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.

 

Scovel Hall lecture room renovations begin (periodically updated)

May 31st, 2012

20120531-154554.jpg Our beloved Scovel Hall lecture rooms are finally being updated. The fixed seats in Room 105 endured by generations of student behinds are headed to the dumpster (including their 1985 color scheme) and will be replaced by tables and movable chairs. Seating capacity will go from the huge 83 to a more comfortable 50. The more flexible seating will allow us to move around more in the classroom. Scovel 205 upstairs is also being redone in a similar way.

I’ve taught in the present arrangement for 27 years. I’m anxious to teach in the new improved rooms!

Scovel Room 105 on June 6th with all seats removed.

Where those chairs and the carpet ended up!

 

The new carpet in Scovel 105 on July 31.

 

Scovel 105 in early August 2012.

First class in the new Scovel 100! (History of Life, 8:00 a.m., August 27, 2012)

Forbes lists Geology as 7th in its “15 Most Valuable College Majors”

May 26th, 2012

Sure it is intellectually stimulating, adventurous and fun, but geology is also an important field for the present and future according to the latest issue of Forbes magazine. Geology is ranked as number 7 in the most valuable college majors, with a starting median pay of $45,300 and a “mid-career” rise in pay of 84%. The projected job growth in geology is 19.3%.

Top image: Rob McConnell and Palmer Shonk in Estonia. Bottom image: Sophie Lehmann in England.

A rite of passage: Geology Junior Independent Study presentations

May 6th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–The College of Wooster requires an Independent Study (I.S.) thesis (or performance) from all of its graduates. These are not just extended literature reviews, but unique research projects crafted for and by each of our students. We devote three semesters to the process. Readers of this blog are well acquainted with Senior I.S. work because we highlight each study with multiple entries. The first I.S. semester, which is usually (but not always) taken in the spring of the junior year, gets far less outside attention. This is because most of the work is preparation for the research to come in the following summer and school year. Students and faculty sort out projects for each junior, narrow and focus their objectives, and then do a thorough library study to form hypotheses to test in the field or lab. Occasionally we have specimens to work on as a preview, or have even done some of the fieldwork during Spring Break. No matter what, though, each student eventually presents his or her research ideas to the faculty and fellow classmates. Last week most of our juniors gave their talks and posters. (Two of our juniors are out of sequence; one presented last semester, the other will this summer.)

This presentation is the first of three that these students will give to the department about their projects. It is always the most difficult because the research is just beginning and the students are new to giving talks. By their senior years these same students will feel like veteran speakers and masters of their topics. As juniors, though, the task is daunting. The faculty make the proceedings a little less formal than the senior presentations (note in the photo above Anna Mudd is giving her talk on paleosols from a cart as a podium!), but our juniors are still facing a group of their peers … and scary faculty charged with evaluating their performances. The students came through this year and did very well.

New to the system this year were posters from the Utah group (explained below). Each of these four students still gave an oral presentation, but rather than all repeating the same basic framework information (location, geological setting, etc.), they began their set of talks with these poster discussions. Above we see Kevin Silver starting to explain the Utah integrated projects, with Whitney Sims ready to do her part at the end.

Four students (and Clare Booth Luce award winner Tricia Hall) are going with Dr. Shelley Judge and Dr. Meagen Pollock to the Black Rock Desert in south-central Utah to explore petrological and structural questions:

Will Cary will be looking at the ballistics of volcanic bombs thrown from the eruptions.
Whitney Sims will examine the petrology and geochemistry of particular lava flows.
Kevin Silver is studying xenoliths in these lava flows.
Matt Peppers will be doing a fracture analysis of the Ice Springs lava flow.

Two of our students will be doing Keck Geology Consortium projects this summer:

Anna Mudd is examining paleosols (ancient soils) developed in the northeastern Oregon.
Joe Wilch is assessing metamorphic core complexes in the northern Snake Range of Nevada.

Two students are traveling with Dr. Mark Wilson to the western islands of Estonia:

Richa Ekka will concentrate on petrology and paleoenvironments of Silurian carbonates.
Jonah Novek will study Silurian paleocommunities and recovery faunas.

Two students will be in Glacier Bay, Alaska, with Dr. Greg Wiles:

Jenn Horton and Lauren Vargo will study the reaction of trees (and their rings) to climate change and isostatic rebound.

Finally:

Melissa Torma is studying Jurassic faunas in Israel with Dr. Wilson.
Kit Price will be examining Ordovician sclerobionts in the Cincinnati region, also with Dr. Wilson.

This summer you will see blog posts from all of the above as they start their senior adventures!

Now this is field trip weather

May 1st, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–It is now difficult to believe that we were measuring stratigraphic sections in a sleety thunderstorm on Saturday. Today the Tuesday lab of my Sedimentology & Stratigraphy course visited a local outcrop of the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) to get more practice with stratigraphic techniques. What an enjoyable afternoon!

Students hard at work on the Logan Formation outcrop in Wooster. I’m hoping there’s no poison ivy in there.

Alex Hiatt and Cam Matesich looking very closely at the sandstone like good sedimentary geologists.

A set of male pine cones that have already distributed their pollen.

Andy Nash found this Eastern American Toad (Bufo americanus americanus) and our amphibian expert Ned Weakland captured it. Ned’s advisor Rick Lehtinen picked up a similar toad last semester on a short geology field trip. It made us feel all the more that we were in Spring at last.

Wooster Geologists at the 2012 Senior Research Symposium

April 27th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–Six Wooster geology seniors presented their research to the campus and public this morning in Kauke Hall on the College of Wooster campus. They were among the first posters in the annual Senior Research Symposium in which Independent Study projects are highlighted and celebrated. They did very well — their geology faculty advisors are proud indeed. Here they are with their presentations:

Sarah Appleton ’12: Dating of the Mid-Holocene History and Glacial Stratigraphy of the Wachusett Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Southeast Alaska. (Links to Sarah’s work on the Wooster Geologist’s blog.)

Lindsey Bowman ’12: Geochemical and Field Relationships of Pillow and Dike Units in a Subglacial Pillow Unit, Undirhlíðar Quarry, Southwest Iceland. (Links to Lindsey’s work on the Wooster Geologists blog.)

Andrew Collins ’12: A Comparison and Analog-Based Analysis of Sinuous Channels on Rift Aprons of Ascraeus Mons and Pavonis Mons Volcanoes, Mars. (Links to Andrew’s work on the Wooster Geologists blog.)

Nick Fedorchuk ’12: Stratigraphy and Paleoecology of the Wenlock/Ludlow Boundary on Saaremaa Island, Estonia. (Links to Nick’s work on the Wooster Geologists blog.)

Rachel Matt ’12: Paleoecology of the Hilliste Formation (Lower Silurian, Llandovery, Rhuddanian) on Hiiumaa Island, Estonia: An Example of a Shallow Marine Recovery Fauna. (Links to Rachel’s work on the Wooster Geologists blog.)

Katharine Schleich ’12: A Geochemical and Petrographic Analysis of the Hrafnfjordur Central Volcano, Westfjords, Iceland. (Links to Katharine’s work on the Wooster Geologist blog.)

Well done, Wooster Geologists!

 

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