Archive for July, 2016

Team Minnesota finishes its work (in Iowa, funny enough)

July 31st, 2016

1 Decorah outcrop 073116Rochester, Minnesota — We returned to Decorah, Iowa, today to measure and sample the Decorah Shale (Upper Ordovician) in its type locality. It was much drier here than on our last attempt! Above is the gray Decorah Shale topped by the brown Cummingsville Formation.

2 Dean sampling 073116We started below the quarry exposure along the road to get the top of the Platteville Formation. This is the main locality for Dean Thomas (above) who is sampling these three units for conodonts and their associated carbonate petrographic facies. You may see tiny red ribbons on the outcrop that mark where we removed small blocks of limestone for lab analysis back in Wooster.

3 Decorah sampledHere are some of Dean’s sampled strata in the Decorah. He also collected a few samples from the base of the overlying Cummingsville.

4 Etienne collecting 073116While Dean measured section and took samples, Etienne Fang (pictured), Rachel Wetzel and Nikki Bell worked through the Decorah Shale collecting fossils, with special concentration on the beautiful “gumdrop” bryozoan Prasopora.

5 Minnesota lunch 073116It was a sunny day, so we took shade where we could find it!

6 Cummingsville blocksAt the end of the day we explored the richly-fossiliferous Cummingsville in blocks fallen from the face of the old quarry wall.

7 Traces and brachsThe Cummingsville is rich with both body fossils (brachiopods, crinoids, gastropods, bryozoans, especially) and trace fossils. A future Senior IS project?

8 Team Minnesota signTeam Minnesota has now completed its fieldwork! From the left, Etienne Fang (Bethesda, Maryland), Nikki Bell (Santa Monica, California), Rachel Wetzel (Sewickley, Pennsylvania) and Dean Thomas (Montpelier, Virginia). These students did fine work, setting themselves up for several months of lab analyses back in Wooster. I’m proud of this group!

We still have a couple of days in Minnesota before the students fly to their homes and Nick Wiesenberg and I make the long drive back to Wooster with our samples and equipment. We plan to see the geological and historical sights within range of Rochester, which will, of course, be duly reported here.

Paleontological fieldwork in southeastern Minnesota

July 30th, 2016

1 Nikki brachs 073016Rochester, Minnesota — It was a good day for fossil collecting on the Minnesota prairie. Above you see a handful of articulated orthid brachiopods collected by Nikki Bell at a quarry exposure near Rochester.

2 Shop Quarry 073016 This quarry has long been abandoned and is quickly reverting back to woodlands except for the steepest parts of the old walls. The grey streak visible through the trees is our site where the Decorah Shale is exposed.

3 Shop Quarry 073016 closeAs usual, we worked on steep slopes with plenty of foliage. The fossils, though, were easy to find.

4 HCS at Shop QuarryThe shale has thin limestone beds penetrated thoroughly by the trace fossils Chondrites (the small holes visible in the slab above). This particular rock shows hummocky cross-stratification on its top surface (the dips and ridges), almost certainly an indication it was deposited during an Ordovician storm.

6 Rachel 073016Rachel Wetzel (Pennsylvania) is working with the fossils from this quarry and our other Decorah outcrops to put together a general paleoecological reconstruction and then explore in detail the bryozoans. She is particularly adept at effortlessly clinging to steep slopes!

5 Nikki 073016Nikki Bell (California) is working on the Decorah fossils with Rachel. Her specialty will be the brachiopods.

7 Etienne 073016Etienne Fang (Maryland) is studying the “iron ooids” found in the Decorah Shale at this quarry and several other sites.

8 Dean 073016Dean Thomas (Virginia) will be assessing the carbonate petrology and conodonts of the Decorah Shale, along with the underlying Platteville and overlying Cummingsville Formations. His main outcrop will be in Iowa, but he’s also collecting limestone specimens within the Decorah at other locations for biostratigraphic correlation. All four student projects are integrated, with the whole team collecting data and samples for each individual project.

9 Nick 073016Our superb geological technician Nick Wiesenberg has also been collecting fossils for us.

10 Lunch 073016A typical lunch in the woods for us. We’ve had surprisingly few mosquitoes, and very patchy interactions with parasites. Dean is a tick magnet, and I’ve been badly chiggered!

11 Golden Hill 073016Our last stop of the day was the annoying Golden Hill roadcut (N 43.98788°, W 92.47962°). It is next to an off-ramp of US 52/63 so we have to reach it by descending through a bouldery, overgrown culvert from above. The students did their jobs, though, and did good sampling.

12 Wild Parsnip bushThis spindly green bush is wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), a plant we’re careful to avoid despite its abundance in some very inconvenient places. It is often referred to as poison parsnip for good reasons. These plants contain “furocoumarins, chemicals that when combined with skin and ultraviolet light can cause what’s known as a phytophotodermatitis”. You have to contact the sap of the plant and then be exposed to the sun, so brushing against it is not a problem. We worry about grabbing a stalk and breaking it in our hands while clinging to slippery slopes.

13 Wild parsnip closeHere’s a closer view of the wild parsnip. We also deal with poison ivy, stinging nettles, thistles and other sticker bushes. Sometimes I miss my desert fieldwork!

14 Yellow flower 073016Of course, most plants here are benign and often beautiful. These yellow flowers were abundant today at our first quarry. I suspect this is Lotus corniculatus (Birds-foot Trefoil). Unfortunately the description of this flower says, “This is a terrible pest plant …”

It was a successful day for Team Minnesota, especially since we were able to end our work just before a bout of thunderstorms. Tomorrow we return to Iowa, which we hope will be much drier than it was yesterday.


The work begins

July 29th, 2016

1 Wangs Corner 072916Rochester, Minnesota — Today we started collecting specimens and data for the Team Minnesota student Independent Study projects. We began with a long drive south to Decorah, Iowa, to measure a thick section of our Upper Ordovician target units at the Decorah-Bruening Quarry (N 43.29036°, W 91.76558°), but a patch of persistent and heavy rain lingered over the area all morning. We gave up and headed back north to the Rochester, Minnesota, region, where it was dry and sunny. Our first stop was at Wangs Corner (N 44.41047°, W 92.98338°) to collect fossils from the Decorah Formation for a taxonomic and paleoecological assessment. Rachel Wetzel and Nikki Bell are the Team Paleontologists for this work.

Wangs signWangs is a little crossroads in this part of the Minnesota prairie. (Photo by Nick Wiesenberg.)

2 Dean on WangsDean Thomas has a role at this outcrop as well. He will be doing a conodont biostratigraphy and paleoenvironmental study of the Decorah and units above and below. At Wang’s Corner he found a thin biosparite bed in the midst of the calcareous shale that he can use to help stratigraphically position this section of the Decorah, which has no visible upper or lower contacts.

3 Wangs carbonate bedThis bed is a beautiful nearly pure, coarse, well-cemented biosparite/grainstone in contrast to the argillaceous beds above and below. The orange patches in the top of the rock are burrows (likely Thalassinoides) filled with sediment from above. The traditional interpretation of these units is that they were formed by storms. Why they are so clay-poor is a mystery.

4 Turkey Run 072916Our last stop was the Turkey Run locality (N 44.38441°, W 92.91199°). Here the Decorah Formation is just barely exposed through the weeds. The students gamely collected fossils as the bright sun made us forget the disappointing morning rain.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A new Late Ordovician bryozoan from Oklahoma

July 29th, 2016

1 Color brach Zigzagopora encrustedI am very pleased to introduce a new bryozoan genus and species recently described in the First View section of the Journal of Paleontology. Paul Taylor (Natural History Museum, London) and I present: “A new runner-like cyclostome bryozoan from the Bromide Formation (Sandbian, Upper Ordovician) of Oklahoma and its phylogenetic affinities”. The bryozoan is shown above encrusting the interior of an orthid brachiopod identified as Multicostella sulcata (thanks, Alycia Stigall!) in the Lower Echinoderm Zone of the Mountain Lake Member of the Bromide Formation near Fittstown, Oklahoma. We are particularly proud of its new scientific name. Here’s the abstract:

Zigzagopora wigleyensis n. gen. n. sp. is an Upper Ordovician (Sandbian, early Caradoc) cyclostome bryozoan from the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, USA. It has runner-type colonies characterized by a mostly uniserial, geniculate arrangement of monomorphic zooids that bud alternately left and right, producing a zig-zag pattern of growth. This new genus has calcified interior walls and non-pseudoporous exterior walls. It is thus most likely affiliated with the paleotubuliporine Family Sagenellidae, despite superficial similarities with the corynotrypid cyclostomes with which it co-occurs.”

You’ve got to love a job where you can coin a name like Zigzagopora wigleyensis. The fortuitous species name, by the way, refers to the Wigley Quarry in Oklahoma (below).

Slide08_052815Here is a pictorial guide to Zigzagopora wigleyensis, featuring Paul’s excellent Scanning Electron Microscope images:
2 Good zigs 0p20This is what we mean by a “uniserial, geniculate arrangement of monomorphic zooids that bud alternately left and right”. The zooids are the little skeletal tubes, each of which housed an individual bryozoan connected by soft tissue to the rest of the colony. Uniserial means that most series of zooids have just one branching from another. Geniculate means “bent abruptly” like a knee joint. Monomorphic refers to the shape of each zooid being about the same. The scale bar is 0.20 mm.

3 Zig zooid shape 0p10

It is this zig-zag shape that makes Zigzagopora distinctive. Scale bar is 0.10 mm.

4 Zig over Cory 0p20The abstract ends with “… superficial similarities with the corynotrypid cyclostomes with which it co-occurs.” In this scene Zigzagopora (Z) has overgrown a branch of the encrusting cyclostome bryozoan Corynotrypa (C). These bryozoans are obviously similar, but the geniculate (our new word!) nature of Zigzagopora sets it apart. This is significant beyond just the shape of the colony: it indicates a different kind of budding of one zooid from another. The scale bar is 0.20 mm.

5 Ancestrula Zig 0p06All bryozoans start from an initial zooid called the ancestrula. It is not always easy to find, but is critical for identification and systematics. The arrow points to the protoecium, the first chamber. The scale bar is 0.06 mm.

6 Pore in zooecium 0p03Inside a broken zooid we can see an interior wall surface and a tiny pore. Really tiny. This is likely an interzooidal pore connecting the soft parts of the zooids. Scale bar is 0.03 mm.

7 Extended zig 0p60Here, then, is Zigzagopora wigleyensis, new to science. It is a tiny new piece for the puzzle that is the evolution of cyclostome bryozoans. It is one of countless billions of species in the history of life, but unique nonetheless.


Taylor, P.D. and Wilson, M.A. 1994. Corynotrypa from the Ordovician of North America: colony form in a primitive stenolaemate bryozoan: Journal of Paleontology 68: 241–257.

Wilson, M.A. and Taylor, P.D. 2016. A new runner-like cyclostome bryozoan from the Bromide Formation (Sandbian, Upper Ordovician) of Oklahoma and its phylogenetic affinities. Journal of Paleontology 90: 413-417.

UPDATE: Zigzagopora wigleyensis made the cover!

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Wooster Geologists tramping through the brush of southern Minnesota

July 28th, 2016

1 Shop Quarry 072816Rochester, Minnesota — The middle of the summer is not the best time to do fieldwork in southern Minnesota. The thick and diverse plants make each journey to an abandoned quarry wall or roadcut a jungly adventure. It doesn’t help that some plants, like poison ivy and the abundant wild parsnip, are, shall we say, unfriendly. Ticks, so far, have been uncommon. I nevertheless go to sleep wondering if there is a tick somewhere I haven’t found, and whether that itchy spot means anything …

Today was our last day with our expert guide from the Minnesota Geological Survey (and Wooster Geology alumnus) Andrew Retzler. We visited three locations where the Decorah Formation is exposed. The top image is us on an abandoned slope of a quarry near Rochester.

2 Andrew Retzler Shop QuarryAndrew is enjoying the many fossils in the Decorah at this site. Note the thin carbonate slabs that weather out of the shale.

3 Turkey Run viewTurkey Run was our second site of the day. The Decorah and lower part of the Cummingsville Formation are exposed here. We needed a machete!

4 Turkey Run 072816The students are examining the Decorah shales on the left. Andrew is on the right with his hand on the base of the Cummingsville Formation.

5 Wangs Corner 072816Wang’s Corner was our third and last stop of the day. This exposure of the Decorah was right on the side of the road, making it the easiest outcrop yet. While we worked, Nick Wiesenberg on the left made us delicious salmon and cheese cracker snacks. That was a new field trip experience for me: fine dining while collecting!

6 Team Minnesota 072816Here we are in Hernke’s Rock Quarry with the Shakopee Formation, part of the Prairie du Chien Group (Early Ordovician).

All is thus well with Team Minnesota as Andrew Retzler leaves us and we’re on our own. We have four student projects we’ll outline here over the next few days. The temperatures dropped as a front moved through, so we had a cool, drizzly day. Tomorrow we return to Iowa.


Team Minnesota visits the Upper Ordovician of Iowa

July 27th, 2016

1 Decorah Bruening QuarryRochester, Minnesota — Team Minnesota traveled south today to visit exposures of our three favorite formations: the Platteville Limestone, Decorah Shale, and Cummingsville Limestone. Where best to see the Decorah Shale than in Decorah, Iowa? Above the crew is scattered in the abandoned Decorah Bruening Quarry. They are walkinng on top of the Carimona Member of the Decorah, with the shaley units above topped by the Cummingsville Limestone.

2 Team with Deicke at Decorah BrueningWe began at the bottom with the Platteville and a bit of rare shade. Nikki Bell and Etienne Fang have their hands on the iconic Deicke Bentonite. A very handy time indicator, that volcanic ash deposit.

3 Andrew Decorah Cummingsville contactOur excellent guide Andrew Retzler of the Minnesota Geological Survey is examining the contact between the upper Decorah Shale and Lower Cummingsville Limestone. We found here several specimens of the “gumdrop” bryozoan Prasopora.

4 Rachel CummingsvilleRachel Wetzel gets a bit too close to the crumbly cliff of Cummingsville Limestone at the Decorah Bruening  Quarry.

5 Cummingsville limestoneWhere freshly exposed, the Cummingsville reveals itself to be a fascinating unit with alternating limestone lithologies. The darker layer here is a packstone with fine fossil debris. It is almost certainly a storm deposit.

6 Cummingsville ChondritesThis slab of Cummingsville is covered with beautiful Chondrites trace fossils.

7 Team at Golden HillIn the afternoon we returned to Minnesota and explored a very overgrown exposure of the Decorah Shale at the Golden Hill abandoned quarry along US 52 near Rochester. The main attraction here for us is the abundance of “iron ooids”, small spheres of iron oxides. Etienne Fang is studying their composition and origin for her Independent Study thesis. It’s a steep and muddy slope after a journey through head-high brush, but the bags full of samples made it worthwhile.

8 Golden Hill slabThe fossils here are gorgeous. This is the base of a crinoid calyx surrounded by brachiopod, crinoid and bryozoan debris.

It was a great day of exploration. Tomorrow we examine localities north of Rochester.

Team Minnesota Assembles!

July 26th, 2016

1 Team MN 0772616Rochester, Minnesota — The first Team Minnesota of Wooster Geologists has now gathered for its work in this beautiful state. Above from the left is Rachel Wetzel (’17), Dean Thomas (’17), Nick Wiesenberg (Geological Technician), Nikki Bell (’17) and Etienne Fang (’17). They’ve gathered from five states to pursue integrated Independent Study fieldwork in the Upper Ordovician Decorah Formation and related units. AS you can see, our first day was bright and warm. The team is in front of the headquarters of the Minnesota Geological Survey in St. Paul. It is a very earnest, hardworking place.

2 Platteville Decorah Mississippi GorgeAfter sorting out car rentals, airport arrivals, and our first lunch, we met four geologists from the Minnesota Geological Survey (MGS) and drove to an outcrop a few miles south in St. Paul along the east bank of the Mississippi River. We are looking here at the group exploring the upper portion of the Platteville Limestone and the lower part of the Decorah Shale.

3 All star castThose four geologists from the MGS are an all-star team. They included Tony Ruckel (Chief Geologist and Paleozoic Geologist), Julia Steenberg (Paleozoic Geologist), Jenn Horton (Quaternary Geologist and a Wooster Geology alumna), and Andrew Retzler (Paleozoic Geologist and another Wooster Geology alum). What a great scientific start. We learned much in just a few hours from their experiences with the Decorah Shale and associated units. Andrew will be our guide to the outcrops over the next couple of days.

4 Team MN at work 072616Examining the top of the Platteville Limestone at the Mississippi River Gorge Park site.

5 Dean Deicke Carimona aboveDean’s left hand is in a crevice where the famous Deicke Bentonite is exposed. This is a layer of altered volcanic ash from massive eruptions to the east associated with the Taconic Orogeny. These widespread ash layers make superb time lines in the rock record. Unfortunately we can’t see the actual clay because it was mined out by visiting geologists!

6 Mississippi River 072616The Mississippi River at our first outcrop. The rocks are Platteville Limestone. The Marshall Avenue Bridge is in the background.

7 Minnehaha FallsThe last stop on this brief first day tour was Minnehaha Falls. The rocks exposed are, from the base, the St. Peter Sandstone, the Glenwood Shale, and the Platteville Limestone.

After a delicious dinner in an outdoor restaurant in Minnehaha Park, we drove down to Rochester, which is our base of operations. We enjoyed meeting new friends and getting our first look at the rocks. Tomorrow we begin a systematic survey of the Decorah outcrops in southeastern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

Keck GSA Abstracts

July 25th, 2016

Wooster, OH – The summer portion of the Keck Iceland project is officially over, but our research isn’t finished. We’ll be working together throughout the academic year and will synthesize our final results at the Keck Symposium at Wesleyan University in April 2017. Along the way, we’ll be presenting at GSA in Denver, Colorado. We wrote and submitted 4(!) abstracts based on our work this summer. Here they are:

Cara Lembo ('17, Amherst) stands next to a ridge-parallel dike intruding through a tephra cone. Helgafell, a hyalocastite edifice, is in the distance.

Cara Lembo (’17, Amherst) stands next to a ridge-parallel dike intruding through a tephra cone. Helgafell, a hyalocastite edifice, is in the distance.


HEINEMAN, Rachel1, LEMBO, Cara2, ENGEN, Carl-Lars3, KOCHTITZKY, William4, WALLACE, Chloe5, ORDEN, Michelle4, THOMPSON, Anna C6, KUMPF, Benjamin5, EDWARDS, Benjamin R.4 and POLLOCK, Meagen5, (1)Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 52 West Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074, (2)Department of Geology, Amherst College, 11 Barrett Hill Dr, Amherst, MA 01002, (3)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511, (4)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (5)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (6)Department of Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057,

Undirhlíðar ridge on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland is a glaciovolcanic tindar formed by fissure eruptions under ice. Previous work in two quarries along the ridge shows that this specific tindar has had a complex eruption history. Here we report new results from investigations along the length of the ridge (~3 km) between the quarries. We have identified aerially significant fragmental deposits and a potential vent area on the ridge’s eastern side. The newly mapped tephra deposits are dominated by lapilli- and ash-size grains that are palagonitized to some degree (~20-60%) but locally contain up to ~75% fresh glass. Basal units are tuff breccia to volcanic breccia with basaltic and rare gabbroic lithic clasts. Upper units are finely bedded with few large clasts and some glassy bombs. Locally, lapilli-tuff units show repetitive normally graded bedding and cross bedding. Measured bedding attitudes suggest that present exposures represent a moderately eroded tephra cone that was subsequently intruded by basaltic dikes. Extending north and south of the tephra cone, the upper surface of the ridge comprises pillow rubble with outcrops of massive basalts showing radial jointing and concentric vesicle patterns. All of the outcrops appear to be similar coarse-grained, olivine- and plagioclase-bearing basalts; ongoing petrographic and geochemical analysis will determine if the bodies represent “megapillows” or if they are related to intrusions that are present in both quarries. Along the western side of the ridge, lapilli tuff and/or volcaniclastic diamictites overlie pillow lava (or volcanic breccia made of pillow fragments) that is locally intruded by dikes. In northern gullies, at least two stratigraphically distinct units of pillow lava are present. In order to communicate the implications of our detailed research to a broad audience, we are constructing two “map tours” of the ridge: one that is centered on the abandoned and accessible Undirhlíðar quarry, and another that describes features along the upper part of the ridge between the quarries. Stops along the tour include exposures of dikes, pillow lavas, and erosional alcoves within the tephra cone. The goal of these tours is to compare similar units across the ridge and quarry and to show the general anatomy of a glaciovolcanic ridge.

Rachel Heineman ('17, Oberlin) stands next to a potential "megapillow."

Rachel Heineman (’17, Oberlin) stands next to a potential “megapillow.”

Cross section of a pillow lava, with Michelle Orden's ('17, Dickinson) head for scale.

Cross section of a pillow lava, with Michelle Orden’s (’17, Dickinson) head for scale.


THOMPSON, Anna C1, ORDEN, Michelle2, LEMBO, Cara3, WALLACE, Chloe4, KUMPF, Benjamin4, HEINEMAN, Rachel5, ENGEN, Carl-Lars6, EDWARDS, Ben2, POLLOCK, Meagen4 and KOCHTITZKY, William2, (1)Department of Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (2)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (3)Department of Geology, Amherst College, 11 Barrett Hill Dr, Amherst, MA 01002, (4)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (5)Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 52 West Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074, (6)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511,

Pillow lavas are one of the most abundant lava morphologies on Earth, but are relatively inaccessible because of their submarine or subglacial eruption environments. Our research location in a former rock quarry in southwest Iceland provides a unique opportunity to view cross-sections through well exposed pillow lavas on land. The quarry is located at the northern end of Undirhlíðar, which is a glaciovolcanic ridge on the Krisuvik fissure system, and exposes thousands of individual pillow lavas. This study uses detailed field and laboratory observations of vesicle distributions and jointing patterns to better constrain the mechanisms that control vesiculation, bubble transport, and cooling rates during emplacement of pillow lava. From detailed analysis of >40 exposed pillow cross sections, we have identified 7 fracture characteristics that make up a combination of fracture patterns within the pillow lavas. These characteristics include: short (<5 cm) fractures at the outer edge of a pillow, fractures within pillow cores, fractures between the core and the edge of a pillow, long fractures (up to 40 cm) that go through the entire pillow, ‘web’-like fractures, fractures that branch from other fractures, and curvilinear fractures that cut through bands of vesicles. The distributions of vesicles are more diverse, with at least 12 different patterns defined by characteristics including: concentric banding, moderately/highly vesicular cores, non-vesicular cores, and open cavities. We identified 6 vesicle pattern combinations in the field, and are using image analysis of nearly 50 field photographs to characterize the patterns. These characteristics will constrain physical modeling to better understand how variations in emplacement conditions (abrupt pressure changes, lava discharge rates, water infiltration along fractures) are recorded by the lavas. These pillow lavas are the only lasting record of a preexisting englacial lake presumably formed during the eruption of the lavas, so understanding the details of their textures may provide new insights into the hydrology of the enclosing ice (occurrence of syn-eruption jokulhlaups, efficiency of sub-ice drainage).
Chloe Wallace ('17, Wooster) samples glassy pillow lava rinds for geochemical analysis by XRF and FTIR.

Chloe Wallace (’17, Wooster) samples glassy pillow lava rinds for geochemical analysis by XRF and FTIR.


WALLACE, Chloe1, KUMPF, Benjamin1, HEINEMAN, Rachel2, LEMBO, Cara3, ORDEN, Michelle4, THOMPSON, Anna C5, ENGEN, Carl-Lars6, KOCHTITZKY, William4, POLLOCK, Meagen1, EDWARDS, Ben4and HIATT, Alex1, (1)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (2)Department of Geology, Oberlin College, 52 West Lorain St, Oberlin, OH 44074, (3)Department of Geology, Amherst College, 11 Barrett Hill Drive, Amherst, MA 01002, (4)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (5)Department of Geology, Carleton College, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (6)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511,

Glaciovolcanic tindar ridges are landforms created by the eruption of magma through fissure swarms into ice. The cores of many of these ridges comprise basaltic pillow lava, so they serve an accessible analogue for effusive mid-oceanic ridge volcanism. Furthermore, similar landforms have been identified on Mars, and thus they may also serve as models for planetary volcanic eruptions. To better understand pillow formation and effusive glaciovolcanic eruptions, we are investigating Undirhlíðar ridge, a pillow-dominated tindar on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland. Our detailed mapping and sampling in two rock quarries along the ridge and in the ~3 km area between the quarries show that this specific tindar ridge has had a complex eruption history. In the northern quarry (Undirhlíðar), Pollock et al. (2014) demonstrated that at least two geochemically distinct magma batches have erupted. Further trace element and isotope analyses in the southern quarry (Vatnsskarð) suggest that the ridge is fed by a heterogeneous mantle source. Isotopic Pb data show a spatially systematic linear array, which is consistent with a heterogeneous mantle mixing between depleted and enriched endmembers. The occurrence of multiple magma batches in dikes and irregular intrusions suggests that these structures are important to transporting magma within the volcanic edifice. Glassy pillow rinds were sampled for volatile analysis by FTIR in order to determine how paleo-water pressures vary along the ridge. In Undirhlíðar quarry, paleo-water pressures decrease with stratigraphic height (1.6-0.7 MPa). In Vatnsskarð quarry, paleo-water pressures show evidence of two separate eruptions, where pressure values decrease with an increase in stratigraphic height from 1.1 to 0.7 MPa over ~30 m, at which point pressure resets to 1.1 MPa and continues to decrease with elevation. When comparing the two quarries, paleo-water pressures in the upper units of Undirhlíðar and all the units in Vatnsskarð have similar values (0.7-1.1 MPa), and these are lower than the basal units of Undirhlíðar (1.2-1.6 MPa). Overall, compositional variations correlate with stratigraphy and spatial distribution along axis, suggesting that glaciovolcanic eruptions and their resulting landforms show a higher level of complexity than previously thought.

A view looking NE into Undirhlidar quarry on a moody Icelandic day. (Photo Credit: Ben Edwards)

A view looking NE into Undirhlidar quarry on a moody Icelandic day. (Photo Credit: Ben Edwards)



EDWARDS, Benjamin R.1, POLLOCK, Meagen2, KOCHTITZKY, William1 and ENGEN, Carl-Lars3, (1)Department of Earth Sciences, Dickinson College, 28 N. College Street, Carlisle, PA 17013, (2)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (3)Department of Geology, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Box 777, Beloit, WI 53511,

Documentation of the internal structures of volcanoes are critical for understanding how edifices are built over time, especially for glaciovolcanoes, which have rarely formed historically and are inaccessible during eruptions. We have been unraveling the internal structure of a complex glaciovolcanic ridge (tindar) in southwestern Iceland for the past 5 years in order to better understand the sequence of events that built the ridge. Undirhlidar ridge is ~5 km long, and has been dissected by two different aggregate mines along its axis. The northern mine (Undirhlidar quarry) is inactive and has walls up to 40 m in height that fully expose several critical stratigraphic relationships including multiple sequences of separate pillow lava flows, cross-cutting dikes that locally feed overlying pillow flows, and ridge parallel, continuous massive jointed basaltic units that may be the remnants of internal lava supply networks. The second quarry, ~3 km to the southwest (Vatnsskard quarry) is presently active and continually has new exposures. This quarry only penetrates halfway through the width of the ridge but has ~500 m of exposure along strike. It also has remnants of what appears to be the internal magma distributary system, and many components clearly show evidence that they were (and some still are) open lava tubes. While both quarries contain excellent exposures, many of the structures are difficult to safely access or are inaccessible due to mining activity. In order to overcome access issues, we have used Structure-from-Motion techniques to make 3-D maps of the quarry walls. A series of overlapping pictures were taken from points constrained with D-GPS using a Trimble GeoXH data logger and external antennae. The image locations with corrected positions were imported into Photoscan software to create a point cloud representative for each quarry and to derive a Digital Elevation Model with a reported vertical resolution of less than 1 m. Field testing of a preliminary, low resolution DEM shows that measurements of dyke widths on the DEM have errors of ~5% relative to measurements on the ground. Measurements made from the field-generated DEM will provide significantly better constraints on deposit thicknesses and volume estimates compared to traditional methods of estimating unit thicknesses on vertical faces.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A bored rhynchonellid brachiopod from the Middle Jurassic of France

July 22nd, 2016

1 Kutchi dorsal 585Another beautiful brachiopod this week from our friend Mr. Clive Champion in England. His donations to our collections have considerably enriched our teaching program, especially for brachiopods! This specimen is the rhynchonellid Kutchirhynchia morieri (Davidson, 1852) from the Middle Jurassic (Upper Bathonian) of Luc-sur-Mer, France. This is a view of the dorsal side with the dorsal valve on top with the ventral valve (containing the round opening from which the stalk-like pedicle extended) seen below it. Like most rhynchonellids, the valves have distinct plicae (thick ridges) where the shell is tightly folded.
2 Kutchi ventral 585This is the ventral view showing only the exterior of the ventral valve. Note the curved serpulid worm tube attached near the center, and the squiggly borings. These were likely sclerobionts (hard substrate dwellers) that occupied the brachiopod shell when the animal was still alive, since the dorsal and ventral valves are still articulated. The borings are probably of the ichnogenus Talpina, but I would have to grind down the shell to know for certain.
SSBuckmanThe genus Kutchirhynchia was named by Sydney Savory Buckman (1860-1929) in 1917. We met Buckman earlier in this blog when looking at another of his Jurassic rhynchonellid genera, Burmirhynchia. We learned a lot more about Buckman this summer during our expedition to the Jurassic of Dorset, where he did much of his work. He is best known there as an ammonite worker and stratigrapher (and massive taxonomic splitter).
3 Thomas DavidsonThe species Kutchirhynchia morieri was named by the Scottish paleontologist Thomas Davidson (1817-1885), who originally placed it in the large genus Rhynchonella. Buckman acknowledges Davidson in an ammonite monographs as one of his “earliest geological friends”. (Davidson was 43 years older than Buckman.) Davidson was born in Edinburgh to wealthy parents. He studied at the University of Edinburgh and then in France, Italy and Switzerland, where he made many long geological tours. He was convinced by the German paleontologist Christian Leopold von Buch (1774-1853) to work on fossil brachiopods. (Von Buch was 43 years older than Davidson. Nice to see the older generation having an effect on those kids!) Davidson stayed with brachiopods his entire career, producing massive monographs on both fossil and recent forms. He engraved his own plates on stone, and there are more than 200 of them. Davidson was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1852, awarded the Wollaston medal in 1865. In 1857 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, receiving their Royal medal in 1870. Upon his death in Brighton, England, in 1885, his entire collection of fossil and recent brachiopods went to the British Museum.
4 Elizabeth GrayThis is a good place to mention Elizabeth Anderson Gray (1831-1924), an important fossil collector in Scotland who supplied Thomas Davidson and many other paleontologists with critical specimens for their work. She is one of the many unnoticed heroes of paleontology, being rarely acknowledged publicly and then overshadowed by her husband. She worked primarily in the Ordovician and Silurian and so did not give Davidson Jurassic rhynchonellids, but she provided hundreds of brachiopods from the early Paleozoic. I love this image of her knocking out fossils with a hammer, just like we do today. Trowelblazers has an excellent biographical page on Elizabeth Anderson Gray.


Buckman, S.S. 1917. The Brachiopoda of the Namyau Beds, Northern Shan States, Burma. Palaeontologia lndica 3(2): 1-254.

Gilman, D.C., Thurston, H.T. and Colby, F.M., eds. 1905. Davidson, Thomas (paleontologist). New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.

Shi, X. and Grant, R.E. 1993. Jurassic rhynchonellids: internal structures and taxonomic revisions. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, Number 73, 190 pages.

Black Mountain GSA Abstract

July 21st, 2016

Wooster, OH – If you’ve been following our summer research adventures, you know that Amineh AlBashaireh (’18) has been hard at work studying the compositions of soils around abandoned mines in Black Mountain Open Space Park in San Diego, CA. She wrote the following abstract for the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado this September.

Amineh AlBashaireh ('18) collecting a soil sample surrounded by miner's lettuce outside of Koala Mine in Black Mountain Open Space Park, San Diego, CA.

Amineh AlBashaireh (’18) collecting a soil sample surrounded by miner’s lettuce outside of Koala Mine in Black Mountain Open Space Park, San Diego, CA.

Evaluation of Arsenic Extent and Mobilization in Soil and Vegetation surrounding abandoned, ultra-enriched Arsenic Mines in Black Mountain Open Space Park, San Diego, California to GSA

ALBASHAIREH, Amineh B.1, JOHNSTON, Elizabeth2, O’SHEA, Bethany2 and POLLOCK, Meagen1, (1)Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, 944 College Mall, Wooster, OH 44691, (2)Environmental and Ocean Sciences, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110

Black Mountain Open Space Park in San Diego, CA is part of the Santiago Peak Volcanic Formation, a heterogeneous meta-volcanic unit that is locally ultra-enriched in arsenic (As). Small scale, artisanal-type As mining occurred during the early 1920s. Mines were abandoned with little documentation and no obvious remediation efforts. Initial field study by portable XRF yielded As concentrations up to 480,000 ppm in abandoned mines and rock outcrops throughout the park. This study is a first step towards understanding As fractionation in soils surrounding the mines. Twelve samples from the surface 5 cm of soil were collected in a ~48 m2 grid between two of the abandoned mines to determine how As concentration varies spatially, the degree of As mobilization during rain events, and how plants sequester As and affect soil As. Soils were pressed into pellets for analysis via WDXRF, and LOI was used to distinguish between organic and mineral-rich soils. To simulate transport by precipitation, 1:5 DI water leaches were performed on soils for 1 h, 24 h, and 7 day periods. Vegetation (miner’s lettuce, lemonade berry, and fern) was collected from the grid and will be analyzed by SEM-EDS for the extent of As throughout plant roots and bodies. While the crustal average for As is 1.5 ppm, soil concentration of As varies from hundreds of ppm to tens of thousands of ppm between the two mines. Consistent with hypotheses, the two greatest As concentrations occurred in rocky soils, possibly due to the presence of waste rock in the naturally occurring San Miguel-Exchequer rocky silt loam. Vegetation in the area appears healthy, but is not growing consistently across the grid, so SEM data will be compared with soil organic matter content and As concentration. San Diego’s semi-arid climate causes low precipitation and increased rates of soil erosion, making aeolian dispersion a likely mode of As transport. Consequently, there’s a potential health risk for those traveling off trail to visit the mines, hiking along the trails, and living in the canyon outlet. This is the first soil-plant arsenic study in a broader project aimed at understanding potential impact to public health. Additionally, this project has implications for the geologic occurrence of extreme As concentrations in igneous rocks from island arc settings.


Filtration step of 24h deionized water leach on <1.0 mm Black Mountain soil.

After the prescribed leach time, samples are centrifuged and filtered using a syringe fitted with a nylon filter to separate leachate (amber to red liquid above) from soil.

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