News and Such
from the Geology Department
No. 1 - May 2001
Did somebody say field trips? Just can't have a very good Geology
program without field trips. We took three this year. In November
we took a day trip down south to the Indiana Limestone district near Bedford
to hunt for geodes. The picture above was taken on this trip.
Left to right, that's Sarah Martin, Charles Martin, Shay McGuire, and Kris
In February I dragged everyone out of bed at 2:30 am on a Saturday (I'm
cruel) to drive down to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. But the sleep deprivation
was well worth it; we had a great time. On Saturday we took
a five hour cave tour (but not the "Wild Cave" tour, where you spend eight
hours crawling through passages that would give squirrels claustrophobia
- we'll do that next time!). On Sunday (the day we
underground!) it was sunny and almost 80 degrees - a perfect day to tour
the karst plain south of the park. And of course, we had to stop
for lunch at the Porky Pig Diner in Pig, Kentucky. If you go, be
sure to say "Hi" to Calvin for us.
Finally, in April we went "fossil hunt'n'" in the Upper Ordovician rocks
just north of Cincinnati. Dr. Bob Brodman from the Biology Department
accompanied us on this trip, and he was absolutely blown away by the concentration
of fossils in the rocks. Hey, if you've been there, you know why
it's the best Ordovician fossil locality in the world. Personally,
I was more impressed with the slab covered with Ordovician raindrop imprints
(which is now part of the department's collection - thanks Shay!).
More pictures from our field adventures can be seen here.
And even though it wasn't really a field
trip...Shay McGuire, Sarah Martin, Kris Krouse, and I attended the Geological
Society of America - North-Central Section Meeting at Illinois State University
this spring (Shay and another student, Jeannette Jaskula '99, and I also
attended the North-Central Meeting in Indianapolis last year). I
also attended the GSA National Meeting in Reno, Nevada, last fall - there
are definite perks to being a professor!
April, Dr. William K. Hart of Miami University (Ohio) presented an open
lecture entitled "Geology and its Role in Human Evolution Research:
Perspectives from the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia." Dr. Hart is
one member of an international research team which searches for fossils
of human ancestors and evidence of human evolution in the Ethiopian part
of the East African Rift System.
In 1994, this research group announced
the discovery of one of the oldest known human ancestors, Australopithecus
ramidus (later renamed Ardipithecus ramidus), a 4.4 million
year old primitive hominid more resembling a chimpanzee than a modern human.
In 1999, the group again made news with two important discoveries.
One was the identification of a previously unknown, 2.5 million year old
hominid, Australopithecus garhi, with long legs and a human-like
gait but apelike arms, a small brain and a large jaw. The other find,
from the same geologic horizon, is evidence of hominids using stone tools
to butcher antelope carcasses – the oldest direct evidence of meat- and
marrow-eating by human ancestors.
Dr. Hart's main role in the research
group is tephrostratigrapher - basically he's the person who finds
and collects the layers of volcanic ash which bracket the fossil-bearing
sedimentary layers. Chemical analyses of the ash can be used to determine
if widely separated deposits are from the same volcanic eruption, and therefore
of identical age. Feldspar grains from an ash deposit can then be
analyzed to obtain absolute ages for the ash layers and constrain the age
of the hominids.
It was a very interesting and entertaining lecture. Not only was
it good for our Geology students, but it was also an excellent tie-in with
the material that we covered in Core Science this spring.
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