Editor’s note: Senior Independent Study (I.S.) is a year-long program at The College of Wooster in which each student completes a research project and thesis with a faculty mentor. We particularly enjoy I.S. in the Geology Department because there are so many cool things to do for both the faculty advisor and the student. We are now posting abstracts of each study as they become available. The following was written by Micah Risacher, a senior geology major from Columbus, Ohio. Here is a link to Micah’s final PowerPoint presentation on this project as a movie file (which can be paused at any point). You can see earlier blog posts from Micah’s field work by clicking the Israel tag to the right.
In the summer of 2011 Wooster geologists Mark Wilson, Andrew Retzler, and I went to the Negev Desert in southern Israel. We were met by a colleague from England, Stewart Chubb as well as our guide and host Yoav Avni of the Geological Survey of Israel. The small town of Mitzpe Ramon on the edge of the Makhtesh Ramon (Figure 1) would serve as our home for the next two weeks as we explored the Ramon structure.
My research includes the Zichor Formation which can be found throughout the Makhtesh Ramon structure. However I focused on three separate locations known as the northern, southern, and western locations. Each location had different features exposed, the southern location (Figure 2) exposed the Zichor very well, yet it was quite hard to get at it.
The purpose of my I.S. was to determine the paleoenvironment of this particular formation (Zichor) using the paleontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy seen in the field/lab. I found many well preserved echinoids (not destroyed by churning waters), Thalassinoides trace fossils, high mud content and shell fragments in the lithology, as well as several minor regression/transgression cycles. All of these point to a primarily shallow marine environment that would slightly deepen once or twice before shallowing again.
The echinoids (Figure 3) found were so well preserved that they could be identified down to the species level and greatly helped to correlate this assemblage with others like it around the world during that time. This process both helps to verify my results as well as put my sites in perspective with similar ones around the world. Hopefully, this study will go a ways into settling the current dispute as to whether or not this region was a shallow or deep sea environment during the Late Cretaceous.
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