Mark Wilson January 25th, 2011
While we celebrate our new XRF and XRD equipment in Dr. Meagen Pollock’s petrology lab (which has already produced actual results), I thought we should also recognize our oldest piece of continuously-operated equipment in the department, the Ro-Tap Sieve Shaker:
This simple device was invented in the early 1900s by W.S. Tyler, and the company he founded still produces them today. The new versions are considerably sleeker than our massive machine. The Ro-Tap is designed to shake a series of nested sieves to sort granular materials into various size fractions. “Ro” refers to “rotate” and “Tap” to hammering at the top. You can imagine the noise that results. My Sedimentology & Stratigraphy class is using our ancient Ro-Tap (which was old when I was a student) to sort sediment samples. Each student was given a vial of an unknown sediment to describe by size distribution, mineralogy, grain shape and other characteristics. They will produce descriptive and statistical reports with conclusions about the possible environmental origins of the samples.
The beauty of science, especially Earth science, is that we blend the sophisticated and the simple as we describe and try to understand patterns in nature. You can stand in the basement of Scovel on some afternoons and hear the quiet purring of the X-Ray equipment as the steadfast old Ro-Tap bangs away in the background as it has for decades.
Mark Wilson January 25th, 2011
Wooster has always been proud of its distinguished alumnus Stan Totten (’58), a retired professor of geology at Hanover College. We are now pleased to see that the state of Ohio has recognized him for his many contributions to understanding Ohio’s geology, from checking topographic maps in his early days to producing his own glacial geology and soil maps. He even provided geological expertise for the construction of Interstates 71 and 77. This nice citation from the ODNR describes Stan’s career in more detail, and as a special touch there is an embedded video of his acceptance comments.
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.
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.
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.
It didn’t take long for students to discover the beautifully formed gypsum crystals that littered the ground.
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.
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.