.
This brachiopod was first buried in sediment and then the shell dissolved away, leaving an impression behind. Since it is an impression of the exterior of the shell, it is called an external mold. Curiously, all the external molds (and the internal molds as well) in the local Logan Formation have an iron-rich, burnt orange coating much finer than the fine sand matrix. This means that details are preserved that are of higher resolution than the matrix alone would allow. In the case of this fossil, that coating extended down into long, narrow borings in the shell, casting them (see below).
These borings are odd. Most of them are parallel to the ribs (plicae) of the brachiopod, and appear to have been excavated from the shell periphery towards its apex. This was in the opposite direction of brachiopod shell growth. I suspect they were made by boring annelid worms that started at the growing edge of the shell where the mantle ended. These traces need attention, like most other aspects of this local fossil fauna.
Ausich, W.I., Kammer, T.W. and Lane, N.G. 1979. Fossil communities of the Borden (Mississippian) delta in Indiana and northern Kentucky. Journal of Paleontology 53: 1182-1196.
Bork, K.B. and Malcuit, R.J. 1979. Paleoenvironments of the Cuyahoga and Logan formations (Mississippian) of central Ohio. Geological Society of America Bulletin 90 (12 Part II): 1782-1838.
Leach, B.R. and Wilson, M.A. 1983. Statistical analysis of paleocommunities from the Logan Formation (Lower Mississippian) in Wayne County, Ohio. The Ohio Journal of Science 83: 26.