The Dendrochronology Team of Wooster Geologists makes its television debut

February 28th, 2013

Gwiles022813aBarn Detectives” is a recent episode of the television show Our Ohio, and it features Dr. Greg Wiles and his team of crack dendrochronologists. You can view the video by clicking the link. It is very well done. The project described in the program is the dating of the Emerson barn in Apple Creek, Ohio. These Wooster scientists study the tree rings in the beams which were used in the original structure. Careful analysis of these rings will show the year the old-growth trees were cut for timber, and thus the date of the building. This work not only gives the Emerson family a date for a treasured building, it also provides additional dendrochronological data for studying climate change in the last two centuries.

Nwiesenberg022813Our geological technician Nick Wiesenberg provides explanations of the process from the barn, a local old-growth forest (Johnson Woods, see above), and the dendrochronology lab at Wooster.

lvargo022813Geology senior Lauren Vargo describes the value of tree rings for climate history, and is shown in several action shots of coring and sanding.

anash022813Andy Nash, another geology senior, describes the construction of “floating chronologies” from tree cores that are eventually tied to the larger dendrochronological record to give dates to the wood. (With an accuracy, as Greg likes to say, of “plus or minus zero years”.)

gwiles022813bBack in the lab, Greg shows how the cores from the Emerson barn are counted and measured with our video microscope system. On the monitor is a magnified view of rings from the Emerson barn.

nwiesenberg022813bNick had the honor of announcing the calculated date the trees were cut to make the barn’s beams: (Spoiler Alert!) the Fall of 1845. The ground would have been hard then and the farmers would have had time to collect materials for the construction.

It was great fun to see our students and colleagues explain their work so well, and to show the world the enthusiasm and professional skills of Wooster’s dendrochronologists.

The full “Barn Detectives” video is available on YouTube at this link.

Celebrating the achievements of Wooster Geologists

February 21st, 2013

2013Geo AwardWinners

WOOSTER, OHIO –One of the pleasures of being the chair of the Geology Department at Wooster is that I get to go to the annual college Awards Banquet with some of our best students. Tonight we celebrate three young women who have done especially well at Wooster. On the left is Whitney Sims (’13) of Maple Heights, Ohio. She received the Charles B. Moke Prize, which is a “field instrument or device” awarded to the graduating senior who has shown the greatest improvement during his or her college career. (Whitney’s award was a new iPad — coolest prize of the evening.) In the middle is Tricia Hall (’14) of Marion, Ohio. She won the Karl Ver Steeg Prize in Geology and Geography, which goes to the geology major who has the highest standing in the middle of the junior year. On the right is Kit Price (’13) of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her award was the Robert W. McDowell Prize in Geology for having the highest general standing among geology majors in the junior and senior years.

Congratulations to Whitney, Tricia and Kit! We are very proud of them and all our Wooster Geologists.

Women scientists at Wooster, featuring Wooster Geologist Shelley Judge

February 7th, 2013

Dr. Shelley Judge begins this excellent short video about women in science at Wooster:

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.20.43 AM(You have to click the link I made in the text above. Embedding a video in a blog post is beyond my skills!)

We’re proud of all the women scientists at Wooster, past, present and future!

 

Geology Heads to Melrose Elementary

November 29th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO — A “Volcano Team” headed to Melrose Elementary this week for an afternoon of fun with Marge Forbush’s 4th grade class. It was our annual fall trip to her classroom, and our task was to discuss the various geologic processes associated with volcanoes. The 4th grade students had already studied plate tectonics and volcanoes, so they were experts on the volcabulary, such as “Ring of Fire”, “magma chamber”, and “Pompeii”. Before Thanksgiving, they had even built active volcanoes in the classroom.

Our goal was to bring pounds and pounds of volcanic rock to show the students, so that they could see basalt, volcanic bombs, obsidian, pumice, tuff, and several intrusive rocks (granite and gabbro). Wooster students in the department each were in charge of specific stations around the classroom, and the 4th graders migrated between stations. Here’s a look at some of our Wooster students hard at work:

Lauren Vargo (’13) is a Wooster veteran of community outreach, having gone with both Greg Wiles and myself to several elementary schools in Wooster (Cornerstone, Melrose, and formerly Wayne).  She was in charge of discussing the impact of contact metamorphism with the students, and she had numerous metamorphic rocks on hand.

Matt Peppers (’13) seemed to field some of the most unusual questions of the day.  Here he is showing the 4th graders several different types of intrusive igneous rocks, along with the minerals in each rock.  Some of the students in Matt’s group are destined to become geologists, because they already could identify the minerals from their own “rock collections” at home.

Adam Silverstein (’16) was in charge of one of the more fun stations:  volcanic bombs!!  He used some of his knowledge from Meagen Pollock’s Natural Hazards course in order to talk to the students about hazards during a volcanic eruption.  As you can imagine, everyone liked to pick up the volcanic bombs, some of which were collected in the Black Rock Desert, Utah.

Another member of Wooster’s Natural Hazards course, Kaitlin Starr (’16), was a welcomed volunteer and an old friend.  Kaitlin, who was in charge of the lava flow station, is a Wooster native.  Kaitlin was actually a student of Marge Forbush when she was in the 4th grade, and so she received a round of applause from the students for coming back and visiting her old classroom.

We’ll be back to visit Marge’s classroom again in the spring, but next time our focus will be on fossils.  Stay tuned!!

 

 

Wooster Geologists on Camera — Spotlight on Dendrochronology

November 16th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–Greg Wiles and members of his crack dendrochronology team from our tree-ring laboratory are being filmed today for a PBS program called “Our Ohio“. It is great fun watching the TV crew setting up their equipment, and our faculty, staff and students getting ready for their close-ups. We thought you might like to see a few pictures of the process. In the image above you see Greg thoughtfully listening to instructions from the field producer.

Here’s a closer view of the camera set-up, including a small monitor that shows exactly what the camera sees.

Jenn Horton (’13), looking stylish and Wooster-branded, is talking to the film crew as they set up the dendrochronology lab with lights. Tree-ring lab veterans know this room well! (I think it looks a little cleaner than usual.)

Greg Wiles and our ace technician Nick Wiesenberg at one of the dendrochronology stations prior to filming. Nick had just dated a particular barn in question as having been built in — spoiler alert! — 1845. A preliminary date, Greg quickly adds.

The TV crew van parked outside Scovel Hall this morning, greatly enhancing our departmental prestige on campus. (Everyone knows, after all, they didn’t come here to interview philosophers.)

We hope to have more photos later of the outdoor filming. Well done, Wooster dendrochronologists!

TREE CAMPUS USA – The College of Wooster

September 24th, 2012

On a beautiful homecoming afternoon in September – The College of Wooster celebrated its new designation as a Tree Campus USA. This special designation of The College of Wooster was lead by Beau Mastrine, director of grounds (above).  Partners include the City of Wooster and the OARDC. Grace Tompos, a good friend of the campus trees, places a shovel of dirt onto the latest maple planted in front of Holden Hall.
Andy Nash and Lauren Vargo of the Wooster Tree Ring Lab in Geology  explain the science of tree-rings as part of  the Tree Campus USA celebration. Both students will be using the campus tree-ring data in their drought studies and will be presenting their results at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America Meeting in November. Andy’s work examines drought in the Midwest and Lauren’s study will analyze the link between North Pacific climate and Midwest drought.

Dr. Mariola (Environmental Studies) explains how he uses the campus trees in his courses. The tree journal assignment increases awareness of the practical and aesthetic value of the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The D-shaped hole of the emerald ash borer (above). On the left is a “tree IV” (left) hooked up to a Green Ash on campus. This treatment repels the ash borer attack and protects the tree.

 

 

 

Employees of the City of Wooster explain the value and care of the urban forest.

Below is one of the bottom lines of the value of trees – here summarizing the value of the campus’ maples.

 

Wooster Geologists begin the 2012-2013 school year

August 30th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–Always so much fun to begin a new year with the Wooster Geologists. The happy people above belong to the Geology Club in our annual group photo. This semester we are missing our treasured colleague Shelley Judge who is on a semester research leave. We also have a number of students in off-campus programs.

Here our our senior geologists. Front row from left: Joe Wilch, Richa Ekka, Anna Mudd, Whitney Sims, Kit Price; middle row: Kevin Silver, Jenn Horton, Lauren Vargo, Jonah Novek; back row: Will Cary, Melissa Torma, Matt Peppers.

Today we also posted a colorful pdf of our 2011-2012 Wooster Geology Department Annual Report, the front cover of which is shown above. You can find it at this link with our other recent reports. Thank you very much to cherished Patrice Reeder, our Administrative Coordinator, for her creativity, production skills, and detailed work. It is beautiful.

As you’ve seen in previous posts, we have newly renovated classrooms, and our courses officially began on Monday. The weather is exquisite right now in this part of the country, so we are very much looking forward to our first field trips.

Here’s to happy students and good starts!

Classes begin again for Wooster Geologists

August 27th, 2012

The happy students above are in our 8:00 a.m. History of Life course (Geology 100). They are the first class to use our newly-renovated Scovel 105 room. To remind you what it used to look like –

This new room is far more comfortable for both students and faculty. We don’t miss the 1985 color scheme either! You can see the progress made on Scovel 105 in this series of images.

Scovel 105 was first officially used for the Junior Independent Study presentation of Kit Price (’13) and the Senior I.S. presentation of Richa Ekka (’13). They each worked during the summer on their projects and gave their summaries to a group of faculty and students on Friday afternoon.

Kit Price (’13) and her very last slide. She worked on Cincinnati area fossils this summer. Note the new lecture table top.

Richa Ekka (’13), also with her last slide. She did field work in Estonia this summer.

 

A pleasant and productive geological walk in the woods

August 1st, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–One of the best parts of my job is answering questions from the public about rocks and fossils. Now that I’m Secretary of the Paleontological Society, I get queries every day about something or other. (And since my brief stint on Ancient Aliens, some of my mail is predictably bizarre!) Sometimes the questions are local and students and I get to meet enthusiastic amateur geologists in the field. This morning Andy Nash (’14) and I drove a few miles north of Wooster to look at curious rocks a family had collected, and to walk through their stone-filled creek. It was delightful.

This part of Ohio has many exotic rocks scattered across its surface in Pleistocene glacial till. These rocks have their origin on the Canadian Shield and include just about every igneous and metamorphic lithology you can imagine. The family we visited had many examples of these glacial erratics. The most impressive rocks to Andy and me were pieces of the Gowganda Tillite, one of which is shown above. This rock represents lithified glacial till and is a very impressive 2.3 billion (billion-with-a-”b”) years old. This great age, plus the fact that it is a tillite within a till, makes these variegated rocks very special. The family is going to donate this one to the department, even though it will take a tractor to haul it out!

Another bonus for our brief visit was this creek exposure of the Meadville Shale Member of the Cuyahoga Formation (Kinderhookian, Carboniferous). An outcrop like this so close to campus will be useful for future paleontology field trips and maybe even an Independent Study project or two. The family that owns the land is very excited to share it. (By the way, my first paper was on a trilobite collected from the Meadville Shale in Lodi, Ohio.)

The shale outcrop is periodically broken up by floods on this little creek. Here you see scattered pieces of the gray shale, many of which have trace and body fossils in them. This shale weathers rapidly, exposing the fossils quickly. The downside of that is that the fossils are also destroyed quickly by weathering. They need the kind attention of paleontologists!

This is why we love to answer questions about geology: everyone learns in the process!

Busy Wooster geology labs this summer

August 1st, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–This has been a particularly active summer in Scovel Hall, home of Wooster’s Geology Department. All our fieldwork eventually results in labwork, so our student geologists have been spending quality time with rocksaws, microscopes, computers and x-ray analytical equipment. I thought it might be fun to walk through the building recording the good science going on.

In the above scene, Kit Price (’13) is cutting Late Ordovician limestones containing fossils she collected on our field trip to Indiana last Saturday. Rest assured that she has all the safety equipment for this saw! Her hands are necessarily close to the diamond-studded blade to control the specimen that she cuts. She is trimming matrix away from the fossils so that they are easier to study and store.

Former student Dr. Katherine Nicholson Marenco (’03) visited this summer from Bryn Mawr to continue work on her Independent Study project on Jurassic fossils from southern England. She brought many new ideas to this work, helped us considerably on the Indiana field trip, and even took the time to train us on using Adobe Illustrator software for geological projects. Above she is wrapping up Jurassic specimens for later study in her lab.

Katherine and I plotted out ideas for our work on the English Jurassic fossils with the chalkboard in the paleontology lab. For some reason I find it easier to think with chalk in my hand!

Also in the paleontology lab is Richa Ekka (’13) continuing her work on Silurian specimens we collected on the southeast coast of Saaremaa Island in Estonia last month. She has made certain all her specimens are properly cleaned, sorted and labeled (“sample management”), and has now started on thin-sections and sedimentological analysis.

Tricia Hall (’14) was part of Team Utah earlier this summer. Now she is working on basalt specimens in the fancy new x-ray analytical lab set up by Dr. Meagen Pollock.

The coolest thing she is doing (well, the hottest, actually) is producing glass “beads” of powdered rock and flux by melting the mixture in an automatic spinning furnace that heats up to more than 1000°C. These beads are then used in the x-ray fluorescence spectrometer for elemental analysis. Above you can see the glowing orange puddle of artificial lava as it cools after being poured from the furnace.

The dendrochronology lab of Dr. Greg Wiles is as busy as ever this summer. The students there are measuring tree ring widths for a variety of projects, including the Independent Study projects of Jenn Horton (’13; above) and Lauren Vargo (’13; below) based on work they did in Alaska this June.

Will Cary (’13) is also working in the dendrochronology lab this summer. His Independent Study involves the ballistics of volcanic bombs in Utah, but he’s spending some time as a digital image expert for Dr. Wiles.

Andy Nash (’14) has been measuring tree-ring widths and doing a little coring for Dr. Wiles this summer. He may miss the quiet days in this air-conditioned lab when he starts two-a-day practices for the football team in ten days.

Nick Wiesenberg has been working in the dendrochronology lab for a long time now. He has an intuitive feel for wood. Here he shows the device for calculating tree ring widths by precisely moving them under a microscope set up with a measuring device.

During all this labwork, our two main Scovel lecture rooms are being extensively renovated to give us a fresh beginning with our fall semester courses that begin in less than a month. It can be a bit hectic, all this activity, but our Administrative Coordinator Patrice Reeder is keeping it all under control. It is refreshing to see such happy enthusiasm for the geological sciences.

 

« Prev - Next »