mpollock January 20th, 2011
WOOSTER, OH – The XRF and XRD are officially installed! We learned the basics about how to operate and maintain the XRF this afternoon. We even ran our first official sample using the EZScan. It was a difficult choice, but the honor of the first sample goes to an Icelandic basalt from Todd Spillman’s I.S. Congratulations, Todd! You’ve just made history at the College of Wooster.
I absolutely love the animation that shows the inner workings of the XRF! The cartoon shows how the x-ray tube (on the left) aims x-rays at the sample (in the middle). The resulting fluorescent x-rays (red line) travel through the slits to the crystal and finally to the detector.
Tomorrow, we’ll learn to operate the XRD. I wonder who will be the lucky owner of the first XRD sample?
mpollock January 18th, 2011
WOOSTER, OH – Big news in the Geology Department: our new X-ray lab is being installed this week! Early last year, the Geology Department was awarded funding from the National Science Foundation to acquire X-ray instruments to enhance our robust undergraduate research program. Installation has been long awaited, highly anticipated, and wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of many people on campus. We have Ron, Patrice, Tracy, and the electricians and plumbers to thank for making it happen. The installation will probably take all week, but so far (knock on wood), things are going smoothly.
It's as if the space was designed especially for the X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF).
The XRF will allow us to measure the compositions of Earth materials right here on campus. No longer will we need to send our samples (or our students) to other labs for major element analyses! Not pictured (and still wrapped in plastic) is the benchtop X-ray diffractometer (XRD), which will enable us to analyze the mineralogy of samples.
We hope our lab serves as a regional center for X-ray analyses and encourages collaborations with physicists, chemists, archeologists, and geologists. Stay tuned for updates!
mpollock December 2nd, 2010
Now that the semester is winding down and the cold weather has set in, I find my mind wandering back to the beginning of the academic year. It seems like it was years ago, not months, that our Mineralogy class visited Zollinger’s quarry.
2010 Mineralogy class at Zollinger's Quarry in late September.
It didn’t take long for students to discover the beautifully formed gypsum crystals that littered the ground.
From left to right, Will Cary, Matt Peppers, and Kevin Silver caught in the act of discovering the gypsum.
Truly, these are beautiful gypsum crystals.
In fact, next week we’re using some of the crystals that we collected in our discussion of the thermodynamics of crystal nucleation and growth.
Of course, the minerals weren’t the only stars of the show. The students were excited to find these incredible mud cracks with preserved rain drops - comparable to these mud cracks that a fellow geologist at Mountain Beltway observed in Turkey.
Mud cracks and preserved rain drops in Zollinger's Quarry.
Mark Wilson November 26th, 2010
WOOSTER, OHIO — Last weekend we picked up another load of rocks, minerals and fossils donated by the family of one of our loyal alumni. We will be sorting through them for months getting them ready for displays and our teaching collections. Among the treasures are large numbers of particular items, especially fossils. I want to highlight two of many such sets. The trilobites are Phacops bufo from the Silica Shale (Devonian) of northeastern Ohio; the belemnites below are from the Jurassic of Wyoming. (Belemnites from the Upper Cretaceous of Germany and the Jurassic of Israel have been featured in this blog, as have beautiful trilobites from the Middle Cambrian of British Columbia, Canada.) Numerous nearly-identical fossils such as these play an important role in our teaching. We can, for example, have a fossil in front of each student during lectures for immediate reference (and quizzing!). It is also possible to have biometric measuring exercises in our labs with these fossil “populations” of particular species. Gifts again put to work in education!
gwiles November 16th, 2010
Tuesday we had the pleasure to work with Mrs. Gaut’s and Ms Long’s (standing) third grade classes. Wooster Geology seniors Stephanie Jarvis and LaShawna Weeks taught 32 well-prepared students mineral and rock identification.
LaShawna shows the group the fine art of using the streak plate in mineral identification.
Steph explains the characteristics of metamorphism. The fellow in the lower left is eager to share his view of the processes associated with metamorphic rocks.
LaShawna discusses the formation of sandstone and quizzes the group on the depositional environment.
Steph explains the nuances of the rates of mineral crystallization.
It was clear that the group was ready to take their new knowledge of 14 minerals and 10 rocks to the next level.
Mark Wilson November 11th, 2010
WOOSTER, OHIO — Dr. Meagen Pollock had a great idea: a geology Jeopardy game to liven up a Geology Club meeting … and to encourage the retention of all that knowledge we’re serving up daily. She used a software package from the Communication Studies Department and question sets from all the geology faculty. The contest was much fun, especially as we watched a team of sophomores and first-years dominate their older peers. I’m sure in the rematch next semester the upper class students will be highly motivated!
Mark Wilson November 5th, 2010
WOOSTER, OHIO — Last month we began integrating a large collection of rocks, minerals and fossils into our teaching program in the Department of Geology. These specimens were donated by an Ohio family who lovingly gathered them over decades. They displayed these natural wonders to friends, neighbors and children for their beauty and their educational value. Now we have started to use some of the specimens in our classes.
Invertebrate Paleontology students Sarah Appleton, Megan Innis (the TA), Melissa Torma and Michaela Caventer examine donated bivalve fossils. We are especially impressed with the large articulated Eocene oyster Michaela is holding.
Andrew Retzler holding two vertebrae of the Jurassic dinosaur Camarasaurus. We used these in the History of Life course.
Side view of the Camarasaurus vertebrae. These bones were reconstructed from dozens of fragments.
Mark Wilson November 4th, 2010
WOOSTER, OHIO — To understand ancient life a paleontology student must also know a considerable amount about modern life. In our Invertebrate Paleontology course this means that students study, for example, modern clams to provide a context for the fossil clams they are interpreting. In the above image the class today is dissecting modern infaunal clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) and mussels (Mytilus edulis). I buy them at the local grocery store so that they are fresh and with no preservatives. That means there are always challenges opening them — and always a mushy mess afterwards! It is worth it, though, to sort out the anatomy of these bivalves and match their soft parts to the hard parts we find in the fossil record. It is also a reminder that the stony fossil we study today once had its gooey living moment!
Mark Wilson November 3rd, 2010
A happy Greg Wiles on the shore of Glacier Bay, Alaska.
(by Stephanie Jarvis, ’11)
Professor Greg Wiles, the Ross K. Shoolroy Chair of Natural Resources at Wooster, finished off the series of Wooster presentations at this year’s Geological Society of America Annual Meeting with his talk: “Multi-millenial-scale tree ring records from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve: Paleoenvironmental reconstruction and placing ongoing cryosphere-ecosphere changes into a long-term context”. He presented this work in a session on research in National Parks this morning. Highlighting this study with Dan Lawson and Wooster students in the park and surrounding area (see the Alaska tag for this blog), Greg described the timing of glacial advances and retreats as determined by dendrochronology, and the applications of these results to understanding the history of the native Tlingit people. As the National Parks belong to everybody, and our projects are often funded by government agencies (i.e., taxpayers), the communication of this research in a coherent and understandable manner is one of the many duties of scientists and a great way to close out the 2010 Annual GSA Meeting!
Mark Wilson November 1st, 2010
DENVER, COLORADO — It has been a tradition for decades that Wooster Geology alumni, faculty and students meet one evening during the annual GSA conference. This year we had forty people come by; a good number of them are pictured above. There were many other Wooster alumni who were running their own events at the same time and could not attend. What a joyous gathering it was … and an excellent opportunity for our current students to meet a diverse group of successful geologists who shares their academic heritage.