On August 10, 2013, fifteen students and three faculty members from Tennessee Tech University departed Nashville, TN for an eight-day trip to Seattle, WA. The group was part of a Spring 2013 course offered by the Biology and Earth Science Departments titled Geobiology of Northwestern Washington (BIOL 4991). The group visited several sites known for their spectacular geologic phenomena as well as unique flora and fauna. To view the trip route in Google Earth, click here.
Days 1-2: Mount Rainier (Mount Freemont and Sunrise Point)
After landing in Seattle, the group drove south to Fife and spent two days exploring Mount Rainier. Biology students departed early (5am!) to hike near Mount Freemont in search of the elusive white-tailed ptarmigan. The massive stratovolcano was obscured by clouds for a short time; however, the second day offered spectacular views and hiking around Sunrise Point.Day 3: Mount St. Helens
On Day 3, the group headed to the north side of Mount St. Helens. Evidence of the massive eruption in 1980 was profound as students hiked the route to Spirit Lake. In the distance, steam could be see coming from glacial bits in the active dome area. Ash deposits at the far end of the hike were kicked up by a herd of wild elk.
Day 4: Olympic National Park (Hoh and Quinault Rainforests and Coast)
Leaving the Cascade volcanoes behind, the group spent two days exploring the Olympic peninsula. Day 4 began with hiking in the Hoh Rainforest, where the biology students identified plants and trees native to the West Coast.Along the coast, the group stopped for lunch at a series of overturned sedimentary beds. Students identified sandstones and mudstones, part of a series of ancient turbidite (= deepwater) deposits and waded into cold-water tidal pools to observe starfish.
Day 5: Olympic National Park (Olympic Mountains) and Ferry Crossing
The group spent a night in Port Angeles and headed onward to the hike in the Olympic Mountains on Day 5. Temperatures were low and students bundled up to enjoy snow-filled vistas of the high peaks.From the park, the group descended to Port Townsend to catch a late afternoon ferry. Although the ride was short (< 30 minutes), it proved to be one of the most exciting wildlife watching opportunities of the trip. Days 6-7: Mount Baker and the Northern Cascades National Park
The last two days of the field course were spent in the northern Cascade mountains. At Mount Baker, students hiked over metamorphic and igneous terranes. Biology students were excited to get a glimpse of mountain goats in the distance as well as an American dipper.Day 8: Return Trip
After seven days of volcanoes, whales, lots of birds, and dinners at “The Poodle Dog”, TTU folks flew home to Nashville, TN. Special thanks to the Departments of Biology and Earth Science for sponsoring this memorable, informative course.
Are you interested in going on a similar trip? The TTU Biology and Earth Science Departments are teaming up again for a Costa Rica Expedition, May 2014. If interested, attend an informational meeting on Nov 21, 11-12 in Pennebaker 318 or contact Dr. Dan Combs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2013 Tennessee Geoconclave Competition was held Sept 27-29 at Fall Creek Falls State Park. This year’s host was Austin Peay State University (APSU), and five undergraduate programs attended: TTU, APSU, UT (Knox), UT (Martin) and MTSU.
In the academic portion of the event, the following Tech students participated: (1) Phillip Roberson (Fossil ID); (2) Brandon Page (Mineral and Rock ID, Geocaching); (3) Andrew Eagar (Geologic Maps, Geocaching); (4) Audrey Pattat (Structural Geology – Field Exercise); and (5) Claire Brown (Pace and Compass).
Several Tech students participated in the physical events of rock hammer throwing and geode rolling: Alex Burton, Lori Shelton, Joel Laine, Kolby Demers, Cole Conger, Brock Rust, Tyler Riggle and Ryan Gardner.
After several lively rounds of Rock Bowl Saturday evening, final points were tallied and the winner was announced…
The TTU Earth Science Department salutes APSU’s conclave victory and looks forward to another spirited competition next fall.
The annual GeoClub Rock ‘n Bake sale was held on the South Patio, Thursday Sept. 26th. Baked goods were available for purchase, as well as mineral and rock samples. The GeoClub would like to thank all of the students and faculty for their generous donations.
The GeoClub also extends a big THANK YOU to earth science student Chris Thurman for a generous donation of unopened geodes! You rock, Chris!
On Thursday Sept. 12, the GeoClub officially welcomed Dr. Joseph Asante and Mrs. Peggy Medlin to the Department of Earth Sciences. Club members and officers grilled hot dogs and hamburgers on the porch of Kittrell Hall. Potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, homemade salsa, watermelons and a selection of desserts were available for students and faculty to enjoy.
Many thanks to all the students who organized this event, and welcome to our new faculty and staff.
What did West Texas and New Mexico look like during the Permian, 260 million years ago? That’s the question six Tennessee Tech earth science students attempted to answer on a nine-day field trip, May 23-June 1, 2013. Over the course of the spring semester, GEOL 4810 students Kolbe Andrzejewski, John Baird, Geoff Gadd, Joe Kalbarczyk, Jordan Sachs, and Paul Woods became experts on Permian depositional environments. Then, they headed west to find out what’s in them there western hills?
After two days of crossing the U.S., the group arrived at the Carlsbad KOA in New Mexico just in time for a desert thunderstorm with hail and high winds. It turned out to be the only precipitation students saw until the drive back east. Temperatures in the desert hovered in the 90s during the days and cooled off into the 60s at night.
As the trip progressed, the group explored a series of depositional environments from the Permian, including: (1) carbonate back-reef, reef, and fore-reef deposits; (2) carbonate and clastic slope rocks; (3) clastic deepwater formations; and (4) evaporite deposits. The group also made stops at Carlsbad Caverns to view karst features and the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum to learn about oil/gas exploration in the prolific reservoir system.
To view the complete route map with geologic stops in Google Maps, click here.
DAY 1: Back-reef deposits
Led by Kolbe Andrzejewski, the first day of field work focused on facies and deposits of a back-reef environment. Stops 1 and 2 were located approximately 12 miles landward (northwestward) of the Guadalupean fault scarp, the modern-day expression of the ancient reef front. The group began by describing dolomite wackestones exposed in a dry desert riverbed known as Rocky Arroyo. At a second stop closer to the shelf edge, prominent dolomite outcrops contained abundant algal stromatolites but few other fossils.
After lunching in the shade of the van, the group drove south of Carlsbad to Dark Canyon, where the carbonate facies were strikingly different. Located approximately 1 mile from the reef front, the rocks of Stops 3 and 4 were well-bedded pisolitic dolomite grainstones.
DAY 2: The Reef – Guadalupe Peak Trail
The group got an early start on June 27th, and Day 2 was spent hiking Guadalupe Peak Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Although collecting rocks in the park was prohibited, folks had an opportunity to see spectacular rhombohedral calcite crystals along the hike. At the summit and on the descent, Geoff Gadd led discussions about reef and slope facies of the Guadalupe trail and ancient carbonate system.
After a full day of hiking and investigating carbonate rocks, everyone was pretty hungry and ready to sample the local cuisine. Although skeptical at first, it was determined that the restaurant below did, indeed, have “The Best Mexican Food in Town”.
DAY 3: Walnut Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns
On Day 3, students enjoyed a brief respite from the desert sun. The first stop of the day was located at the mouth of Walnut Canyon, on the road leading to Carlsbad Caverns. Here, poorly bedded lime grainstones cropped out, complete with calcite-filled veins and joint sets.
Also along the entrance highway, the group stopped for a glimpse of teepee structures in the carbonate beds and to admire abundant pisolite grainstones.
Folks enjoyed a quick lunch at Carlsbad Caverns prior to spending the afternoon underground. Jordan Sachs, an avid caver and TTU student, gave a thorough introduction on the local karst system and led group discussions, pointing out cave formations and features in the subsurface. A general consensus was reached that geologists love food, hence textural names for precipitating minerals like cave bacon and popcorn.
DAY 4: McKittrick Canyon and the Permian Reef Geology Trail
Over the course of the first three days, students had worked their way from the back-reef to the carbonate reef environments of the Permian. On Day 4, Joe Kalbarczyk led the group up the Permian Reef Geology Trail, located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. One of the most spectacular geo-trails in the world (how often can you actually hike up an ancient clinoform?!), brochures and a full guidebook are available on the geology of this route.
At the top of the trail, students ate lunch on the nose of the ancient reef, looking southward into the basin.
DAY 5: Evaporites, deepwater deposits and salt flats
The last field day was spent on the south side of the Guadalupe Fault scarp, exploring different types of basin fill that accumulated in the Permian. Led by Paul Woods, the first stop of the day was in the Castile Formation, which is characterized by couplets of gypsum and organic-rich micritic mud. These evaporites mark the transition from the Middle (Guadalupean) to Late (Ochoan) Permian; they are interpreted to record increasing salinity in the basin as it filled and became more and more dessicated. To the east, the Castile serves as an effective seal rock in the Permian petroleum system.
At a second stop along Highway 180, boulder conglomerates outcropped approximately 7 miles from the ancient reef front. The giant clasts (some as large as a car!) contain carbonate lithofacies, which suggest they originated higher on the slope. Thus, they are interpreted to record mass transport processes, i.e. debris flows, that flowed into the basin.
The afternoon stops were spent south of the Guadalupe Fault scarp and looking back towards El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak. Deepwater clastic deposits of the Bell Canyon, Cherry Canyon and Brushy Canyon units were discussed and described by John Baird. The group identified incomplete Bouma sequences containing structureless sandstone, ripples and planar laminations.
Salt Flat, an area along Highway 180, served as the final field stop of the trip. Here, the group had time to observe modern evaporites, take in the West Texas vista, and contemplate the ancient Permian Basin System.
After five days investigating sedimentary rocks – clastics, carbonates, and evaporites – Tennessee Tech students and Dr. Wolak headed home to Cookeville. In Midland, TX, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum offered an opportunity to review the geology through the lens of oil and gas exploration.
In addition to the spectacular geology and modern depositional environments, Tennessee Tech earth science students enjoyed a few other treats, including:
1.) Graffiti at Road Side BBQ in Memphis, TN
2.) Tarantula-viewing at the Carlsbad KOA entrance
3.) High Desert Fashion, the Tennessee Way
4.) Jumping for joy after a week in the field doing geology. Go Golden Eagles!
On the evening of April 22, more than 200 students, parents, family, and friends assembled in the Tech Pride Room to acknowledge many of the outstanding students in the College, including five geosciences students. Bryan Blackburn, Heather Harris, David Hunter, and Audrey Pattat were recognized for winning department scholarships. Chelsea Ottenfeld was given the Excellence in Liberal Arts Award–the highest recognition of student achievement in the College. Moreover, Chelsea is the first geosciences student to win this distinguished award. Congratulations to all the department honorees!
Dr. Harrison with Heather Harris, David Hunter, and Bryan Blackburn
Chelsea Ottenfeld accepting the Award for Excellence in Liberal Arts from Dean Semmes.
On Nov. 30th, undergraduate students in the Mineralogy and Petrology class had an incredible opportunity to study minerals in their natural habitat, the Gordonsville and Elmwood underground mines. Led by Dr. Leimer and TTU alumni Josh Gentry, nine students and new faculty member Dr. Wolak visited the facility. After a brief safety session, the group headed down below to learn about mining geology.
Keegan Woods, a current TTU Earth Science undergraduate, also accompanied the students. Both he and Josh explained geology of the connected mines as they made several stops underground. Excited (read: ecstatic!) students had an opportunity to inspect vug geometries and collect samples of the ore breccia, sphalerite, fluorite, calcite and limestone.
Following the subsurface part of the field trip, the group was led on a tour through the mill facility. From one end of the building to the other, the tour guide explained how raw ore was crushed and separated to yield both powdered lime (for agricultural use) and sphalerite (for zinc).
Many thanks to Nyrstar and folks at the Gordonsville and Elmwood Zinc Mines for a safe and memorable trip underground!
Saturday, Dec. 2nd, was an exciting opportunity for students in the Earth Science Department to share their knowledge with over 25 girl scouts. Accompanied by parents and troop leaders, the girls visited the department to learn more about the geosciences and to work toward badges for geology and geocacheing. Student members of the Association of Women Geologists (AWG) and TTU Geoclub organized the outreach event, which included four activities on rocks and minerals, fossils, Mars geology and geocacheing.
Congrats to our girl scout geoscientists, and special thanks to local troop leader Rachel Moen and TTU undergraduate Billie Kibler for facilitating the event. Brandon Page was kind enough to take photos, and a very big ‘thank-you’ to earth science student and faculty volunteers!
A special thank-you to geologist Mark Elson and the Army Corps of Engineers in Nashville, TN for donating ten boxes of core to the Earth Science Department and Sedimentary Geology lab!
Four students and Dr. Wolak (who enjoys writing about herself in third person) visited the core warehouse the first week of December. After a brief introduction with Mark, the group sorted through about 30 boxes of core to select samples that could be used in sedimentary geology lab exercises. Ten boxes have a new home in Kittrell Hall and display an amazing diversity of lithologies, including conglomerates, coarse-to-fine sandstones, siltstones, mudstone, limestones (all flavors!) and even a coal bed or two.
Thanks also to Kolbe Andrejewski, TTU Earth Science undergraduate, for helping facilitate this transfer, and to students who helped move core: Bryan Blackburn, Geoff Gadd and Brandon Page.
Now we just have to wait until Sed/Strat next fall to describe all these cool new rocks!