Archive for November, 2012

Geology Heads to Melrose Elementary

November 29th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO — A “Volcano Team” headed to Melrose Elementary this week for an afternoon of fun with Marge Forbush’s 4th grade class. It was our annual fall trip to her classroom, and our task was to discuss the various geologic processes associated with volcanoes. The 4th grade students had already studied plate tectonics and volcanoes, so they were experts on the volcabulary, such as “Ring of Fire”, “magma chamber”, and “Pompeii”. Before Thanksgiving, they had even built active volcanoes in the classroom.

Our goal was to bring pounds and pounds of volcanic rock to show the students, so that they could see basalt, volcanic bombs, obsidian, pumice, tuff, and several intrusive rocks (granite and gabbro). Wooster students in the department each were in charge of specific stations around the classroom, and the 4th graders migrated between stations. Here’s a look at some of our Wooster students hard at work:

Lauren Vargo (’13) is a Wooster veteran of community outreach, having gone with both Greg Wiles and myself to several elementary schools in Wooster (Cornerstone, Melrose, and formerly Wayne).  She was in charge of discussing the impact of contact metamorphism with the students, and she had numerous metamorphic rocks on hand.

Matt Peppers (’13) seemed to field some of the most unusual questions of the day.  Here he is showing the 4th graders several different types of intrusive igneous rocks, along with the minerals in each rock.  Some of the students in Matt’s group are destined to become geologists, because they already could identify the minerals from their own “rock collections” at home.

Adam Silverstein (’16) was in charge of one of the more fun stations:  volcanic bombs!!  He used some of his knowledge from Meagen Pollock’s Natural Hazards course in order to talk to the students about hazards during a volcanic eruption.  As you can imagine, everyone liked to pick up the volcanic bombs, some of which were collected in the Black Rock Desert, Utah.

Another member of Wooster’s Natural Hazards course, Kaitlin Starr (’16), was a welcomed volunteer and an old friend.  Kaitlin, who was in charge of the lava flow station, is a Wooster native.  Kaitlin was actually a student of Marge Forbush when she was in the 4th grade, and so she received a round of applause from the students for coming back and visiting her old classroom.

We’ll be back to visit Marge’s classroom again in the spring, but next time our focus will be on fossils.  Stay tuned!!



Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A gumdrop bryozoan (Middle Ordovician of eastern Iowa)

November 25th, 2012

This simple, rounded fossil with tiny holes on its surface is the trepostome bryozoan Prasopora falesi (James, 1884) from the Middle Ordovician Galena Group of eastern Iowa. It was collected with dozens of others on an Independent Study field trip in 2003 with Aaron House (2004). Aaron was studying the paleoecology of these bryozoans; he was especially interested in borings in these calcitic bryozoans called Trypanites.

Part of Aaron’s project involved cutting through these Prasopora colonies to see the borings on the inside. He made acetate peels of polished slabs of the bryozoans, a technique that produces a detailed acetate replica of internal details.
The image above is of one of those acetate peels. You can see the tubular zooecia that contained the original zooids (or individuals) of the bryozoan colony. (They are a series of ellipses because of the angle of the cut and variations in zooecial growth directions.) The black dots are very curious: they are apparently brown bodies, the fossilized remains of the tiny polypides inside the zooecia. These organic remains were replaced by dark minerals and preserved all these 470 million years since.


Anstey, R.L. and Perry, T.G. 1972. Eden Shale bryozoans: a numerical study (Ordovician, Ohio Valley). Michigan State University Publications of the Museum, Paleontological Series, Vol. 1, 80 p.

James, U.P. 1884. Descriptions of four new species of fossils from the Cincinnati Group. The Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History 7: 137-140.

Morrison, S.J. and Anstey, R.L. 1979. Ultrastructure and composition of brown bodies in some Ordovician trepostome bryozoans. Journal of Paleontology 53: 943-949.

Nicholson, H.A. and Etheridge, R., Jr. 1877. On Prasopora Grayae, a new genus and species of Silurian corals. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4:388–392.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A crab from the Pleistocene of northern Australia

November 18th, 2012

Isn’t this amazing preservation? This fossil crab, which we received as a donation a few years ago, is Macrophthalmus latreillei (Desmarest, 1822) from the Pleistocene of northern Australia. It is virtually identical to its modern counterpart of the same species, Latreille’s Sentinel Crab.

M. latreillei has large, stalked eyes. It likes to hide under a layer of sand with its eyes sticking out looking for predators. It is mostly active in the night, burrowing through the sediment collecting deposited organic material. It is found throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The modern crab species M. latreillei was named in 1822 by the French zoologist Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest (1784–1838), shown above. He was a student of two other famous French scientists: Georges Cuvier and Alexandre Brongniart. He was the Professor of Zoology at the École nationale vétérinaire d’Alfort, succeeding the zoologist Pierre André Latreille (1762-1833), for whom he named this crab.
Latreille (above) was a most interesting fellow. He was an entomologist and a specialist in crustaceans. In 1786, when he was 24 years old, he was ordained a priest. This turned out, in hindsight, to be an almost fatal mistake. He was arrested by French revolutionaries in 1794 on suspicion of being a counter-revolutionary monarchist cleric (which he likely was). He was sentenced to deportation to a miserable tropical island prison. Just before he was scheduled to be shipped away, his jailers found him carefully studying a beetle crawling across his grungy cell floor. The authorities thought he had gone crazy in prison, but Latreille announced that the insect was a very rare species. This got back to an expert who confirmed the beetle as Necrobia ruficollis. Other experts then intervened to rescue the perceptive Latreille from prison and a tropical grave. To this day an image of this beetle is engraved on Latreille’s tombstone in Paris. Taxonomy saved a life.


Barnes, R.S.K. 1967. The Macrophthalminae of Australia, with a review of the evolution and morphological diversity of the type genus Macrophthalmus (Crustacea: Brachyura). Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 31: 195-262.

Dupuis, C. 1974. Pierre André Latreille  (1762-1833): the foremost entomologist of his time. Annual Review of Entomology 1974: 1-13.

Wooster Geologists on Camera — Spotlight on Dendrochronology

November 16th, 2012

WOOSTER, OHIO–Greg Wiles and members of his crack dendrochronology team from our tree-ring laboratory are being filmed today for a PBS program called “Our Ohio“. It is great fun watching the TV crew setting up their equipment, and our faculty, staff and students getting ready for their close-ups. We thought you might like to see a few pictures of the process. In the image above you see Greg thoughtfully listening to instructions from the field producer.

Here’s a closer view of the camera set-up, including a small monitor that shows exactly what the camera sees.

Jenn Horton (’13), looking stylish and Wooster-branded, is talking to the film crew as they set up the dendrochronology lab with lights. Tree-ring lab veterans know this room well! (I think it looks a little cleaner than usual.)

Greg Wiles and our ace technician Nick Wiesenberg at one of the dendrochronology stations prior to filming. Nick had just dated a particular barn in question as having been built in — spoiler alert! — 1845. A preliminary date, Greg quickly adds.

The TV crew van parked outside Scovel Hall this morning, greatly enhancing our departmental prestige on campus. (Everyone knows, after all, they didn’t come here to interview philosophers.)

We hope to have more photos later of the outdoor filming. Well done, Wooster dendrochronologists!

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A new crinoid species from the Middle Jurassic of southern Israel

November 11th, 2012

About a year ago I showed my good friend Bill Ausich (The Ohio State University) hundreds of crinoid pieces from the Matmor Formation (Jurassic, Callovian) exposed in Hamakhtesh Hagadol, southern Israel. We knew the crinoid represented by all these pieces belonged to the genus Apiocrinites Miller, 1821, but we could not place the species. Bill, crinoid genius that he is, then figured out this was a new species. We now have the pleasure of introducing Apiocrinites negevensis Ausich & Wilson, 2012.

This species of Apiocrinites, the first described from Jurassic tropical latitudes, is distinguished by features in its calyx (or crown or head). A. negevensis has a narrow radial facet and adjacent arms are not in lateral contact. It also has large aboral cup plates. (And it is gorgeous.) In the above image from Figure 1 of our paper, the A. negevensis holotype is shown as 1-3; 1 is a lateral view, radial plate missing from either side of the single preserved radial plate; 2, radial facet; 3, inside of cup with cavity extending to proximale; 4, a partial cup with proximale, one complete and one broken basal plates, and one broken radial plate (note numerous barnacle borings, Rogerella Saint-Seine, 1951, on this specimen).

A holdfast of Apiocrinites negevensis that was attached to the underside of a coral. (From Figure 1 of Ausich and Wilson, 2012.)

Apiocrinites negevensis parts in the  field (Matmor Formation, Hamakhtesh Hagadol, southern Israel). See this post for a discussion of our fieldwork.

The taxonomic category we know as the Crinoidea was established in 1821 by J.S. Miller, who separated the stalked echinoderms from all the others. At the same time he erected the genus Apiocrinites.

Cover of Miller’s 1821 book describing the crinoids, including the new Apiocrinites.

Miller’s (1821) illustrations of Apiocrinites.


Ausich, W.I. and Wilson, M.A. 2012. New Tethyan Apiocrinitidae (Crinoidea; Articulata) from the Jurassic of Israel. Journal of Paleontology 86: 1051-1055.

Feldman, H.R. and Brett, C.E. 1998. Epi- and endobiontic organisms on Late Jurassic crinoid columns from the Negev Desert, Israel: Implications for co-evolution. Lethaia 31: 57-71.

Miller, J.S. 1821. A natural history of the Crinoidea or lily-shaped animals, with observation on the genera Asterias, Euryale, Comatula, and Marsupites. Bryan & Co, Bristol, 150 pp.

Wilson, M.A., Feldman, H.R. and Krivicich, E.B. 2010. Bioerosion in an equatorial Middle Jurassic coral-sponge reef community (Callovian, Matmor Formation, southern Israel). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 289: 93-101.

Wilson, M.A., Feldman, H.R., Bowen, J.C. and Avni, J. 2008. A new equatorial, very shallow marine sclerozoan fauna from the Middle Jurassic (late Callovian) of southern Israel. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 263: 24-29.

Enhancing undergraduate research with social media: the last presentation by a Wooster Geologist at GSA 2012

November 7th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–Our very last presentation at the 2012 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America was by Professor Meagen Pollock. She is shown above in an iPhone photograph near the middle of her talk about the educational and research value of social media in a geology undergraduate setting. (You can read her abstract here.) Appropriately, I posted this image on Facebook while she was still talking!

Presenting a Jurassic echinoid story on the last day of GSA 2012

November 7th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–The last day of a scientific meeting is always less frantic. About half the attendees have left for home, the exhibitors start to give away merchandise so they don’t have to ship it home, and the speakers are a bit more relaxed. Meagen Pollock and I had talks on this final day of the Geological Society of America annual meeting. It felt good to finally give them to audiences made up in large part by our friends and students. I am simply presenting here a few of my slides, including the title image above. The story you may have read in bits and pieces in the Israel entries at this blog. Here is our abstract.

Wooster GSA 2012 Poster Take Three

November 6th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC – Five Wooster geologists presented their work on day three of the conference.

Whitney Sims (’13) presented her  IS on the emplacement of lava flows in the Ice Springs Volcanic Field (Team Utah). Here is her abstract.

Anna Mudd (’13) presented her work on a Middle Miocene paleosol from the Powder River Volcanic Field (northeast Oregon). Here is her abstract.

Jenn Horton (’13) answered questions about her study of the glacial history of Adams Inlet in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (southeast Alaska). Here is her abstract.

Lauren Vargo’s (’13) poster described how she used tree rings to understand North Pacific volcanically forced cooling and drought in midwestern North America. Here is her abstract.

Andy Nash (’14) showed how he used tree rings to investigate drought in northeast Ohio. Here is his abstract.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, when we’ll get to see the final two talks and two posters.

Alumni Night at the 2012 Geological Society of America Meeting

November 5th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–Monday evening is the traditional time at GSA when colleges and universities (and field camps and consortia) host gatherings of their alumni and friends. The College of Wooster is always art of the “Group Alumni Reception”, so we get a pole with our name on it in a large ballroom with many other such markers. We always take a photo at 8:00 p.m. to record the moment. (And yes, the lighting is always problematic!) We never get everyone all at once, but this time we were very close. (Compare the above crowd with the Wooster GSA group from 2011. We had a large crowd in 2010. Our earliest alumni photo on the blog is from way back in 2009.)

George Davis (’64), President of the Geological Society of America, regaled our students with stories from his Wooster and graduate school days. It was much fun!

And now, the all-important list of who was there —

Wooster Geology Alumni, Students and Faculty:

Bill Woessner
Andy Horst
Katherine Marenco
John Sime
Kathy Hollis
Richa Ekka
Will Cary
Lauren Vargo
Jonah Novek
Matt Peppers
Tricia Kelley
Stephanie Jarvis
Anna Mudd
George Davis
Melissa Torma
Whitney Sims
Andy Nash
Lindsey Bowman
Kevin Silver
Kit Price
Jenn Horton
David Budd
Lisa Park Boush
Andrew Retzler
Abe Springer
Molly Miller
Mark Wilson
Shelley Judge
Meagen Pollock

Friends of the Wooster Geology Department:

Andrea Koziol
Bob Varga
Pedro Marenco
Merrily Davis
Calvin Miller
Brian Pratt

An overhead view of a GSA poster session

November 5th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–I thought you might like to see a typical GSA poster session from a set of windows above the action. Only half of the poster stands are visible from here, so you get an idea how big these events are.

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