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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New paper: Early Neoproterozoic stromatolites from south Liaoning Province, China

I’m pleased to announce the online publication of a new paper from a Chinese-American geological team (Zhang et al., 2022). I’m the sole American! My role was minor, being mostly useful for literature review and writing. The senior author is my friend Yong-Li Zhang from Northeastern University, Shenyang. He was my host on my adventurous (and painful) trip to China in 2014. We’ve been colleagues ever since and have authored additional papers together.

This paper is a description of well-preserved stromatolites (sedimentary structures formed by microbial mats in supratidal and intertidal environments) in the Ganjingzi Formation (southern Liaoning Province), which was deposited about 930 Ma during the Tonian Period of the early Neoproterozoic Era. The Neoproterozoic is a fascinating time interval spanning the transition from single-celled to multicellular life. The lower stromatolite mounds formed in a transgression, while the stromatolite columns in the more complex upper biostrome changed vertically from dispersed to clumped growth. Biostratigraphic analysis shows that the stromatolites in the Ganjingzi Formation are similar to those from coeval strata in the Xuzhou-Huainan Region and in southern Jilin. Comparisons of the morphotype genera of stromatolites and the sedimentary setting between different areas imply that sea-level was fluctuating in the east of the North China Craton (NCC) during the Ganjingzi interval and that the transgressions were beneficial to stromatolite growth, as indicated by the increased number of stromatolites in the study area. Ultimately this work adds another piece to the puzzle of Neoproterozoic environments and life in northeastern China.

The image at the top of this post is figure 7 from the paper: Morphological characteristics in the lower stromatolite mound of the Ganjingzi Formation and stromatolites at three stages: I = supratidal; II = shallow intertidal; III = medium intertidal.

Fig. 1. Geology of the study area. (A) Paleogeographic location of the North China Craton in the early Neoproterozoic about 900 Ma (after Li et al., 2008). (B) Location of the study area in NCC. (C) Geological map showing the location of the measured section from a (121°36′22.96″E, 39°29′33.43″N) to b (121°36′54.37″E, 39°29′14.15″N). (D) Satellite view of stromatolite distribution and the measured section on Google Earth. [History-minded readers will note this site is near Port Arthur of the Russo-Japanese War.]

Stratigraphic column for this study (Fig. 2).

Distribution of stromatolite morphotypes in the Ganjingzi Formation and the water depths (Fig. 11).


Li, Z.X., Bogdanova, S., Collins, A.S., Davidson, A., De Waele, B., Ernst, R.E., Fitzsimons, I.C.W., Fuck [his real name!], R.A., Gladkochub, D.P., Jacobs, J. and Karlstrom, K.E. 2008. Assembly, configuration, and break-up history of Rodinia: a synthesis. Precambrian Research 160: 179-210.

Zhang, Y-L., Lai, G-M, Gong, E-P., Wilson, M.A., Huang, W-T., Guan, C-Q. and Yuan, D-C. 2022. Early Neoproterozoic well-preserved stromatolites from south Liaoning Province, North China: characteristics and paleogeographic implications. Palaeoworld (in press as a pre-proof pdf).

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The Diatom Lake Adventure: Ice ages, hotel titrations, and the Midwest

Editor’s note: Rising Wooster senior Richard Torres (’23) had a spectacular opportunity this summer (May 31 – June 12, 2022) to participate in a National Science Foundation-funded research trip with Dr. Tom Lowell (on the right) and his team from the University of Cincinnati. Below is Richard’s account. Unless otherwise noted, all the images are from his phone. (Above photo by Aaron Diefendorf.)

Why am I here? Out in the choppy waves of a lake in the middle of Minnesota hunting diatoms. It is all part of an expedition going to 20 different lakes in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin to see how different conditions effect diatoms. It was quite the adventure not getting to explore much of the Midwest, barely getting out of Wooster. But with funding from the National Science Foundation, me, Tom Lowell (Professor at the University of Cincinnati), Aaron Diefendorf (Professor at the University of Cincinnati), Meg Corcoran (PhD student at the University of Cincinnati), and Watts Dietrich (Masters student at the University of Cincinnati) went off to core, probe, sample, and take many more tests and observations of the lakes of the Midwest.

Diatoms are single-celled aquatic plants that make their cell walls out of glass, once they die, they fall to the bottom of the lake and because of their siliceous shell (called a frustule) they preserve well and can be found going back in time through the lake core sediments. At each lake we took a core, some went deep, and some only went down a few centimeters. The diatoms and their traces will then be examined in the lab once we get back.

And this is Rover the ROV (remotely operated vehicle), he would help us look at the lake bottom and collect samples of plants with that claw, or at least that was the plan, we seemed to have more luck pulling samples out of the propeller. We sent Rover down to get a stick from a sunken tree and after giving up trying to wrestle one out and coming back to the surface we found a stick lodged in a propeller, which we lovingly named Mr. Stick.

Because we were going to run out of alkalinity bottles (bottles of lake water to be tested for its alkalinity) before we ran out of lakes, we had to run a series of titrations to reveal the alkalinity of the samples to free up some more bottles for later. We brought all the chemistry equipment into Watts and I’s room making sure to close the curtains (who knows what people would think we are doing) and got to work.

Traveling around the Dakotas we were stunned by the amount water levels have risen. Seeing flooded fields and roads, grain silos and farmhouses crumbling into lakes. Homes once built on hills atop a field struggling to get water during the dustbowl are now cut off on their own islands. Where google maps shows multiple lakes, we came to find one big lake encompassing areas. Above you can see how one of our sites, Devil’s lake, and its area changed from 120 square miles to 820 in just 20 years.

Then there was Lake Kylen. We plunged our truck and SUV deeper and deeper into the Wisconsin woods, off on dirt roads. We saw them, an uncountable, ungodly number of mosquitos swarming us and our vehicles. We took a rubber dingy and our equipment down a trail off the road, into the mud, then took turns going out into the lake. This was a short reprieve since there was not many mosquitoes or biting flies, it was almost peaceful out there with the swans, otters, and scenery except for the terror we knew awaited us on returning to shore. We trudged back to the car and awaited the truck, swatting all those monsters that wanted to hitch a ride with us. Finally safe at last. WRONG! The truck was stuck in mud and had to be pulled out, back to the blood donation center. We could still see them that night at the hotel, even when we closed our eyes.

After the traumatizing experience of the day before, we were prepared for the worst on our last day of lake scienceing. But when we got to the lakes, dragonflies were patrolling the skies, keeping us safe and eating anything that would want to take a bite of us. Dragonflies are my new best friends. They are so sweet letting me get close to take pictures and literally saving our skins. That night we then treated ourselves to a lakeside restaurant and I got to complete my goal of trying Wisconsin cheese curds, yes, they are as good as you would think.

So why did we have to travel all around the Midwest to collect diatoms? Well, we want to uncover past conditions through diatoms but first we need to find out how different changes in their environment affects them. The Cincinnati group is looking at a biomarker called HBI to reconstruct past hydrologies, and I am looking at how the different diatom species can be used to look for evidence of different climate events in history. This trip, with the data, experiences, and motivations, is essential to achieving the goals we have set out for looking at diatoms through time.

But above and beyond the best experience of the trip was being able to meet Tom Cruz at all the Applebee’s we went to.

Group photo (from left): Me, Aaron Diefendorf (Professor at the University of Cincinnati), Meg Corcoran (PhD student at the University of Cincinnati), Tom Lowell (Professor at the University of Cincinnati), and Watts Dietrich (Masters student at the University of Cincinnati).

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Old dogs, old tricks: A very pleasant day of paleontology in the Lower Carboniferous of northeastern Ohio

The weather was perfect today in verdant northeastern Ohio. Bill Ausich (retired paleontologist from The Ohio State University), Nigel Brush (retired geologist/archaeologist from Ashland University), and I (not retired!) have started a project examining the crinoids and associated fossils of the Wooster Shale (Lower Carboniferous) in northeastern Ohio. Nigel guided us to this magnificent outcrop along Quaker Springs Run near Hayesville (N 40.770573°, W 082.221390°; private land — permission required). This blog has been here before.

We put on our wellies and sloshed across the creek to the outcrop. I was reminded how very different this countryside is from where I was working just last month. Bill (on the left) and Nigel wasted no time coming to grips with the slippery rocks.

The shale outcrop near the base has many siderite (iron carbonate) concretionary layers, which show up as red-orange ledges standing free from the eroding shale. These were the rocks in which I expected we would find most of our fossils.

And indeed, they are full of fossil bits, from crinoid stems (shown above) to brachiopods, bivalves and other goodies. They show evidence of storm deposition, being mostly fragmentary. One of our questions: Did the crinoids live on the clayey substrate (the dark shale today) or were they transported in as debris?

Above is the moment Nigel discovered a crinoid stem in the shale that was over a half meter long. At one end was …

the calyx! It doesn’t look like much in the image above, but trust me on this. We’re looking at the biserial arms of a camerate crinoid, indicating the filter-feeding head (or calyx) of the crinoid. Thus a complete crinoid in the shale itself, showing us it lived there and was not transported in after death. Question asnwered.

There are also layers of crinoid-rich limestones in the middle and top part of the section. The bases of these limestones have numerous gray chips of shale (called intraclasts). This is an indication that the limestones were formed by storms that swept across the clay seaflooor, ripping up pieces that were incorporated in the base of the succeeding unit.

Yes, we did note the dramatic tree fall, which happened just a few days before we arrived. This is a good example of a stream eroding away its aptly-named cutbank.

It was a fun day of exploring, chatting, and making scientific plans.

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Wooster’s Team Utah 2022 Fieldwork

This is the index page for Wooster’s Team Utah 2022 expedition (May 20-29, 2022). The primary goal of this fieldwork was to provide data and samples for the Independent Study theses of Lucie Fiala (left) and Shipei (Vicky) Wang (right). We are also always looking for future IS project ideas, and continuing some long-term research projects. The accompanying staff were Nick Wiesenberg (geological technician), Dr. Shelley Judge (structural geologist and tectonicist), and me, Wooster’s sedimentologist and paleontologist. We hope you enjoy following our travel and scientific log on these pages.

This stratigraphic column from the National Park Service details the stratigraphy of southwestern Utah. Our expedition was to continue long-term Wooster explorations of the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic) near the top (marked with the red dot). We also visited a section in the Moenkopi Formation (Early Triassic) on our last day. We are preceded by several Wooster teams in the 1990s and most recently by Team Utah 2018, Team Utah 2019, and Team Utah 2020.

Here are the links to our daily field posts —

May 21: Wooster Geologists return to southwestern Utah

May 22: Second field day in SW Utah Jurassic: Wooster geologists begin their projects

May 23: Back to the Eagle Mountain Ranch and its magnificent exposures

May 24: Wooster geologists serve their time in Buggy Gulch

May 25: Up the steep slopes for a trace fossil reward in Dammeron Valley

May 26: Jackson Peak section: Another gnatty adventure

May 27: A culture and nature day for Team Jurassic Utah 2022

May 28: Wooster Geologists Team Jurassic Utah dips down into the Triassic for its last field day


For our records, the following table records all our C/W localities for the Utah 2018-2022 expeditions. The variance in precision is because different GPS devices were used through the years.

N Latitude Longitude Wooster # Location name
37.308755° -113.736500° C/W-142 Eagle Mountain Ranch cliff
37.27056798° -113.776038° C/W-156 Nursery
37.278500° -113.788161° C/W-157 Oyster Ball Valley
37.25407499° -113.60516° C/W-751 Water tank
37.27341698° -113.77961° C/W-752 Double layer DL
37.27298004° -113.778876° C/W-753 Hardground East
37.27855903° -113.787448° C/W-754 Hardground West HW
37.28063799° -113.80023° C/W-755 HFW Hardground
37.25500° -113.60436° C/W-756 Water Tank Road
37.27629° -113.63712° C/W-757 Dammeron Valley
37.27747° -113.64420° C/W-758 Dammeron Valley N
37.30882° -113.73883° C/W-759 EMR 39 LLH3 Strom-Mat
37.21548° -112.68215° C/W-760 Carmel Cove
37.22521° -112.68095° C/W-761 Encrinite at MCJ
37.27629° -113.63712° C/W-762 DVN unit below DV
37.307668° -113.739721° C/W-763 EMR 39 LLH3 Alternate
37.307183° -113.738567° C/W-764 EMR 25 LLH2
37.307006° -113.738407° C/W-765 EMR 19 LLH1
37.307364° -113.738700° C/W-766 EMR 29 SC1
37.271537° -113.783190° C/W-767 RES B LLH2
37.271744° -113.784460° C/W-768 RES A LLH1
37.282454° -113.803273° C/W-769 Sandstone, Manganese Wash
37.281936° -113.803458° C/W-770 Manganese Wash section start
37.283125° -113.803696° C/W-771 Manganese Wash section end
37.307688° -113.739697° C/W-772 EMR Lucie section start
37.276667° -113.640350° C/W-773 Dammeron Valley trace fossils
37.327356° -113.858144° C/W-774 Jackson Peak section start
37.041054° -113.273450° C/W-775 Virgin Limestone (Triassic)

Non-GPS localities from 1993 –

C/W-143. — South-facing slope in Carmel strike valley approximately 4.0 km west of Gunlock (= Nielson, 1990, Section 4a: Manganese Wash); SW 1/4, NE 1/4, NE 1/4 section 25, T. 40 S, R. 18 W; Member D found above weathered gypsiferous beds.

C/W-144. — North slope of valley approximately 3.0 km west-southwest of Gunlock; NE 1/4, NW 1/4, SE 1/4 section 30, T. 40 S, R. 17 W; Member D exposed from base of gully to Cretaceous ?Dakota Conglomerate; mine claim stake located directly above section.

C/W-145. — Member D exposed on south- and southeast-facing slopes 3.0 km south-southwest of Gunlock, 1.5 km south of road about 1.0 km from its junction with the Gunlock – Santa Clara Highway (= Nielson, 1990, Section 7: Reservoir); NE 1/4 section 32, T. 40 S, R. 17 W; Member D sampled from Gunlock Reservoir shore to contact with Member E and the Cretaceous ?Dakota Conglomerate.

C/W-146. — South-facing slope approximately 8.0 km west – northwest of Gunlock; (= Nielson, 1990, Section 1a: Jackson Peak); NW 1/4, NE 1/4 section 15, T. 40 S, R. 18 W; sampled section 1.0 km north of road.

June 30 addendum: Thanks to Nick’s careful packing, and Shelley’s careful driving, all our specimens have safely arrived in the Wooster lab. I hereby declare the Utah 2022 expedition a success!

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Wooster Geologists Team Jurassic Utah dips down into the Triassic for its last field day

Today the Wooster Geologists of Team Jurassic Utah visited Early Triassic rocks near Hurricane, Utah (N 37.041054°, W 113.273450°). These are rocks of the Virgin Limestone Member of the Moenkopi Formation. I wanted to show the students the abundant brachiopod fauna in these sediments deposited relatively soon after the massive Permian extinctions.

The brachiopods are tiny and gray. I completely missed them in the talus slopes until Nick began to pick them up. He trained us to recognize them quickly. Above the mysterious Vicky Wang scours the slopes.

Lucie Fiala found a comfortable place below the cliff to look for the fossil critters.

Thin beds of limestone are packed with brachiopods, most rhynchonellids with a few appearing to be terebratulids.

These are loose specimens of the brachiopods. Many are exquisitely preserved. Last mission accomplished! This collection will be the basis of an exercise in our paleoecology course.

Our last field lunch. Shelley Judge has already left for her field camp teaching in central Utah. The rest of us leave Utah tomorrow. What an excellent experience it has been!

(A reference that inspired this visit to the Virgin Limestone Member: McGowan, A.J., Smith, A.B. and Taylor, P.D., 2009. Faunal diversity, heterogeneity and body size in the Early Triassic: testing post-extinction paradigms in the Virgin Limestone of Utah, USA. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 56(6), p.859-872.)

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A culture and nature day for Team Jurassic Utah 2022

Our field work is now done, so we had a day of cultural and natural sites. Our morning started with a visit to the Visitor’s Center at the LDS Temple in St. George. There the students learned at least one perspective on the Mormon faith and Mormon history of the area. It was so intense at times I forgot to take photographs!

Afterwards we went to a different kind of temple — a temple of science built over an extraordinary series of Jurassic trackways and sedimentary features. We’ve been coming to the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site every year since it was established (except for one wretched covid summer). We met our friend Andrew Milner, who is the curator and a spectacular guide to the fossils.

Vicky is here demonstrating how the famous swimming dinosaur tracks were made. (Yes, we were the only people there with masks.)

Andrew took us into the fossil preparatory lab. One of the highlights was watching a live scorpion (wrangled here by arachnidologist Zach Valois) make tracks in sand which could later be compared to fossil equivalents. With Zach holding the stinger, we were each able to pat the scorpion (a unique experience for me, at least).

After lunch we visited our friends Judy and Jay Leavitt in Gunlock, had more pie in Veyo, and then had a brief hike in Snow Canyon State Park. (Image by Nick.)

Nick also took this picture of what appears to be a hike with maintenance of strict social distancing!

Finally the Wooster flag moment with Vicky and Lucie. A kind of graduation event to mark the successful completion of their first geological field work. They were wonderful field colleagues with sharp observations, strong work ethics, and tolerance for gnats and rattlesnakes!

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Jackson Peak section: Another gnatty adventure

This morning the Wooster Geologists visited the westernmost exposure of the lower Carmel Formation at Nielson’s (1990) Jackson Peak section. Nick and Vicky are shown above on the road towards the conical Jackson Peak in the background. The site was as buggy as any other on this trip, with not a breath of wind to relieve us.

Nick took this image of our team hiking up a wadi in search of a good place to make a stratigraphic column. Jackson Peak looms in the background.

We established the base of the section in a wadi at N 37.327356°, W 113.858144°. Because of the rough terrain, the gnats, and the mostly-covered nature of the stratigraphy here, we decided to use Nielson’s (1990) original measurements and then sample along his column. Note that burned trees give very little shade.

Another image by Nick of Wooster Geologists at work. In the background is Square Top Mountain, which is most notable as the site of a B-52G crash in 1983.

This is the highest in-place outcropping of the typical lower Carmel Formation stromatolitic micrite beds. You can see the fine microbial layering on the weathered surfaces of the rock. Sampled as JP-1.

Like an old friend, the distinctive sandstone we saw in the Manganese Wash section showed up here at Jackson Peak. It has the same weathering appearance and, at the handlens level, the same lithological composition. Sampled as JP-2.

Unlike at the Manganese Wash section, the sandstone at Jackson Peak has an ooid shoal biosparite/grainstone directly above it, our sample JP-3.

This ooid shoal deposit as the same low-angle cross-bedding and current ripple marks as we’ve seen in all our Carmel Formation sections.

At the top of the ridge we were studying, Lucie and Vicky came across our second rattlesnake of the trip. It buzzed immediately, so Lucie and Vicky moved away quickly. Nick got this great image.

On our way back from the Jackson Peak section we met two Bureau of Land Management officers on horseback. Now there’s a cool job. (Photo by Nick.)

As is our tradition on these southwestern Utah expeditions, after we finished our work at Jackson Peak, we visited the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre site a few miles to the north.

This is the cairn marking the mass grave of 34 of the victims buried on the massacre site. It is a sad and enraging story we encourage you to read at the link above.

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Up the steep slopes for a trace fossil reward in Dammeron Valley

Today Team Utah 2022 climbed the outcrops in Dammeron Valley, north of St. George, to collect trace fossils from the Co-op Creek Limestone Member of the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic). It was a bit of a slog up the rubbly talus cones that provided passage over the cliffs, but the trace fossils up there were worth it. Beautiful day, but our friends the gnats lurked in the shadows. Thanks to Nick for the image.

The very base of the section is the gypsum-bearing red claystone and siltstone Temple Cap Formation, shown here with Lucie for scale.

About midway up the slope, just above the highest stromatolitic unit, abundant trace fossils appear. Vicky is ready to collect!

The trace-bearing outcrop is not very photogenic, but those brown slabs on the surface have numerous ichnofossils. Location: N 37.276667°, W 113.640350°.

The red marker shows our study site in Dammeron Valley. Note it is just above the boundary between the whitish lower part and brown upper part of the member.

I was particularly interested in these funnel-shaped traces (the circular pits), which were abundant, along with the familiar Gyrochorte. We haven’t seen these elsewhere in the Carmel Formation in SW Utah.

This slab shows a thick mass of Planolites trace fossils. Each stripe on the Jacob’s Staff is 10 cm.

And that was it for the day. Later we’ll report here on what we found after our lab analyses back in Wooster.

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Wooster geologists serve their time in Buggy Gulch

Many veterans of the Wooster Geology expeditions to southwestern Utah will remember the insatiable, abundant, nearly overwhelming biting gnats that occasionally proliferated during our fieldwork. We’ve suffered them each day, but this was the worst experience thus far, mainly because we were collecting data in a nearly windless wadi at their mercy. (Image by Nick.)

But first, our day began with another section for Lucie’s Independent Study project, this one on the Eagle Mountain Ranch at N 37.307688°, W 113.739697°. Above is a ghostly, pensive Lucie in the shadows waiting to scramble up from the base of her section. It is again a stromatolitic sequence, this time with desiccation cracks and a top layer of calcitized gypsum nodules. Above this we eventually reached the lower oolitic shoal deposits of the upper unit. It all went as planned, with critical stratigraphic measurements (and structural observations) from Nick and Shlley.

After lunch was our descent into Buggy Gulch, otherwise known as the Manganese Wash section we measured, sampled and described on Sunday (N 37.283125°; W 113.803696). Beautiful day for us and, unfortunately, the clouds of gnats. We were stuck in place measuring current ripples and cross-bedding in the main oolitic shoal deposits. Shelley showed us how to do the work with her mad structural geology skills. We collected a boatload of data at the expense of our sanity. I’m scratching bites as I write this.

Bug complaints aside, the sedimentary structures here are well developed. Here is a set of current ripples with easily-measured crests and clear directional indicators.

The cross-sections through the shoals display complex cross-bedding, the product of multiple changes in current directions and velocities. This is important data for our paleoenvironmental reconstructions.

Finally, we’ll end the day with a gorgeous prickly pear cactus flower, suitably crawling with insects.

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