Local Geomorphology and What We Learned

This is a post outlining some of the work we did in Wooster’s class in Geomorphology. One of the early labs was Browns Lake Bog and the Soil Catena.

The landforms in the area are spectacular – here is a kame, a photo taken  as we ventured down into the bog.

The group shares a light moment before the 20+ species of mosquitos descended on them in the forest.

The soils from the top of the kame to the base varied more than the group predicted.

We also sampled soils just east of the campus golf course.

Nick and Jerry in the soil pit measuring magnetic susceptibility as Des records the data.

The C-horizon on the left is a sandy, silt gravel – the B-horizon in the middle is blocky loam and the A is a more brown silty material.

The team coring an old growth (300+ year) tree growing on top of the soil site. The landform is a kame terrace that has likely been weathering in place for the last 14,000 years with additional windblown silt being added (or removed) from time to time during the Holocene.

At Zollinger’s Sand and Gravel – posing at the base of the section which is Mississippian bedrock. A big thank you to the Zollinger family for allowing us to work here and for showing us around.

This side of the pit is still being mined, whereas other portions serve as land fill. We learned that lodgement till can be fractured and that it also can be mined and serve as a landfill liner.

On the way back to campus we stopped at the artesian spring near the Wayne County Airport.

Of course not class would be complete without a trip to Spangler. Here the group is standing inf ront of one of the unconformities, which is composed of a lodgement till overlain by fluvial and alluvial sediments.  The interface of these units is where the geochmistry is just right to generate concretions.

The increasingly greater precipitation events are moving larger and large block of bedrock. Here the Wooster Shale is being excavated by 1-2 inch storm events. Our hypothesis is that erosion rates over the last few decades are unprecedented perhaps over much of the Holocene.
Big blocks are moved routinely – they are plucked out by the stream along planes of weakness (fractures). Note how the shales break up readily. A block like those above will be mud again in a matter of months. Swelling clays and strong wetting and drying does the job.

Here is a series of debris flows (gray sediment) – we obtained two radiocarbon ages that show intervals of mass movements about 2.5 ka, these are dates on charcoal that may be from fires used in land management by native Americans at the time.

Stream gaging along Apple Creek. The group gets some hand-on experience with the equipment and puzzles over the various facies of a fining upward fluvial sequence.

Nick and Tyrell take turns in the deep end.

Jack giving the group the rundown on riparian vegetation.

As it turn out the floods here get pretty high, this tree was scarred when a log (or a washing machine) floated by during a high flow.

 

The class at Fern Valley standing in front of Columbia Gas’ well-head for the natural gas storage field. The group was investigating the possibility that mass movements at the site might impact the infrastructure and pipelines in the area.

The slump block at Fern Valley is clearly seen from above. It is a series of glacial ice-contact stratified drift deposits overlain by a thick (40+ foot) layer of varved lacustrine clays. What you see in the woods is a major 2-3 meter scarp (normal fault) as the block descends into the valley.

The class at Fern Valley. A big thank you Nick Wiesenberg for arranging the logistic for the trips. We would also like to thank bus drivers Mark Livengood and Fred Potter for getting us to and from the sites safely. A special thanks to Fred who will be retiring soon – we appreciate your expertise and knowledge of the Wooster area.

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Paleoecology field trip to the Upper Ordovician of eastern Indiana: Haven’t done this for awhile!

Richmond, Indiana — Today Nick Wiesenberg (our invaluable geological technician), Brianna Lyman (my excellent Teaching Assistant), and I took the 15 students in the Paleoecology course to the fossiliferous Upper Ordovician of eastern Indiana (upper Whitewater Formation). It’s a location (C/W-148) that I’ve taken students to many times, but not since 2019 because of … you guessed it … pandemic. We had a wonderful time collecting bags of specimens for exercises and reports this semester. It was a wonderful day, even if it was seven hours of driving for one hour of fieldwork!

This is a typical view of the fossils available here in abundance. Note the bryoimmurations!

Bags of fossil treasure waiting to be opened in lab. First step will be washing and sorting. This is going to take awhile!

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Who knew that crinoids could be boring? A possible bioeroding crinoid attachment structure from the early Silurian of Estonia (new paper)

Our hard-working and observant Estonian colleagues (Olev Vinn and Ursula Toom) recently made a remarkable discovery among Estonian early Silurian fossils: an attachment structure of a stalked crinoid that apparently bioeroded its way into a calcitic stromatoporoid skeleton.

There’s a lot packed into that opening sentence. (And you’ve noticed that “remarkable” is a relative term depending on your interests!) For orientation, a crinoid is an arm-bearing, filter-feeding marine echinoderm with a very long evolutionary history to the present day. They have skeletons of calcite typically consisting of a flower-like crown with feeding appendages, a stem (or stalk) made of stacked disks, and some sort of holdfast structure. That holdfast can be quite variable, from roots in muddy sediments to thick disks cemented to hard substrates.

Generalized diagram of a crinoid drawn by our coauthor Bill Ausich.

Bioerosion is the biological erosion of a hard substrate by either mechanical means (grinding, rasping, scraping, biting, drilling) or chemical (such as acidic dissolution) producing structures like borings, grooves, drillholes, etc. Until this work, no crinoids living or extinct have been known to bioerode their substrates. Here, though, as you can see in the top image, we appear to have a crinoid that has done just that way back in the Silurian.

The top image is of a thin-section cut through a crinoid holdfast attached to a stromatoporoid, which is a kind of calcareous sponge with a dense, layered skeleton of calcite. The whitish vertical portion is the crinoid stem partially buried in sediment. The yellow arrows show the radices (essentially “roots”) of the crinoid penetrating into the stromatoporoid skeleton, cutting through its topmost layers. It is clear that the crinoid was not simply embedded in the skeleton by stromatoporoid growth — the radices cut through the layers. This crinoid bored into the stromatoporoid (probably chemically) and held on tenaciously. Remarkable. The first indication that a crinoid could do this sort of thing.

Thus far it is only one specimen, so there is the inevitable question mark in the title of this paper. We put it out there as a first report hoping that other such cases may be found. Or, of course, someone could show that our interpretation is not correct.

I love these paleoecological stories! Thank you again to our Estonian friends and colleagues Olev Vinn and Ursula Toom. Bill Ausich and I treasure our friendship and collaboration with them.

For the record, this is the location of the boring crinoid find (from the paper).

And this is the stratigraphy (from the paper).

Reference:

Vinn, O., Ausich, W.I., Wilson, M.A. and Toom, U. 2022. Did stalked echinoderms bioerode calcareous substrates? A possible boring crinoid attachment structure in a stromatoporoid from the early Silurian (Telychian) of Estonia. Paläontologische Zeitschrift (https://doi.org/10.1007/s12542-022-00637-3)

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Ten Days in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

After spending a day in Juneau gearing up, we flew over to Gustavus, Alaska and then got a ride to Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. We then rented kayaks and headed into Glacier Bay.

Shortly after being dropped off by the Day Boat at Mount Wright, the team (left to right, Jacob Hassan, Nick Wiesenberg, Jack Whitehouse and Greg Wiles) packed two kayaks and headed for the East Arm (Muir Inlet) of Glacier Bay. The primary objective of this trip is to recover wood that will allow the team to bridge a gap in a 2,000 year long tree-ring record. The age of the wood needs to be about 2000 years old. We know from previous studies where we need to go to optimize our chances of finding that age wood.

Jack and Nick enthusiastic to get paddling north into Muir Inlet (aka the East Arm).

Much of the work was done by examining stream cuts through various glacial and fluvial landforms and working our way up and down outwash fans and streams in the area.

Jacob standing on the bank of a part meandering – part braided stream. He is preparing to crash the brush on the right to make headway.

Jack along the shore of Adams Inlet is optimistic that this section of a fan and delta may contain wood needed for his thesis.

Nick directing the sample collection of a large sitka spruce – likely run over by ice about 1500 years ago during a cold time now known as the LALIA (Late Archaic Little Ice Age). It may be that this cool interval was forced, in part, by major volcanic eruptions and various associate feedbacks in the mid 500s CE.

The group taking a well-deserved rest after a morning of exploring a fan.

One of key deposits that the team investigated were extensive Gilbert type deltas that overlie flooding surfaces from lakes. The lakes (in this case Adams Lake) were formed about 1500 years ago when glaciers in the West Arm advanced damming up the East Arm of Glacier Bay. These lakes preserved forests of that age, and now with ice retreat, isostatic uplift, and erosion the lake are gone and the glaciolacustrine sediment sequences are being eroded away liberating the logs.

This is the same photo – a closeup showing the gray lacustrine clays and silts that are varved (to the right of Jack) and the dipping sands of the foresets overlying the lake clays. Beneath the clays is the flooding horizon that preserved the wood.

Descending a delta from above – here Jacob is walking down the delta foresets into the paleobasin.

The sampling team – yes we have a permit with the National Park Service for chainsaw use. Nick is a chainsaw expert and is able to minimize the saws impact and take high quality samples.

One of the more demanding legs of the trip was thrashing our way up the Casement Glacier outwash plain. We started from its delta in Adams Inlet and headed north with the hopes of setting a camp 8 or so miles from the sea to sample wood at the glacier and on its outwash. Unfortunately, the massive outwash river was pegged along the west side of the valley making travel through the brush difficult. We spent one day sampling washed out logs in the hopes that the complex glacial and fluvial history of the valley might preserve the logs in the age range that we sought. It was slightly miserable with poor weather as well.

Jacob managed to look optimistic as he takes an increment core from a log on the Casement Fan.

Near the delta of Casement River the tidal effects are evident. Here the ebbing tide with a fluvial, unidirectional rippled surface reworks the intertidal mudcracks. Note too, the bubbles evident along the hexagonal boundaries of the mudcracks.

We give a big shout out to Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks for their help with logistics and equipment. These well-maintained boats are necessary for this work as most of the waters we worked in were non-motorized water,  meaning no motor boats.

Here is a shot of the two double kayaks at our Nunatak Fan camp in Muir Inlet. Nick anticipated all the gear and food we would need for the trip and carefully did the planning to ensure that we could fit all we needed in these two boats for the entire 10 days. He also made sure that it would stay dry in the often very wet conditions in this coastal rainforest setting.

The group plans a launch out of one camp on the way to the next. Note the head nets on all the crew. Bugs were an issue and head nets were worn frequently.

A view looking west from he Nunatak camp toward Muir Inlet.

Jack scoped out this barnacle encrusted log – the core was excellent and may be part of the gap-filling ring – width series.

Camped at Muir Point in Muir Inlet. The glacier was here at this fan in 1880 when John Muir has his cabin close to our camp. Only the stone chimney is left to the cabin now and it is well hidden in a nearby forest. Here the group enjoys a nice evening in the intertidal burning driftwood from the beach.

At Muir Point, Nick picked a pile of strawberries that were just right in terms of ripeness and sweetness.

For lunch we had wraps of strawberries, honey peanut butter and nuts. Nick outdid himself with the meal planning.

This is a Bear Highway on top of a storm berm. Each time a bear passes over the berm it steps in the same spots keeping the moss from growing in the footprints.

Nick finding a creative way of crossing the stream in search of the wood.

At the end of the 10 days we were picked up by the day boat and completed our time in Glacier Bay with a trip up the West Arm. The day was brilliant and sunny and we met guides from Alaska Mountain Guides and shared stories of adventures in Alaska.

A sea star revealed itself as we waited at low-tide for the Day Boat.

The group onboard the Day Boat headed back to Gustavus via the West Arm.

Flying back to Juneau a view of the Chilkat Mountains.

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Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Lingulid brachiopod trace fossils from the Middle Jurassic Carmel Formation of southwestern Utah

This is a short trace fossil story with two disappointments, one much more than the other. It involves trace fossils made by lingulid brachiopods, a marine invertebrate group with a very long geological history. The earliest appeared in the Cambrian, and, as you can see from the top image, they are very much alive today. (Image of Lingula anatina from Wikipedia.)

Lingulid brachiopods have two chitino-phosphatic valves (shown at the left end in the image above) and a long fleshy pedicle (the right end). Unusually for brachiopods, they are infaunal, living with the pedicle vertically down in the sediment. They can flex this pedicle to move their valves up and down in the sediment, maintaining access to seawater which they filter for their food. They have been doing this for hundreds of millions of years with little evolutionary change. Since they are infaunal, they can leave evidence of their burrowing in the sediments, making a particular variety of trace fossil. This is where our story begins.

While doing fieldwork in the Middle Jurassic Carmel Formation this summer with Team Utah 2022 near St. George, Utah, I found numerous small slabs of sandy-oolitic limestone with roughly circular pits a centimeter or so in diameter (above).

This is the steep slope where these particular trace fossils are found. This is our Dammeron Valley location (C/W-773) in “Member D” about a meter above the C/D boundary. It is in the record of a significant transgression Lucie Fiala (’23) is currently studying for her Senior Independent Study project at Wooster. It is also a part of Vicky Wang‘s (’23) Carmel trace fossil Senior IS project.

As shown above back in the Wooster lab, the circular pits have an inverted cone shape, with their diameters decreasing evenly with depth. Most are circular to oval in cross-section.

Critically, some, like the largest shown above, are oval with sharpish ends, which matches what we expect to see with the compressed valves of lingulid brachiopods moving vertically in the top couple centimeters of the sediment on the seafloor. Now, do they also show traces of the long pedicle below them? Of course they do.

This is an eroded cross-section showing the conical pit and a constriction on the bottom end.

And here is the smoking gun for a lingulid trace. I sawed through one of the pits, which exposed the long sediment-filled trace of the pedicle. Several other cuts showed that this a repeated feature. Lingulid traces they are, and the first found in the Carmel Formation. Note that the sediment here consists of sand-sized particles composed mostly of ooids, then quartz sand grains, and finally fragments of crinoids (the little white bits). Helpfully, the sediments also contain fragments of phosphatic brachiopod shells.

What is the official ichnotaxonomic name for a lingulid brachiopod trace fossil? This is where the first, and most significant, disappointment enters the narrative. In 1976, Eugene Szmuc of Kent State University, Richard G. Osgood of The College of Wooster (and at the time my undergraduate academic advisor), and Deborah Meinke, a Wooster alumna, published a paper describing lingulid trace fossils from the Devonian of Ohio. They christened them Lingulichnites. Unknown to these authors, William Hakes at the University of Kansas was also working on lingulid trace fossils, and also in 1976 he published his name for them: Lingulichnus. Two names for the same trace fossil published in the same year. Which name to use? Or in official terms, which name has priority and which is a junior synonym not to be used except for historical purposes? Turns out the Hakes publication appeared one month before the Szmuc et al. paper. Lingulichnus has priority and is the accepted name for these lingulid trace fossils. Such is science, but the added disappointment is that the issue of Lethaia that carried the Szmuc et al. (1976) paper was delayed in publication by a bad batch of printing paper — a delay of more than a month, thus losing priority on the name. Szmuc et al. had to write a short note in 1977 officially consigning Lingulichnites to junior synonym status. The editors apologized in a statement published with that note.

The second, and minor, disappointment is all on me. I got so excited about these lingulid traces in the Carmel Formation that I started a project to describe them as a new ichnospecies of Lingulichnus. My hypothesis was that these had cone-shaped tops because the brachiopod was twisting its pedicle as it fed, carving out a roughly circular to oval pit different from the sharp-ended slits in the typical Lingulichnus. I did measurements, statistics, saw cuts and photographs as I explored these structures. Lots of exciting work. I should, though, have done my literature searching first …

This magnificent figure above is from Zonnenveld et al. (2007). This paper, along with Zonnenveld and Pemberton (2003), provides an extraordinary analysis of lingulid brachiopod trace fossils, including new ichnospecies and accounting for all sorts of behavior, even twisting the pedicle. If I had read these papers earlier I would have saved myself a lot of work, work which would have had no novelty for publication. A minor disappointment, but I did learn a lot about lingulids in the process.

Ultimately the importance of these trace fossils for our Carmel Formation paleoenvironmental analysis is that Lingulichnus is the kind of trace that shows an animal living in sediments that were moving frequently enough that it had to adjust its position to increased or decreased sediment levels. That tells us something about the initial stages of this transgression. No research is ever wasted.

References:

Hakes, W.G., 1976. Trace fossils and depositional environment of four clastic units, Upper Pennsylvanian megacyclothems, northeast Kansas. University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, Article 63, p. 1-46.

Szmuc, E.J., Osgood, R.G. and Meinke, D.W., 1976. Lingulichnites, a new trace fossil genus for lingulid brachiopod burrows. Lethaia 9: 163-167.

Szmuc, E.J., Osgood, R.G. and Meinke, D.W., 1977. Synonymy of the ichnogenus Lingulichnites Szmuc, Osgood & Meinke, 1976, with Lingulichnus Hakes 1976. Lethaia, 10(2), pp.106-106.

Zonneveld, J.P., Beatty, T.W. and Pemberton, S.G., 2007. Lingulide brachiopods and the trace fossil Lingulichnus from the Triassic of western Canada: implications for faunal recovery after the end-Permian mass extinction. Palaios 22:74-97.

Zonneveld, J.P. and Pemberton, S.G., 2003. Ichnotaxonomy and behavioral implications of lingulide-derived trace fossils from the Lower and Middle Triassic of Western Canada. Ichnos 10: 25-39.

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Alaska Day 5 – Juneau

There are two legs to the project this summer. Lilly and Fred are headed back to the Wooster Tree Ring Lab with samples from Kake and Jacob and Jack have arrived. Jack, Jacob, Nick and I will now travel to Glacier Bay for 10 days of sampling ancient forests. As a warmup, the group hiked to Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is rapidly retreating but we are still able to find solid ice to take the team photo.

The hike to the glacier is great and the day was perfect.

Mendenhall Glacier from the forefield.

Fred found some ancient stumps and logs likely dating back to about 2.5 ka, the forests continue to be unearthed with the ice recession.

The West Mendenhall Trail has a variety of streams and falls.

Across the glacial lake is Nugget Falls and part of the group poses next to this popular stop.

The group getting organized and enjoying the katabatic breeze.

 

After all it was the 4th of July.

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Alaska Day 4

A view from the porch of the Forest Service cabin out into the Sound.

Day 4 started in the intertidal zone at low tide. Identification of the various intertebrates included the limpet above.

This large cockle was squirting water through its syphon and was easily captured.

Sea stars are abundant – this one was named Patrick.

This sea anemnome was filtering through the rocks.

This squillamantis was a mystery and most of us had never encountered it before.

Sea cucumbers were abundant and colorful.

Another sea cucumber.

Another sea star with tenticles flaring.

Beach asparagus was a big hit and we plan to pickle a few jars.

Here is a chiton called a gumboot by the folks in Kake.

After the beach we went to get coffee at Tribal Grounds.

Berry picking under the shadow of Alaska’s tallest totem pole – here salmonberries and strawberries were picked for the elders in town.

The afternoon was spent coring living and dead yellow cedar trees – here Lilly is coring a living cedar, many that are over 500 years old.

The Wooster group at the cedar site.

The final photo of the two groups combined at the Lodge was the farewell. More is to come as Lilly and Fred return to the tree-ring lab to work on the red and yellow cedar cores.

A bear passed by the lodge on his way to work.

 

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Alaska Day 3

Coring the furthest north stand of Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata).

Celebrating another successful core extraction by Siah.

Banana slug on the forest floor.

Mounting the redcedar cores at the Forest Service cabin. Also examining cores taken in previous years.

Long Beach at Macartney Point. An afternoon of tossing the frisbee and trash cleanup.

Salmonberry and blueberry ensemble.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alaska Day 1

We arrived in Juneau on Sunday flying from Cleveland to Juneau. The goal of the trip is to work with the AYLS youth group of Kake Alaska (formerly known as TRAYLS) coring trees with both the Wooster group of faculty, staff and students and AYLS learning more about the forests of Southeast, Alaska. Lilly took a great picture of the dock on Auke Lake just down from our lodging at the University of Alaska Southeast campus. We spend two nights in Juneau getting staged for our trip south.

Our first full day was a break-in hike up the Thunder Ridge trail.

It was slow going at first – we took a few cores on the way sampling mountain hemlocks along the way to keep in shape.

Fred and Lilly led the way.

There was an endless up hill.

Tuesday was a travel day – we took a short hour flight from Juneau to Kake to meet up with the AYLS group in Kake (more to come).

Kake from the air – another day of brilliant sunshine on the water.

Irises grace the area around the lower Mendenhall River in Juneau.

 

 

 

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Reflecting on the Earth Sciences Department’s Community Climate Change (CCC) Project

Editor’s note: The following is by Caitlyn Denes (’23).

The Community Climate Change Project sought to document the changes in climate in Wooster, Ohio and surrounding communities. Through the collection, analysis, and interpretation of climatological data, we summarized our findings and developed recommendations to improve the resiliency of the community in the face of climate change. Having served a wide variety of local clients, we are hopeful that our findings will educate community members and foster strong connections with community partners.”

When a group of rising sophomores entered Scovel 116 on May 16th, I do not think they realized how much they would grow as students, researchers, and as people. Tasked with researching the dynamic interactions between climate variability and the local community, the CCC Team had their work cut out for them from the beginning of their AMRE project. As a peer advisor to the work that was completed, I watched our group come together to form an effective, successful, dynamic research team in just six weeks. Supervised by Dr. Pollock and Dr. Wiles, our team encountered some great experiences. It is impossible to cram six weeks of research and field experience into just one post, so here are just some of the highlights!

From left to right: Front- Kelvin Ansah, Skylar Barnett, Tyrell Cooper, and Desiree Smith; Back-Caitlyn Denes.

Week One-  Introduction to AMRE

This group deserves a shout-out for maintaining a great work ethic for the entire first week! The first week of AMRE is usually an adjustment period, as 40-hour workweeks can be a bit draining. Despite the lingering end-of-semester fatigue and introductory AMRE events, the group made great progress. To prepare for an upcoming tree-core gathering trip to Secrest Arboretum, Dr. Wiles demonstrated the tree coring process on trees just outside the doors of Scovel. For two group members, this was the first time they had ever cored a tree, so we made sure to document the momentous occasion! We then took the samples to the basement to practice mounting and sanding the cores—a skill that would come in handy later on!

Skylar records the conditions in a field notebook as the others prepare to core.

Having covered the basics of tree coring on campus, the group set off for Secrest Arboretum (SA) the following afternoon. The goal of the trip was to collect tree cores from a plot of White Oak trees. Native to Northeast Ohio, White Oaks are considered a keystone species, recognized for their role in supporting the ecosystem. Additionally, they put on a reliable annual ring, making them excellent indicators of climatic change over time, specifically regarding precipitation and temperature changes. Joined by tree coring experts Fred Zhao and Jerry Fu, a total of 20 cores were taken from the White Oak plot, allowing the team to develop a chronology that could then be correlated with local climatological changes. The group also collected soil cores that were sent off to the OARDC for analysis to determine their carbon sequestration potential.

Despite the thick vines of poison ivy surrounding the trees, Skylar and Desiree plot the coordinates of a White Oak in their field notebooks as Tyrell begins coring.

Kelvin and Jerry hard at work plotting the tree’s location

Week Two- Rings, Rings, and More Rings!

With the SA White Oak cores back in Scovel, carefully mounted and sanded, the hard work could begin. Supervised by Dr. Wiles, Fred, and Jerry, the team got to work cross dating the samples in the Tree Ring Lab. While learning to use the measuring software was tricky at times, the team successfully created a chronology from the SA cores.

Kelvin and Tyrell pondering over significant correlations between tree cores

To take a break from all of the ring counting, measuring, and analyzing, the group was joined by the rest of Scovel’s summer student employees for a Wilderness First Aid training course. After this course, we learned basic first aid techniques and strategies to provide aid in the case of a medical emergency in the field.

As Dr. Pollock’s Instagram post illustrates, we were prepared to handle any emergency in the field, such as venomous snake bites, broken legs, and CPR

With a tree ring chronology successfully created, the team had a great figure to include in their first internal presentation. Joined by several other AMRE groups, the team presented their initial findings and goals moving forward. After the success of the morning’s presentation, Dr. Wiles led the group on a field trip to the L.C. Boles Golf Course to look at ancient soils and collect cores for analysis at the OARDC.

Despite the cloudy skies, the group set off, only to quickly become victims of a total downpour. Sheltered by the trees, Dr. Wiles, Fred, and Tyrell worked to dig a pit, exposing the parent material. In the meantime, Desiree, Skylar, Kelvin, and Jerry took a collection of soil core samples that would also be sent to the OARDC for analysis. After a check of the radar, it looked like the rain was not letting up, so we left the site.

Tyrell and I documenting a very soggy field trip to the golf course!

Week 3- Fieldtrips, Climatological Analyses and More Fun!

After collecting soil samples at two different plots, the team started the week with a trip to the STAR Lab at the OARDC. Lab manager Sunny Park led us on a tour, showing us the equipment used to test water, soil, and other types of samples. It was very cool to see the machines that would be testing the soil samples that we collected, and the students asked very insightful questions about laboratory operations.

With a tree ring chronology created, the group received a crash-course in KNMI Climate Explorer, a software used to correlate climatological variables. The group was able to correlate their white oak chronology with local precipitation and temperature records, which yielded promising results. With help from Dr. Wiles and myself, the group was able to interpret what the climate variability in Wooster was doing to the white oak species. After this, the group developed graphics that would then be used in their AMRE presentation at the end of the week.

To learn more about white oaks in the urban setting, the group was prepared to take a mid-week trip to Cleveland. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled at the last minute, so we decided to visit a few local sites to make the most of the day. Our first stop was the spring house at Kinney Fields, where Dr. Wiles educated us about the complexities of groundwater and how it is impacted by human activity. After gathering a water sample for isotopic analysis, we discussed debris flows and how they shaped the landscape near the spring house. With our newfound knowledge, we traveled to Grosjean Park to learn about stream gauging. Under Nick’s instruction, the group practiced using instruments that measured flow velocity and depth across a section of the Apple Creek. The group finished out the week by working with Climate Explorer and started drafting a report about the climate response of the Secrest white oaks. After another excellent AMRE internal presentation, we could see how far this group of students had come in just three short weeks!

The group observes the aftermath of Desiree sinking in some debris-flow mud near the spring house.

Tyrell, Skylar, and Desiree watch as Nick instructs on how to measure flow velocity.

Week 4- Trout Unlimited Stream Survey, Report Writing, and Tionesta Preparations

After Friday’s jaunt to Apple Creek, the group found themselves back at Grosjean Park. This time, they joined representatives of Trout Unlimited to conduct a macroinvertebrate survey. The goal of the survey was to determine the overall health of the stream, which was also completed by last year’s AMRE group. After spending the morning working with the folks from Trout Unlimited, the group had a good understanding of stream monitoring and the role in plays in the preservation of bodies of water like Apple Creek.

The AMRE group, joined by Fred and Jerry for the day, take part in the stream survey.

With the help of Trout Unlimited and its volunteers, a successful stream survey took place. Based on the macroinvertebrates found on this day, the stream health was determined to be “excellent.”

After Monday’s trip to Apple Creek, the group continued to make progress on a report detailing the climate response of white oaks in Secrest Arboretum. For some students, this was their first time writing a technical report, so we were sure to provide lots of feedback and suggestions during the drafting process. In doing so, the group developed a template that could be used when examining white oaks elsewhere. This was of great help later on, as they looked at the climatic response of two other white oak plots—Wooster Memorial Park and Johnson Woods. With the tree ring chronologies already developed for these two locations, reports could be written without even traveling to the sites. The group’s efficiency was impressive to see as they drafted these reports with ease. At the same time, preparations for an upcoming camping trip to Tionesta, Pennsylvania were well underway.

By end of the week, the group was eager to leave for their Sunday-Monday overnight trip to Tionesta. After gathering enough gear and supplies for the excursion, excitement was high.

After making sure all the tents were in working condition, Tyrell decided to do some quality control (or was it napping on the job?)

As the resident Pennsylvanian of the group, I created a PowerPoint presentation to inform the group about the wonderful things the Keystone State has to offer. Topics included: state geography, flora and fauna, notable natural and man-made disasters, famous Pennsylvanians, culinary delicacies, and more! With a 7:30 AM departure planned for Sunday morning, the group was eager to set off on a great adventure.

Week 5- Tionesta, Client Meeting, Report Writing, and More!

Unfortunately, I was unable to join the group on the Trip to Tionesta. That being said, it is only right to include the thoughts of the students regarding their experiences with some of the greatest minds in the field of dendrochronology, including none other than Mr. Ed Cook.

Here is what the students had to say:

Desiree Smith: “The trip to Tionesta was a really great experience for me. With interest in going into this field later in life, it was great to be able to talk to and work with professionals in the field (outside of my own organization). I also loved having the opportunity to interact with my team in a more casual sense, having fun and going on little adventures together around the campsite was great and made for lots of great laughs. I learned a lot while we were out there and if I had the chance, I’d definitely go back again!”

 Tyrell Cooper: Our trip to the Allegheny National Forest was very successful in meeting professionals and working with them in the field. I was able to get a sneak peek into my future career with this opportunity and I am glad to say that I am ready for what’s to come.”

 Kelvin Ansah: On the second day of our trip, we journeyed from the campgrounds to The Allegheny National Forest to core trees at a particular site. As we walked into the forest, we witnessed many fallen trees and large swampy patches of land. We separated into two groups to core White Oak trees and Cherry trees before meeting up at our starting point.”

Skylar Barnett: “Though I am not planning on pursuing a career in Earth Sciences, this trip provided a unique opportunity to interact with pioneers in the field which was eye-opening and enjoyable. It was inspiring to see how passionate everyone was about caring for the environment, and lovely to experience the eagerness of everyone to learn about each other’s research, from the undergraduates to industry professional.”

Kelvin and Tyrell take in the sights of the reservoir near the campsite.

Desiree, Dr. Wiles, Fred, and Laura (a PhD candidate from Harvard Forest) take in the sights of the forest.

Wooster Earth Sciences takes on Allegheny National Forest!

After returning from the Tionesta trip, the group got back to work on their white oak reports. Looking at the results of three different white oak analyses, it was clear that each site was positively correlated with the increasing precipitation and negatively correlated with the rising temperatures observed in Wooster. With these promising results, it was decided that that the group’s findings needed to be shared with the science community. The group spent the remainder of the week drafting an abstract to be submitted to the American Geophysical Union’s 2022 Fall Meeting.

Midweek, we met with Tate Emerson, the executive director of the Killbuck Watershed Land Trust. It was a great opportunity for the students to develop their professional skills and expand their networks. Our conversation was useful in many respects, but most importantly, it established the need for updated, easy-to-understand information about climate change in the Wooster area. Tate though that being able to hand a brochure to landowners about the downfalls of climate change would be a useful outreach tool. After this meeting, it was decided that a “Climate Change in Wayne County, Ohio” brochure would be added to the list of project deliverables.

As the project was winding down and two new deliverable ideas were introduced, there was a lot of uncertainty looming in Scovel 116. Was it possible to accomplish all that they wanted to do? Could they realistically turn out an abstract and brochure in addition to the required AMRE deliverables in the time remaining? At this point, I observed some of the best collaboration among the team. Having realized that active collaboration and assignment of tasks was a necessary step in completing the to-do list, the students quickly organized themselves into teams. Skylar and Desiree took charge of drafting/editing the abstract and working on some of the AMRE deliverables, whereas Tyrell and Kelvin oversaw the development of the brochure. Once the workload was divided, it did not seem as daunting, and the groups started work in their respective areas. With constant feedback from Dr. Pollock, Dr. Wiles, and myself, great progress was being made. By the end of the week, it was clear that the students had adapted to the change in the workload and were on track to finish all deliverables by June 24th.

Week 6- The End is Near!

At our daily check-in on Monday, it was hard to believe six weeks had passed since the beginning of the project. After a brief review of the week’s goals, the students set off to accomplish their remaining tasks. They approached these tasks with such enthusiasm and illustrated the productivity that can only be created by group collaboration. As our time together wound down, we took time to reflect on our experiences over the project. Despite data collection, analysis, and interpretation being pillars of the program, it was equally important to consider the personal and professional development that our AMRE Associates experienced. We talked about updating our résumés to reflect this growth, as well as how to describe this project to potential employers. To finish out the week, the team delivered their final presentation to the other AMRE groups and worked on their abstract/the submission process and their poster.

As we spent one final lunch hour together (with some yummy food from Spoon Market), it was great to reflect on the experiences we shared as a team. It was bittersweet to say goodbye, but I am sure that this was a memorable experience for all our group members.

As for me, I am grateful to Dr. Pollock and Dr. Wiles for the opportunity to be a peer advisor to this project. I enjoyed my time working with these students, helping them grow not only as geoscientists, but also as researchers and aspiring professionals. This AMRE team made amazing progress and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for them all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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