Busy Wooster geology labs this summer

WOOSTER, OHIO–This has been a particularly active summer in Scovel Hall, home of Wooster’s Geology Department. All our fieldwork eventually results in labwork, so our student geologists have been spending quality time with rocksaws, microscopes, computers and x-ray analytical equipment. I thought it might be fun to walk through the building recording the good science going on.

In the above scene, Kit Price (’13) is cutting Late Ordovician limestones containing fossils she collected on our field trip to Indiana last Saturday. Rest assured that she has all the safety equipment for this saw! Her hands are necessarily close to the diamond-studded blade to control the specimen that she cuts. She is trimming matrix away from the fossils so that they are easier to study and store.

Former student Dr. Katherine Nicholson Marenco (’03) visited this summer from Bryn Mawr to continue work on her Independent Study project on Jurassic fossils from southern England. She brought many new ideas to this work, helped us considerably on the Indiana field trip, and even took the time to train us on using Adobe Illustrator software for geological projects. Above she is wrapping up Jurassic specimens for later study in her lab.

Katherine and I plotted out ideas for our work on the English Jurassic fossils with the chalkboard in the paleontology lab. For some reason I find it easier to think with chalk in my hand!

Also in the paleontology lab is Richa Ekka (’13) continuing her work on Silurian specimens we collected on the southeast coast of Saaremaa Island in Estonia last month. She has made certain all her specimens are properly cleaned, sorted and labeled (“sample management”), and has now started on thin-sections and sedimentological analysis.

Tricia Hall (’14) was part of Team Utah earlier this summer. Now she is working on basalt specimens in the fancy new x-ray analytical lab set up by Dr. Meagen Pollock.

The coolest thing she is doing (well, the hottest, actually) is producing glass “beads” of powdered rock and flux by melting the mixture in an automatic spinning furnace that heats up to more than 1000°C. These beads are then used in the x-ray fluorescence spectrometer for elemental analysis. Above you can see the glowing orange puddle of artificial lava as it cools after being poured from the furnace.

The dendrochronology lab of Dr. Greg Wiles is as busy as ever this summer. The students there are measuring tree ring widths for a variety of projects, including the Independent Study projects of Jenn Horton (’13; above) and Lauren Vargo (’13; below) based on work they did in Alaska this June.

Will Cary (’13) is also working in the dendrochronology lab this summer. His Independent Study involves the ballistics of volcanic bombs in Utah, but he’s spending some time as a digital image expert for Dr. Wiles.

Andy Nash (’14) has been measuring tree-ring widths and doing a little coring for Dr. Wiles this summer. He may miss the quiet days in this air-conditioned lab when he starts two-a-day practices for the football team in ten days.

Nick Wiesenberg has been working in the dendrochronology lab for a long time now. He has an intuitive feel for wood. Here he shows the device for calculating tree ring widths by precisely moving them under a microscope set up with a measuring device.

During all this labwork, our two main Scovel lecture rooms are being extensively renovated to give us a fresh beginning with our fall semester courses that begin in less than a month. It can be a bit hectic, all this activity, but our Administrative Coordinator Patrice Reeder is keeping it all under control. It is refreshing to see such happy enthusiasm for the geological sciences.


About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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4 Responses to Busy Wooster geology labs this summer

  1. Joanna Scheffler '80 says:

    Hi Mark,
    I’ve been enjoying seeing what’s up with Woo Geo via these posts! It certainly seems like the department is livelier in the summer now–we took off for field camp and IS projects and didn’t resurface until fall! Looking at this post I have to ask: is that the same rock saw that was around when I was at Wooster? After all, it’s not like rock saw technology has changed a lot since then, unlike everything else.

    On another thought, I’ve seen a few reports lately on seismicity in Ohio as a possible result of fracking disposal wells. I think the USGS (?maybe?) and others (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/seismologists-link-ohio-earthquakes-waste-disposal-wells) are keeping an eye on these events. Sounds like someone could get an IS or two out of that. Just a thought. My compliments to you and the department on the calibre of IS studies the newsletter has reported over the last few years!

    I look forward to more of your posts!

  2. Suvrat says:

    Mark- the picture of your student Kit Price cutting Late Ordovician limestones really brought back a lot of memories for me. I cut and made around 400 thin sections of mid and late Ordovician limestones from the southern Appalachians of Alabama and northern Georgia for my PhD work on diagenesis at Florida State.

    I wonder if you would share this post with your students? It gives a good idea of what is inside these late Ordovician limestones in my study area.. beautiful calcite cements that tell a story of sea level change and diagenesis.



  3. Mark Wilson says:

    Hello Joanna: Very good to hear from you! Thank you for your kind note. That saw is exactly the same design, and maybe brand, as the one we used many years ago, but it was purchased in the 90s. You’ll note another change from our days: Kit has a wall and door to the left of her. The sawroom is divided into two rooms now to limit dust and noise.

    We are watching the earthquakes/disposal wells issue with interest. Maybe indeed it could generate an I.S. or two.

    Thanks again!!

  4. Mark Wilson says:

    Hello Suvrat: I’m happy to share that great limestone petrography post. It is also a good introduction to cathodoluminescence. I also made several hundred limestone thin-sections for my dissertation (on Carboniferous paleoecology and paleoenvironments in southern Nevada). I know the pain … and joys! Thanks!

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