Wooster Geologists at the North American Paleontological Convention in Florida

February 16th, 2014

Lizzie & Steph 021514GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA–Steph Bosch (’14), Lizzie Reinthal (’14) and I flew out of icy Ohio this weekend to attend the 10th North American Paleontological Convention in warm, sunny northern Florida. The students jointly presented the beautiful poster above on their Independent Study projects in the Matmor Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of southern Israel. It was very well received, especially with the addition of fantastic scanning electron microscope images of bryozoans produced by our colleague Paul Taylor at the Natural History Museum in London.

Crowd scene 021514Here’s a crowd scene from the first poster session at NAPC. If you look closely in the center, you’ll see two Wooster alumnae who are prominent paleontologists. Can’t swing a cat at a paleo meeting without hitting Wooster Geologists.

Hilton 021514This is a nondescript image of our hotel and convention center in Gainesville. I show it only to marvel in the blue, blue sky and perfect temperatures. We are on the University of Florida campus near the Florida Museum of Natural History. The paleontology staff at that museum is sponsoring this meeting — and they are doing an extraordinary job made more complex by the absence of about a third of the participants still snow-bound in the north. We escaped through a window of clear weather in Ohio.

Last official meeting of Wooster Team Israel

January 10th, 2014

Team Israel 2013 011014WOOSTER, OHIO — Above you see Wooster Team Israel 2013 veterans Lizzie Reinthal, Steph Bosch and Oscar Mmari (whom I seem to have caught with his mouth full). Since I’m starting a research leave this semester, we took a last chance to have an evening meeting with pizza, lemon dessert, popcorn and a movie in the warm Wilson living room. It is wintry Ohio outside, but we all have memories of the beautiful Negev:

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And what was the movie? You really don’t need to ask, do you?

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Wooster Geologists Alumni Reception at the 2013 Geological Society Annual Meeting in Denver

October 28th, 2013

1385503_699991804083_1509863553_nDENVER, COLORADO–It is a tradition at the annual GSA meeting to have a Wooster Geologists alumni gathering. Here is this evening’s happy crew of current students, faculty and alumni — or at least a snapshot of a continuum of people coming and going. We missed Dr. Greg Wiles, who could not be with us this year. Thirty people were present at some point.

Geology Independent Study at Wooster highlighted at GSA meeting in Denver

October 28th, 2013

Meagen102813DENVER, COLORADO–This afternoon Dr. Meagen Pollock presented a poster at the Geological Society of America entitled: “The history, current best practices, and future trajectory of the Independent Study (I.S.) program at The College of Wooster“. In this work, co-authored with the other Wooster geology faculty members, Dr. Pollock outlined the structure of I.S. in geology, emphasizing the philosophy behind what we do. It was well attended, from what I saw, and started many interesting conversations about undergraduate research. An advantage of presenting this poster here is that there were several Wooster I.S. students nearby showing their research results.

Wooster Geologists begin a new year

August 30th, 2013

Fall 2013 Wooster Geologists 585WOOSTER, OHIO–The happy people above represent most of the Wooster Geology Club in late August, 2013. We’re missing one faculty member: Greg Wiles, who is currently in the Far East of Russia on a research leave. Thank you to Danielle Reeder for taking this fine photograph.

Links to our course offerings this semester can be found on our Geology Department Courses page.

This is also a good opportunity to link interested readers to our latest annual report, which is available as a pdf download along with reports from previous years.

A Beautiful Day at Fern Valley

April 30th, 2013

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A large crowd of community members congregated on Saturday to show their appreciation for the donation of Fern Valley to The College of Wooster as its new field station. Betty and David (retired French Professor) Wilkin donated the tract of land located in northern Holmes County that includes a gorge and a stream (Wilkin Run (unofficial name)).

teamDavid and Betty Wilkin with Lyn Loveless (right, Biology) during the dedication of the Fern Valley field station.

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President Grant Cornwell shows his appreciation for the gift to the College.

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A transdisciplinary group examines the biota and geologic setting of the stream bed. Several classes across the curriculum have visited and collected data from Fern Valley. 

A BRIEF GEOLOGIC SETTING

Geology has begun to install dataloggers and other equipment to monitor streamflow, sediment flux and mass movements at Fern Valley. Photos and the data collected will be archived at the Wooster Digital Resource Commons.

The Geology includes Paleozoic sedimentary rocks overlain by as much as 150 feet of unconsolidated glacial sediments. The water well logs in the area show a buried valley that includes a preglacial lacustrine deposit of several tens of feet of lacustrine clays. The clays were laid down prior to the most recent (~20 ka) advance of the Laurentide Icesheet and the tills and ice contact deposits exposed along the valley walls incorporate these lake clays.  Wilkin Run is now cutting through this sedimentary pile and in many places is now in the lake clays. The lake clays serve as a hydrologic barrier and slip plane for mass movements along the valley.

A Clinton Well drilled in 1950 to a total depth (TD) of 3000 feet  is also on the property and is now part of a natural gas storage field. The current land use in the basin is largely agricultural.

Wilkin Run (below) flows north into Odell Lake. Wooster geologists have cored the lake and together with the ongoing monitoring of sediment flux through Fern Valley; sediment that ultimately ends up in Odell Lake, they can better interpret the sediment cores.

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Dr. Meagen Pollock and Russ along with their dogs enjoying the dedication and geology of Fern Valley.

Wooster Geology poster session at the 2013 Senior Research Symposium at The College of Wooster

April 26th, 2013

Joe_Wilch_2013WOOSTER, OHIO–It was a bit of a crowded room in Andrews Library for our geology seniors (and all their friends, family and faculty), but it was a very happy place. Joe Wilch (above) escaped the crowd, though, because he is a double math and geology major and thus presented his poster in Taylor Hall. His title: “Insights into the tectonic evolution of the northern Snake Range metamorphic core complex from 40Ar/39Ar thermochronologic modeling results, northern Snake Range, Nevada.” Much math ensued in that project. I told Joe to look grim — anyone can smile for the camera. This was the best he could do. Joe recently gave a poster at the Keck Geology Symposium. He seems to be still wearing the same shirt.

Will_Cary_2013Will Cary, a member of Team Utah, presented his poster on “Ballistics analysis of volcanic ejecta: Miter Crater, Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Black Rock Desert, Utah.” He had lots of bright Wooster sunshine behind him. This was fitting because he’s a Wooster boy.

Jenn_Horton_2013Jenn Horton discussed her project: “Dating the First Millennium AD glacial history of Adams Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, southeast Alaska.” She had many adventures in the Alaskan wilderness this summer leading to this warm and dry session back in Old Woo.

Anna_Mudd_2013Anna Mudd is here passionately presenting her poster: “Clay mineral analysis and paleoclimate interpretation of a middle Miocene paleosol in the Powder River Volcanic Field, northeast Oregon.” Like Joe Wilch, she also discussed her work at the 2013 Keck Geology Symposium meeting in California. You can see here an image of Anna as a Junior I.S. student last year as she began her research journey.

Jonah_Novek_2013Jonah Novek did his fieldwork in the Baltic with the well-remembered Richa Ekka (a member of this class who graduated early). Jonah’s title: “Analysis of a Rhuddanian (Llandovery, Lower Silurian) sclerobiont community in the Hilliste Formation on Hiiumaa Island, Estonia: a hard-substrate-dwelling relict fauna.” I’m pleased that he didn’t wear his tuxedo today.

Matt_Peppers_2013Matt Peppers is another Team Utah member. His title: “Analysis of Ice Springs Volcanic field structures, Black Rock Desert, Utah.” Matt is looking dapper in an increasingly warming room.

Kit_Price_2013Kit Price did her fieldwork in southern Indiana, and then loads of paleontological lab work back in Wooster. Her project is titled: “A description of cryptoskeletozoan communities and growth analyses of cryptic Cuffeyella arachnoidea and Cornulites from the Upper Ordovician (Richmondian) of Ohio and Indiana.” She appears to be explaining her poster to Johnny Cash.

Whitney_Sims_2013Whitney Sims is yet another Team Utah member. She had the extra experience of attending a conference on volcanism with her advisors. Whiteny’s title: “Geochemical and geospatial analysis: mapping Miter’s lava flows in Ice Springs Volcanic Field, Black Rock Desert, Utah.”

Melissa_Torma_2013Melissa Torma went on an excellent spring trip to the Negev in southern Israel over a year ago for her I.S. fieldwork. She clearly enjoyed it! Her title: “The paleoecology of a brachiopod-bearing marly subunit of the Matmor Formation, Israel: A Middle Jurassic marine environment near the equator.”

Lauren_Vargo_2013bFinally, Lauren Vargo got one more presentation today after her morning talk. Her title: “Tree-ring evidence of north Pacific volcanically-forced cooling and forcing of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).” Gotta love those wiggly lines!

We are very proud of our Wooster Geology seniors. Well done, young geologists!

 

The field trip scout

March 30th, 2013

MeadvilleLodi033013WOOSTER, OHIO–One of the early spring pleasures of a geologist in the Upper Midwest is finally getting outside and scouting the field trips for the semester. Today we had bright sun and temperatures in the 50s (I know — I’m settling) so I went out to plan the late April field trip for my sedimentology and stratigraphy class. The sites I’ve been using in the last few years have become too overgrown, so it is time to find new projects in new places. Since the delightfully underbrush-free Mojave Desert is too far away, I’m looking at places in northeastern Ohio. It was a fun day.

Above is an outcrop of the Meadville Shale Member of the Cuyahoga Formation (Lower Carboniferous, late Kinderhookian) exposed in the Lodi Community Park about 20 miles north of Wooster. A tributary of the Black River (the East Fork Black River) flows through a small valley, exposing the shale in its cutbanks. I’m a bit partial to this location because from here a fellow Wooster student found a trilobite that became the basis of my first scientific publication. The unit here is moderately fossiliferous and contains numerous rock types besides shale. It will make a fine place for students to measure and describe stratigraphic sections next month. It certainly was a beautiful place to spend a sunny Saturday morning.

TurkeyVulture033013There were many turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) perched in the still-leafless trees in northern Wayne and southern Medina Counties. Here’s one keeping an eye on me. Turkey vultures are a sign in Ohio that spring really is coming (even if it is supposed to snow tomorrow morning!).

Dr. Michael Mann visits Wooster

March 28th, 2013

MichaelMann032713WOOSTER, OHIO–We were honored this week when Dr. Michael E. Mann, one of the world’s foremost climate-change experts and a leader in the efforts to educate the public about anthropogenic effects on the atmosphere, came to Wooster as part of our Richard G. Osgood, Jr., Memorial Lecture series. He gave a public lecture in the nearly-full Gault Recital Hall Wednesday evening (“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines”), and then a Geology Club lecture the next day in Scovel (“The Past as Prologue: Learning from the Climate Changes in Past Centuries”). Students, faculty and staff of the Geology Department also had a wonderfully informative dinner with him in the Wooster Inn.

Michael Mann is very well known in the diverse community that studies climate change in the past, present and future. He was the senior author of a pivotal article in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001. It set the direction for more than a decade of later climate research. He has written dozens of other papers and two books on climate change. He has received numerous awards, most recently the Hans Oeschger Medal of the European Geosciences Union.

The public Osgood lecture Dr. Mann presented on Wednesday was centered on his latest book. He described the recent scientific history of climate change research and then how he became an “accidental public figure” through the famous “Climategate” theft and publication of private email messages. His stories of attempted congressional interference in his work and that of other climate scientists were astonishing, representing what he calls “the scientization of politics” (where science — or pseudoscience — is used as a political tool).

The image at the top of the page is Dr. Mann near the end of his Osgood Lecture. The image on the screen is of his daughter enjoying a moment in the polar bear pool at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. He fears that someday such animals will be found only in zoos because humans “melted their Arctic environment.” Numerous questions and conversations followed.
MannLecture032813Dr. Mann gave a Geology Club presentation this morning in Scovel Hall on some of his scientific work (shown above). He talked about using proxies to model historical climate change and then predict future climate.
WilesMann032813For me one of the best moments was his conversation with Greg Wiles in our dendrochronology lab (above). It was great fun to see how the work of Wooster Geologists is part of the unfolding grand story of what factors control our climate, and why such research is critical in our efforts to cope with future changes.

One of the many diverse results of being a geology major: the adventures of Will Driscoll (’05) in evolutionary ecology

March 6th, 2013

WillDriscoll05_030513WOOSTER, OHIO–Yesterday Greg Wiles and I attended a Biology Department Seminar given by our former student Will Driscoll (Geology ’05). Will was in all our standard departmental courses and did his Independent Study project with Dr. Wiles in dendrochronology. Yet here he was giving a presentation to the Biology Department. How did this happen? It is yet another example of the utility of a liberal arts major in science … and what persistence and great ideas can lead you.

I well remember the day during Will’s senior year that he brought me an essay he wanted me to read. For one thing, it was an essay unconnected with any course — Will just wanted to write down some ideas and get a response. The essay was about evolutionary ecology and morphogenesis. To say this came from left field would be an understatement. I had no idea Will had such concepts, and they were extremely well developed and expressed. Will applied to the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Arizona (the top program in the nation for this subject). He finished his PhD there last year and is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Département de Biologie, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. That is a long way from Scovel Hall!

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A small swarm of toxic Prymnesium parvum (small golden cells) attacks a rotifer accustomed to grazing on unicellular algae. The toxic algae help themselves to a meal, and in the process help all of the algae that the rotifer might have otherwise eaten. (Image and caption from Will Driscoll.)

Will’s specialty, and the topic of his seminar yesterday, is in a broad sense on “the ecological drivers and consequences of multilevel selection”. He is pursuing this interest now with studies on what has been called “microbial sociobiology”. The title of his Wooster talk was “The ecological consequences of microbial sociality”. He is looking at the behavior of microbes as cooperative groups and all this means for evolution and ecology. His stories about toxic bloom-forming algae were amazing, opening up new dimensions on how to place single-celled organisms into our models of behavioral evolution. Will himself can tell you much more about his research and ideas on his website.

Will’s presentation was inspiring at (appropriately) multiple levels: the science was novel, fascinating and provocative, and Will’s enthusiasm and skills reminded us yet again why teaching at Wooster is simply the best job in the world.

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