WOOSTER, OHIO–The Wooster Geologists have long had a special relationship with The College of Wooster Nursery School (where young children “actively construct their own knowledge of the world”). Every year our faculty and students talk to the children about rocks, fossils and dinosaurs. As you can imagine it is a most enjoyable — if a bit frantic — experience. For the past three years Professor Shelley Judge has been our primary faculty planner and organizer for these delightful events. Usually the kids walk up the hill from the nursery school about a block to Scovel Hall. There Shelley has exploration stations and, we hope, lots of college student volunteers to explain the materials.
Today the topic was simply “rocks”, and the children came to see and hold a variety of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic samples. Shelley set it all up and we had two sessions of about 18 kids each march in line up to the lab. They went through the specimens enthusiastically, feeling which are the smoothest and which the roughest, how heavy some are compared to others, seeing the world through a crystal of calcite, and marveling at ancient giant shark teeth. They each got to try on a hardhat, look through a handlens, and wear safety googles (which they find oddly fun). Then they line up and march back to the nursery school, clearly having enjoyed the experience. As did we!
Kit Price ('13) showing some of our sedimentary rocks and fossils to the children.
Katharine Schleich ('12) explaining some extrusive igneous rocks.
Shelley Judge talking to some of the children about minerals. Notice how intently they listen to her. She has the touch!
Geologist Greg Wiles and Biologist Rick Lehtinen in Spangler Park outside Wooster, Ohio.
WOOSTER, OHIO–Our colleague Rick Lehtinen in the Department of Biology had a great idea: how about a casual noon trip to the local Spangler Park to enjoy the plants, animals, rocks and streams? So Greg Wiles and I took him up on it and had a splendid couple of hours down in the gorge. We talked of ash trees, buried valleys, alluvial fans, salamanders and badgers. What an excellent break from grading!
Dr. Wiles showing where the creek flow goes from supercritical to subcritical.
An American Toad found by Dr. Lehtinen.
My contribution? An analysis of this beautiful set of bivalve, crinoid and brachiopod fossils from the Logan Formation (Mississippian).
WOOSTER, OHIO–The cheerful group above is the Wooster Geology Club in our traditional start of the year group photograph. (The image was kindly taken by Danielle Reeder.) We are fewer than usual because an unprecedented number of our geology majors are overseas on off-campus adventures (seven juniors) and our beloved petrologist Meagen Pollock is on a semester research leave. An addition to our crew this year is the man in the upper left with a beard. He is Matt Curren, our new geological technician.
Here you can see happy students in the 8:00 a.m. Invertebrate Paleontology course enjoying their first taste of taxonomic rules and the problem of species. Or maybe they’re grinning because they just learned there is not a quiz this morning?
There are two significant changes in Scovel Hall for this year. We have a new X-Ray Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Pollock, complete with a “clean room” for wet chemistry. (I know what the alumni are thinking: A clean room in Scovel? But yes, it really is!) We also have fancy new (and wonderfully silent) computer projection systems in our classrooms, as seen below. We are now very far beyond those old 35 mm slide projectors I grew up with.
It is going to be another eventful year for the Wooster Geologists. We again thank the generations that have gone before us to build this department, and the alumni and friends who support us so faithfully.
The College’s of Wooster’s B-WISER (Buckeye Women In Science, Engineering, and Research) program for 7th and 8th grade girls descended upon Scovel Hall last week for some fun activities in geology. In an afternoon session with the campers, we divided them into several groups so that they could get more individualized attention as they moved from station to station. One station, which was taught by geology major Lindsey Bowman (’12), allowed the campers to look at a variety of minerals and igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. The focus of the station, though, was a fossil exercise in which campers tried to identify invertebrate fossils from large Ordovician rock slabs that the Mark Wilson has collected over the years. These slabs primarily contained brachiopods, bryozoans, rugose corals, bivalves, and trilobite fragments. In the image below, Lindsey (far left, blue shirt) is helping the campers identify Ordovician fossils.
The other station involved recreating a dinosaur trackway from Texas. The dinosaur tracks, as well as the stride distances between footprints, were to scale. B-WISER campers were tasked with figuring out which dinosaur was moving faster (bipedal or quadrupedal) and then coming up with a hypothesis of dinosaur behavior at the time the trackway was made. With help from William Cary (’13) and myself, campers navigated the measuring and math required to complete the task. Below is an image of the trackway in Scovel Hall; the campers are busy calculating the footprint length and stride length, while William (green shirt) is in the background helping with the activity.
At the end of the afternoon, all B-WISER campers came together for a final activity involving Plate Tectonics. Campers participated in a JIGSAW exercise created by Dale Sawyer (Rice University) in which they are divided into speciality teams: geography, seismology, volcanology, and geochronology. After analyzing data from only their specialty, mixed groups are formed so that there is at least one person from each speciality. Campers then put all of the data sets together to determine the position of the major plate boundaries on Earth. The B-WISER campers appeared to have a great time throughout the week, and geology sure enjoyed their visit!!
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA–The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a federal agency charged by Congress “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” It had a budget last year of $6.9 billion and is a major source of funding for American scientific research, especially in colleges and universities. NSF is highly respected — and not a little feared — by working scientists. I visited NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, for a meeting with Lisa Park Boush (Wooster ’88) who is a Program Director for Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology. Although we were not discussing NSF business (we were transferring the Secretary position of The Paleontological Society from her to me), I learned a lot about the agency from Lisa. NSF officials work very hard, for one, and they are very concerned about the scientific communities they serve.
The impressive front of the NSF building in Arlington, Virginia.
Lisa Park Boush in her NSF office (with a coveted window view behind her). Lisa was one of my Independent Study students, so I am especially proud of her accomplishments and responsibilities.
Of course, there’s always the classic documentary, like Andrew’s Dacite documentary. The documentary is closely related to the mockumentary – see Will’s petrology project on how to make a thin section as an example:
WOOSTER, OH – Students in the Geology of Natural Hazards course spent a day studying the products of volcanic eruptions. Here are some of the outstanding samples in our volcanic collection:
Reticulite is a delicate network of basaltic glass that forms during Hawaiian fire fountaining. Volatiles expand easily in the low-viscosity magma, creating a dense network of interconnected vesicles separated by thin strands of quenched lava (sideromelane).
Accretionary lapilli are rounded pea-sized pieces of tephra that consist of volcanic ash. Ash aggregates into balls because of electrostatic forces in the eruption column.
Volcanic bombs are formed when lava is ejected and becomes airborne. The fusiform bomb has a rounded aerodynamic shape with an elongated tail, which tells us that the material was molten when it was ejected and was shaped as it traveled through the air.
The glassy surface of this basalt shows the classic ropy texture of pahoehoe. Ropy pahoehoe develops when the surface of a lava flow becomes partially solidified and wrinkles as the underlying lava continues to flow.
WOOSTER, OH – Alumni will fondly recall the tradition of I.S. Monday, our annual celebration of the completion of I.S. Today, seniors celebrate their hard work by donning their commemorative t-shirts and marching in the I.S. parade. We salute you, seniors, and wish you luck on your upcoming oral defenses!
Congratulations to the Wooster Geology Class of 2011 for making it to I.S. Monday! Pictured from left to right: Micah Risacher ('11), Dr. Shelley Judge, Elizabeth Deering ('11), Michael Snader ('11), Megan Innis ('11), Dr. Meagen Pollock, Andrew "the Shark" Retzler ('11), and Becky Alcorn ('11). Members of the class of 2011 not pictured here: Jesse Davenport, Stephanie Jarvis, Sam Spencer, and LaShawna Weeks.