Construction of the new Life Sciences building begins, and the geologists welcome our new biologist labmates

May 24th, 2016

Mateer May 2016Wooster, 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.

Scovel 216 052416In 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.

Scovel 219 052416We 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!

A Wooster Geologist Visits Spangler Park

May 9th, 2016

Chloe1Editor’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.

Chloe2Burrow 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.

Chloe3In 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.

Chloe4Siderite 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.

Chloe5This 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.

Chloe6After 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.

References:

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.

Wooster Geologists in the 2016 Wooster Senior Research Symposium

April 29th, 2016

Michael Williams 042916WOOSTER, 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 042916Kelli 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 042916Maddie 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 042916Mae 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 042916Meredith 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 042916Dan 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.

Brittany Nicholson 042916Brittany Nicholson (’16) gave a poster entitled: “Mentoring Structures in Undergraduate Research”.

Eric Parker 042916Eric 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 042916Krysden 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 042916Adam 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 042916Kaitlin 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.

Kaitlin Kreation III call them Kaitlin’s Kreations, and think they’re wonderful!

Congratulations on your successful Independent Study projects, Wooster Seniors!

Wooster Geologists begin a new academic year

September 5th, 2015

1 Fall 2015 Geology Club 585The 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.

2 Fall 2015 Geology Seniors 585Here are 12 of our senior geology majors this year. Trevor Shoemaker ’16 is missing. Adam Silverstein ’16 was a minute late for the photo, but we’ll give him special prominence below:

DSC_6382 copyAll 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.

3 Geology Faculty 090315Here is the geology faculty. Left to right are Greg Wiles, Shelley Judge, Meagen Pollock, Mark Wilson, and Caitlin Current. (I must be standing on a root or something — I’m not that much taller!)

4 Geomorph 090115One class has already been in the field. Here Greg Wiles is leading his Geomorphology students on an exploratory trek through Wooster Memorial Park.

5 Paleo Class 90115The first day of the Invertebrate Paleontology course. They’re smiling now, at least.

6 Paleo Lab 090115One of the first paleontology labs involves “picking” microfossils (mostly foraminiferans) from sediment samples. This is the Tuesday lab section hard at work.

7 Structure Lab 090115Shelley 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)“.

8 Patrice Alexandra 090115In 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.Nwiesenberg022813

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!

 

Team Utah 2015

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). ”

Chloe Wallace and Julia Franceschi use the Trimble GPS to make cm-scale measurements of the topography.

Chloe Wallace and Julia Franceschi use the Trimble GPS to make cm-scale measurements of the topography.

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.

Team Utah meeting to distribute equipment and plan the field day.

Team Utah meeting to distribute equipment and plan the field day.

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.

One of our lizard friends.

One of our lizard friends.

A snake friend, warming itself in the morning sun. Photo credit: Dan Misinay

A snake friend, warming itself in the morning sun. Photo credit: Dan Misinay

Kelli and Dr. Judge measuring striae.

Kelli and Dr. Judge measuring striae.

Krysden is in her element among the lavas.

Krysden is in her element among the lavas. Photo Credit: Dan Misinay

Contemplating lava emplacement clearly brings joy to Michael.

Contemplating lava emplacement clearly brings joy to Michael. Photo Credit: Dan Misinay

Dan helps Krysden with her vegetation survey.

Dan helps Krysden with her vegetation survey.

We were treated to a double rainbow over our field site after a light sprinkle in the desert.

We were treated to a double rainbow over our field site after a light sprinkle in the desert.

And a show of wild flowers! Photo Credit: Kelli Baxstrom

And a show of wild flowers! Photo Credit: Kelli Baxstrom

Team Utah proudly representing Wooster Geologists!

Team Utah proudly representing Wooster Geologists!

Inspiring young female scientists through B-WISER

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.

B-WISER girls focus intently on measuring distances on the academic quad with their paces.

B-WISER girls focus intently on measuring distances on the academic quad with their paces.

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.

By the end of the workshop, the budding geologists were able to make (and follow) their own scavenger hunt maps!

By the end of the workshop, the budding geologists were able to make (and follow) their own scavenger hunt maps!

 

Mary records bearing data from two young women geologists.

Mary records bearing data from two young women geologists.

 

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.

For Our Wooster Family

March 13th, 2015

IMG_0021Here’s a photo of a peaceful sunrise at the Desert Studies Center to let our WOODS friends know that our thoughts are with them.

 

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A molded brachiopod from the Lower Carboniferous of Ohio

February 20th, 2015

Syringothyris bored Wooster CarboniferousWe 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).
Syringothyris borings 585These 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.

References:

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.

Wooster Geologists at the 2014 Annual Geological Society of America Meeting in Vancouver, Canada

October 20th, 2014

585 Geo Alumni GSA 102014VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA — Wooster geologists (faculty, students, alumni and friends) gathered for the traditional Monday night event at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Wooster Geologists begin the 2014-2015 school year

August 30th, 2014

GeoClub2014_585What a fine group of geologists we had at the first meeting of the College of Wooster Geology Club this week. We have an ambitious year ahead of us with outside speakers, student presentations, course field trips, and our biennial Mojave Desert Spring Expedition. Our number of geology majors has grown significantly as well, which is delightful for the faculty and staff. This great photo was taken by our departmental chair, Greg Wiles. Too bad he couldn’t have been in his own expertly composed image.

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

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