October 28, 2010
WOOSTER, Ohio — The College of Wooster will send a large contingent of professors, students, and alumni to the 122nd meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Denver, where an estimated 6,000 geoscientists from across the country and around the world will
gather next week (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) at the Colorado Convention Center.
“It’s a time that we all catch up on new topics, make presentations of our own projects, meet with colleagues, and talk about teaching,” says Mark Wilson, the Lewis M. and Marian Senter Nixon Professor of Natural Science and Geology at Wooster. “It’s also a great place to see our geology alumni.”
Greg Wiles, chair of the geology department at Wooster and the Ross K. Shoolroy chair of natural resources, will lead one of the sessions. He will talk about the past behavior of tidewater glaciers and the present implications concerning ecosystems based on data gathered from tree-ring work and subfossil logs from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. He is a co-author for the project, which includes Stephanie Jarvis, a senior geology and biology double major from Shelbyville, Ky., Sarah Appleton, a junior geology major from Portsmouth, Ohio, and three Wooster alumni: Colin Mennett, Kelly Aughenbaugh, and Debra Prinkley. Also collaborating on the project was Daniel Lawson from the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in Hanover, N.H.
Appleton will also present a talk about using tree-ring dating to help reconstruct the environmental history of southern Alaska as well as the cultural history of the Tlingit people who live in the region. She found that after the 1950s trees stopped responding as much to weather changes, which could be a sign of vulnerability. Co-authors of the project include Jarvis and
Wiles, along with Lawson and Wayne Howell of Glacier Bay National Park.
Jarvis will present her findings on another project that included Wiles and Appleton, with assistance from Lawson, Nathan Malcolm from the Colorado State Forest Service, and Rosanne D’Arrigo from the Tree Ring Lab at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Her project looks at how climate change is expressed by tree rings. Fat rings typically mean a time of warmer weather, while narrow rings signify a time of colder weather. Using tree-ring data from the north Pacific region (specifically Alaska), Jarvis hopes to discover what is happening in regard to climate conditions now as opposed to the past and whether this is unusual.
Wilson, who co-authored three projects this year, will present a talk on hiatus cobbles (rounded rocks with borings and encrusters) found in the Makhtesh Ramon region of the Negev Highlands in
Israel. These cobbles were used for interpreting the depositional environment in which they were formed. Wilson’s team found that the deposits came from very shallow marine water. Andrew Retzler, a senior geology major from Wooster, and Micah Risacher, a senior geology major from Westerville, Ohio, co-authored the project with assistance from Yoav Avni with the Geological Survey of Israel and Stuart Chubb from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Birkbeck College in London.
Retzler, with Wilson as his I.S. advisor, will present his poster on chalk and shark teeth found in the same region of Israel. The chalk that he examined is the layer above the hiatus cobbles that Wilson studied. Through this project, Retzler discovered that the Late Cretaceous environment was most likely a temperate to subtropical continental shelf.
Meagen Pollock, assistant professor of geology at Wooster, will present a poster about a project that she collaborated on with Wilson regarding strategies for international undergraduate research programs and their importance in the educational experience.
Pollock also co-authored a project with senior geology major Rebecca Alcorn of Pittsburgh, who will present her findings on samples taken from quarry walls in Iceland. By mapping images on her computer and looking at the chemistry of the quarry wall samples under a microscope, Alcorn will be able to gather details about the occurrence of subglacial volcanic eruptions as exampled by ancient eruptions.
Elizabeth Deering, senior geology major from Cincinnati, will discuss her senior I.S. project, which she conducted with Shelley Judge, assistant geology professor at Wooster, and fellow student Jesse Davenport. Deering carried out her research at the Eocene Green River Formation in Utah. The formation (or rock unit) was formed in an ancient lake environment in central Utah that has since dried up. She focused her experiments on stromatolites that were roughly 42 million years old in order to gather a more complete regional geologic history of the Green River Formation that could be
added to research that has been done on other areas along the same formation.
“It’s a national conference, and we have a strong presence there,” said Pollock. “Our alumni receptions take place in a huge ballroom, and Wooster always has one of the largest groups. Many of our alums are experts in their fields and are presenting their work at the conference, but some of them come to the conference just to catch up with friends and faculty. I think Wooster’s presence speaks to our tight-knit geology department and the positive impact Wooster has on student's lives.”
Written by Libby Fackler ‘13
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