Flagstaff Rim, Wyoming – A Classic Area of Continental Eocene Tuffs and Fossil Vertebrates

Flagstaff Rim strata, in central Wyoming, contain numerous Eocene tuffs and fossil vertebrates.

The Flagstaff Rim area in central Wyoming contains a classic geological section of Tertiary continental rocks that, for the most part, range in age from approximately 37 million years to about 35 million years. These strata are then capped by gravels that may be late Tertiary in age (probably younger than 20 million years in age, although there are no age constraints on them). I became interested in this section because the 37-35 million year part of it has strong similarities in terms of age and fossil vertebrate assemblages with Eocene continental rocks at Pipestone Springs, southwestern Montana where I’ve been working.

Eocene rock section locations for Pipestone Springs, southwest Montana and for Flagstaff Rim, central Wyoming.

Much work has already been done at Flagstaff Rim for both fossil vertebrates and Tertiary tuff ages (see Emry 1973; Emry 1992; Emry and Korth 2012; Sahy et al. 2015 for some background). But – a group of us working on continental Tertiary strata in the US Great Plains-Rocky Mountains decided it was time to resample all the tuffs in the Flagstaff Rim section and do 40Ar/39Ar single crystal sanidine age analyses and high-precision U–Pb dating of zircon on these tuffs and several of the section’s detrital beds. Emmett Evanoff, now at the University of Northern Colorado, graciously arranged our field work/camping venue. Bill McIntosh, at the New Mexico Geochronology Lab, and Steve Hasiotis, at the University of Kansas Geology Department, were also a part of our field crew. Bob Emry, Smithsonian Institution emeritus, joined us for a day, and told us about his decades-long work with fossil vertebrates at Flagstaff Rim. We had a very productive field time – and all section tuffs as well as some detrital beds were sampled. A back-breaking, sample-hauling hike at times, but always an amazing place as shown by the numerous photos below.

A white-colored tuff from the lower Flagstaff Rim section crops out in the central part of the photo.
Sampling the lowermost tuff from the Flagstaff Rim section.
The basal part of the Flagstaff Rim section is a paleochannel complex, so needless to say, it contains coarse-grained deposits. Hard to find a prospective bed for sampling detrital sanidine, but we may have found one. We’ll see!
The upper part of the Flagstaff Rim Section containing tuffs G through J. The dark-colored beds at the section’s top are the overlying, later Tertiary gravels.
An Isolated channel tuff occurs in the upper part of the Flagstaff Rim section. No radioisotopic or zircon age exists for this tuff, so it will be good to add these to the tuff age database.
Tuff J-1 near the top of the Flagstaff Rim section must give off a lot of energy as our hardy field crew levitates above it at the end of the field day.

Background Reading:

Emry, R.J. 1973. Stratigraphy and preliminary biostratigraphy of the Flagstaff Rim area,

Natrona County, Wyoming. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 18: 48 pp.

Emry, R.J. 1992. Mammalian range zones in the Chadronian White River formation at

Flagstaff Rim, Wyoming. In: D.R. Prothero and W.A. Berggren (eds.), Eocene–

Oligocene Climatic and Biotic Evolution, 106–115, Princeton University Press. Princeton, New Jersey.

Emry, R.J. and Korth, W.W. 2012. Early Chadronian (late Eocene) rodents from the

Flagstaff Rim area, central Wyoming. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32:

419–432.

Sahy, D., Condon, D.J., Terry, D.O., Fischer, A.U., and Kui­per, K.F. 2015. Synchronizing

terrestrial and marine records of environmental change across the Eocene–

Oligocene transition. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 427: 171–182.

Welcome To My 2021 Field Office

This is my summer receptionist… a Yellowstone 2020 wolf pup of the Junction Butte pack that roams mainly in the Lamar Valley of northern Yellowstone National Park.

My geological field work lately has taken me to several areas of western Montana, so I thought I’d do a visual collage of a few of the landscapes where I’ve been working. To start with, I’ve been spending time flying drones over Tertiary exposures in southwestern Montana, Great fun and good insight into Tertiary geology. Many of my flights are focused on Eocene strata at Pipestone Springs. Along with 3 co-authors (Don Lofgren, Stephen Hasiotis, and Bill McIntosh), we have a paper on Pipestone chronostratigraphy, trace fossils, and depositional environments that is now in review. Below are a couple of drone photos from Pipestone Springs.

Pipestone Springs Eocene strata with the basal lapilli tuff (37.5 million years in age) and the upper trace fossil bed (36 million years in age) indicated. Note the person standing on the surface of the upper trace fossil bed.
A somewhat closer drone view of the upper trace fossil bed with me as pilot standing off to the right side of the photo. My drone landing pad is my friend’s political campaign sign!

My travels through a part of northwestern Montana last week put me in a very different geologic setting from southwestern Montana. Proterozoic rocks are the mainstay in this area, and they make for some spectacular landscapes. So spectacular in fact, that I’ll just do a barrage of photos from the east side of Glacier National Park…

Chief Mountain, located a few miles north of Babb, Montana, is the iconic geologic view of major thrust fault where Proterozoic rocks (Chief Mountain rocks) are pushed over Cretaceous strata (green area of this photo).
No matter how much has changed in this past year because of the pandemic, it is just astounding to me to see a sign that says the Canadian border crossing is closed. It was a heavy mix of emotions being out in the early morning to view Chief Mountain, but then to see this sign and know that we’re still all in this even a year out. Whew…
Of course, no visit to Many Glacier is complete without marveling at Grinnell Point.
One of the positive aspects of getting up very early on a spring day is the sun rise near the Many Glacier Lodge. It didn’t last long as rain clouds pushed in but what a view for a time!
And another plus to being up early in the Many Glacier area is to watch a black bear amble down the road.
Coming back south, down the Front Range of the Rockies, we got out from under the rain clouds. Once again, geologically, the rocks that comprise Dancing Lady Mountain have been thrust over younger, Cretaceous strata (basically the area in green on the photo).

In summary, this is just a quick view of a couple western Montana areas where I’ve been recently. I have to say that I’m really looking forward to more amazing places to work this field season. I may swap out my office receptionist, though.

Working On High Elevation Tertiary Strata, Southwestern Montana

Lion Mountain, south-central Gravelly Range in southwestern Montana, has about 300 m of Tertiary strata capped by basalt that is about 31 million years in age.

Working on Tertiary strata in the Gravelly Range, southwestern Montana, is sometime daunting to do. The Lion Mountain Tertiary section shown in the photo to the right is one of those places that makes for a grueling day or several days of field work. The Tertiary section unconformably overlies various Paleozoic units, such as Mississippian Madison Group carbonates, Pennsylvanian-Permian quartzite, and Triassic carbonates and red mudstone. And the ascent from these pre-Tertiary rocks to the top of the Tertiary section is worth it – for both vertebrate paleontology and sedimentary features. Current work status in the project that I’m working on with the Raymond M. Alf Museum, Claremont, CA, is that the section contains vertebrates ranging in age from about 40 million years to about 31 million years in age. A tuff unit near the top of the section that we collected has an Ar/Ar age of 31.4+- 0.7 million years. The capping basalt (the dark zone on the top of Lion Mountain) has a reported K-Ar age of 30.8 +- 0.7 million years. Sedimentary features include massive aeolian units and some channeling near the top of the section. A basal surge deposit occurs about 25 m below the capping basalt, signalling the initial pulse of extensive basaltic volcanism in the Lion Mountain locale. Several photos of my most recent Lion Mountain climb illustrate the section’s features and are shown below.

Channel complex near top of Lion Mountain comprised of Paleozoic rock clasts.
Basal surge deposit about 25 m from top of Lion Mountain. Embedded basalt clasts, sand waves, and plane parallel beds characterize this deposit.
Basalt bombs in channel near Lion Mountain crest have paleomag drill holes – a clear sign that someone else has made this climb!
A ladder stashed in the uppermost tree-area on the mountain which is left over from past paleontology expeditions.
The orange baked zone that underlies basalt is evident in this photo. Also note the channel lenses that outcrop randomly across the Tertiary stratal expanse.
About 5 km northwest of Lion Mountain sits the basalt plug of Black Butte. Previous reported isotopic ages range from 23-25 million years, but our preliminary data show an age of about 30 million years for this volcanic feature.
The most pleasant part of the hike in the Lion Mountain area is in the glaciated meadow that lies at the base of the mountain. We’re a little late for the wild flower bloom, but it still is a gorgeous area!

Tolting Around Pseudocraters at Lake Myvatn, Iceland

The Lake Myvatn area, located in northeast Iceland, has an amazing, and truly beautiful, volcanic landscape. This area lies within Iceland’s North Volcanic Zone, which is a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the spreading rift between the Eurasian and North American plates that slices through Iceland. Lake Myvatn is the fourth largest lake in Iceland, and is quite shallow, with the deepest part being only about 4 meters. This area is also renown for its wetlands and birdlife, with the lake’s numerous bays and its outlet to the north-flowing river Laxa being host to a multitude of birds.

Lake Myvatn, viewed from the lake’s eastern side.
Basaltic landscape in the Hofdi area, on the southeast side of Lake Myvatn. Hofdi is a rocky promontory into Lake Myvatn that affords excellent bird watching.
Lava pillars in the Kálfastrandavogar area, southeastern Lake Myvatn.

My favorite experience at Lake Myvatn was riding an Icelandic horse around the pseudocraters in the Skútustaðagígar area of Lake Myvatn (southwestern part of the lake). Pseudocraters are unusual in that they are rootless volcanic cones that formed in this area about 2300 years ago when basaltic lava flowed over the water-logged lake sediment, resulting in the cones being built from steam exploding through the lava. So -not only did I want to see pseudocraters, but I also wanted to lean how to tolt because this is a natural gait exclusive to Icelandic horses. According to Riding-Iceland.com,

“the Tölt is a natural, fluid gait of the Icelandic Horse, during which at least one foot always touches the ground. Foals often tölt in pastures at an early age. The tölt is an extraordinarily smooth four-beat gait, which allows the rider an almost bounce-free ride, even at 32 kmh (20 mph). “

I contacted Safari Horse Rental (located just off the main road in the Skútustaðagígar area) and set up a two hour ride. Gilli was my guide, and he took me through mostly private land to both look at pseudocraters and to teach me how to tolt. It did take me awhile to understand how to let my horse know it was time to break into the tolting gait, but when we both got it figured out, wow! what a way to see pseudocraters! I’d urge anyone who loves to ride horses to try this!

The start of the pseudocrater exploration ride at Safari Horse Rentals!
A pseudocrater looms ahead of us. The pseudocraters are typically composed of tephra, scoria, and splatter that resulted from basaltic lava flowing over water-logged lake sediments forming steam eruptions that blast through the lava.
The remnants of a pseudocrater becomes a watering hole for the area sheep herds.
Basalt block fences are common on Icelandic farm lands.
This photo shows midges covering a part of a pseudocrater. The midges weren’t numerous when I was at Lake Myvatn, but they periodically emerge by the billions to cover the Lake Myvatn area. In fact, Lake Myvatn means “midge lake” in Icelandic. The midge populations are very closely tied to the Lake Myvatn fishery. Unfortunately, dredging in the lake during the 1960’s for a silicon mining operation has probably caused enough fluctuation in the midge populations to result in the collapse of the fishery. See the following publication for more information on this – High-amplitude fluctuations and alternative dynamical states of midges in Lake Myvatn.

Again – I’ll highly recommend that the best way to view Lake Myvatn’s pseudocraters is by tolting on an Icelandic horse!

Iceland Geology – Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure, Thingvellir National Park

I did a snorkel tour of the Silfra fissure with Dive.is while I was in Iceland a couple weeks ago. That is a very impressive way to view part of the mid-Atlantic ridge system! Here’s what Dive.is says about Silfra that makes it so unique:

Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure in Iceland.

“Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park. The rift was formed in 1789 by the earthquakes accompanying the divergent movement of the two tectonic plates . The diving and snorkeling site at Silfra is right where the two continents meet and drift apart about 2 cm per year. Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel directly in a crack between two tectonic plates. The earthquakes of 1789 opened up several fissures in the Thingvellir area, but the Silfra fissure cut into the underground spring filled with glacial meltwater from the nearby Langjökull glacier.”

My Silfra snorkel group starting out in the fissure with our guide Jake from Dive.is.

There are 6 people to a group for the snorkel tour, with each group accompanied by a guide from Dive.is. Jake was our guide and he was great! The tour is simply snorkeling through basalt and more basalt, but with the water clarity, the colors are beautiful. There is also one place where you can stretch across the fissure and basically touch both plates.

The start of the snorkel tour where the entrance platform can be seen in the background.
The stretch between plates…
This is where basalt really looks grand!
Near the end of the snorkel tour, the fissure opens into a shallow lagoonal area.
The colors in the sandy lagoon are just as spectacular as elsewhere in the fissure. The exit platform can be seen in the distance.
The end of the snorkel tour – ours was a great weather day, so even though the fissure water is cold (we all wear dry suits with long underwear and two pairs of wool socks), I could have snorkeled around the lagoon for a long time.

I also took video while I was snorkeling, so am inserting a clip from the first part of the snorkel tour at the end of this blog. The video clip includes the time when we all get geared up, have our gear checked, and then flipper-walk down the entrance ramp, into the water. We all have to do a flip over to our back once we’re in the water, just to make sure we can maneuver once we’re in the water. The clip continues on as we snorkel through the first several minutes of exploring the fissure. At the end of the snorkel tour, we hike back to where the Dive.is vans/equipment are. After taking off our gear – which getting off the dry suit is somewhat of a challenge – we have hot chocolate and cookies. Because the weather was so nice, it was a pleasurable experience to stand around and feast. But – we were told that in the wintertime the guides take the hot water that is suppose to be used for the hot chocolate and it pour down the snorkelers’ necks so the dry suits can be pulled off. Glad I opted for late May to do this!

Yellowstone To Southwest Montana Autumn Field Photo Snaps

Montana’s autumn is my favorite time of the year to do field work. Daytime temperatures are usually cool enough to encourage one to keep moving and the lighting is simply gorgeous. It is also one of the best times to visit areas in and around Yellowstone National Park (YNP) because most of the tourists have gone home. So no huge bear traffic jams or jostling for parking spots at the better known thermal spots in YNP and surrounding environs – it’s just a wonderfully introspective time for field forays. What follows are several photos that chronicle some of my fall wanderings in the greater Yellowstone area, both in terms of wildlife and geology.

Some of my favorite sightings in YNP are bison at any time of the year. But the autumn snows bring on the bison’s technique of using its head to clear snow away from any vegetative food source. The result of their snow-clearing activity is a snow-masked face.

Snow-caked face of a bison in YNP portends the winter food retrieval.

Snow-masked bison near Soda Butte Creek, YNP.

And where the snow hasn’t stacked up much, the YNP bison calmly graze and occasionally congregate on a ridge line to watch what remains of the YNP visitor traffic.

YNP bison contemplating passing vehicles.

Geological features in YNP take on new dimensions with the golden low and slanting light of autumn. I’ve spent much time re-photographing geologic features at all scales that seem to glow in this season’s light.

Tertiary sediments and Quaternary sediments/basalts of “The Narrows” cliff face adjacent to the Yellowstone River, northern YNP. Columnar basalt capped by auto-brecciated basalt makes a morel-like image for these geological units.

An early morning at -7 F on the Lamar River with steam fog resulting from the fall’s chilled air moving over water still warmed from summer.

A rodent trackway disappears into microterracettes of Palette Springs, Mammoth Hot Springs, YNP.

Microbial growth near the proximal part of Mound Springs, Mammoth Hot Springs, YNP.

The proximal end of Mound Springs abounds in various colored microbial life. It’s hard to stop photographing these features because they are so intriguing!

The lipped margin of Mound Spring’s pond facies, Mammoth Hot Springs, YNP.

The fall staging areas of sandhill cranes in southwestern Montana are mesmerizing. Staging areas are those locations where cranes annually congregate during late September into October, spend several days foraging through fields for food, and eventually continue on their migration southward from Montana to Colorado and the southwestern U.S.. The staging area that I usually go to is near Dillon, Montana, where hundreds of cranes can be viewed.

Sandhill crane interaction during their fall staging near Dillon, Montana.

Sandhill cranes doing a dance routine in the Dillon, Montana staging area.

As I said initially, it’s hard to surpass a Montana/YNP autumn!

Tertiary geology and paleontology of the central Gravelly Range – a project update

The 2017 field crew working at Lazyman Hill. The strata are late Eocene (probably 34-36 million years in age) tufa deposits.

It’s time for our yearly update talk on field work and data compilation for the Tertiary geology and paleontology of the central Gravelly Range project in southwestern Montana. The Madison Ranger District in Ennis, Montana (5 Forest Service Road) will be hosting my talk on Monday, April 2nd at 10am in the Madison Ranger District conference room. We have a project permit from the US Forest Service because our project area lies within the Madison Ranger District – and the USFS District people have been really helpful with our project logistics. Thus, this is the perfect way to let them know what we did this past field season and how the whole project is coming together. The Madison District just sent their public announcement for the talk:

Dr. Hanneman and Dr. Don Lofgren, PhD (Director, Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, Claremont, CA 91711) and their team have been executing a multiyear study in the Gravelly Range near Black Butte resulting in many interesting paleontological findings right here in our own back yard.  Please join Dr. Hanneman and the Madison Ranger District for an update on this project and what they hope to unearth this year!

It’s a very intriguing project on high-elevation, mainly Eocene-Oligocene Tertiary geology and paleontology (mostly vertebrate and floral). So – anyone with an interest in this and who is in the geographic area, is welcome at the talk!

Cuban Geology – An Updated Resource List

Vinales Valley in Cuba was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

Within the last few weeks I’ve had several requests for available resources on Cuban geology. The requests, of course, have come from individuals outside of the U.S.A. Guess that they sense opportunities for working with and understanding Cuba’s geology that we are backing away from. In any case, I’ve sent the requests on to Manuel Iturralde-Vinet, the person who has worked and published an immense amount of information regarding Cuba’s geology. Manuel has now sent me back an updated list of resources and said:

You can advertise to all your friends and colleagues that a large
percentage of the geology, geography, paleontology, geophysics and
mining papers are free to be visited at
http://www.redciencia.cu/geobiblio/inicioEN.html

Other resources that are available include: http://www.redciencia.cu/cdorigen/arca/iturra.html

Field Trip Guides to Cuban Geology: 2001, IV Cuban Geological and Mining Congress: K-T Boundary of Western Cuba

— 2001, IV Cuban Geological and Mining Congress: Former Caribbean Plate Boundary, Camaguey, central Cuba

Compendio de Geología de Cuba y del Caribe. Segunda Edición 2012:
http://www.editorialcitmatel.cu/producto.php?producto=128

Videos de Viajes: http://www.youtube.com/user/IturraldeVinent2011#grid/user/A43949937C36E7BC

Videos de Geología y Naturaleza: http://www.youtube.com/user/IturraldeVinent2011#grid/user/DE8FDB5CE5960C19

Geological Society of America: The Geological Society’s (GSA) annual meeting in Denver, 2016, hosted a special session on the Geologic Evolution of Cuba. A link to session abstracts is: GSA Geologic Evolution of Cuba. The GSA Today October 2016 issue also highlighted Cuba Geology with the article “The geology of Cuba: A brief overview and synthesisauthored by Manuel Iturralde-Vinet and others.

Earth Magazine: Travels in Geology: Journeying Through Cuba’s Geology and Culture.

 

Siccar Point: A Day In The Field At Hutton’s Unconformity

Siccar Point – In June, 1778, James Hutton, John Playfair, and James Hall gazed on the rocks at Siccar Point and understood that an immense amount of geologic time was needed to produce the juxtaposition of underlying vertically-oriented (Silurian graywacke) bedded rocks with overlying near-horizontal (Devonian, Old Red Sandstone) rocks.

Siccar Point is unquestionably one of the most important geological sites in the understanding of geological time. It was here in 1778 that James Hutton, John Playfair, and James Hall contemplated the immensity of time needed to produce vertically oriented rocks overlain by gently-dipping rocks. The concept of geological time is so fundamental to the science of geology that I really wanted to explore the locality that gave rise to the idea of geological time. So I finally made the trip to Scotland and Siccar Point a couple weeks ago. Wow – what an amazing country! It was a fantastic trip, but for this blog, I’ll just post a few photos of Siccar Point – just enough, perhaps, to encourage geologic time enthusiasts to also make the trip.

Siccar Point is located on Scotland’s Berwickshire coast, about 40 km southeast of Edinburgh. It is not difficult to get there from Edinburgh for a beautiful day in any walking holidays in Scotland if you’re willing to drive a few back roads, and also drive on the left side of the road – which for me was somewhat of an initial challenge (going left on the roundabouts was mind boggling to begin with!). The best directions that I found for getting to Siccar Point are given by Angus Miller, who also runs field trips there. Angus’s directions to Siccar Point and his contact information are found at his Geowalks website.

The gate into the fields for the hike to Siccar Point.

The pull-off for the hike to Siccar Point is well marked by signage. All that one needs to do is walk through the gate and then follow the fence lines south to the Siccar Point locality. There is a small sign on the entrance gate that advises you to beware of the bull. We happened to meet up with a local person while we were hiking through the fields to Siccar Point and she told us that the land owner posted the sign mainly because he’s at war with the hordes of people that tromp through his fields to get to Siccar Point (in Scotland there is the “right to roam”, so one can hike across private property). She also assured us that at the time we were there, the cows were off in another field, so not to worry about the bull. We then just followed the hiking instructions on the sign at the gate entrance, and found that it’s an easy walk to Siccar Point.

The entrance sign to Siccar Point with hiking instructions.

The ruins of the St. Helen’s Chapel are found near the start of the hike to Siccar Point.

Much of the hike to Siccar Point is at field edges, near the sea cliffs.

The fence lines finally give way to the rock promontory that is Siccar Point.

Once one arrives at the rock promontory that is Siccar Point, it is an amazing view looking down the cliff face. The vertical beds of Silurian graywacke outcrop beautifully below Devonian Old Red Sandstone. The “Hutton Unconformity” here marks an approximately 80 million year hiatus. Again, there is also good signage present at the promontory for an explanation of the unconformity.

Siccar Point – the rock promontory that contains Hutton’s Unconformity.

Signage at Siccar Point well explains Hutton’s Unconformity.

A view to the south of Siccar Point where the underlying vertical beds of Silurian graywacke snake along the coast line, under the more gently dipping beds of the Devonian Old Red Sandstone.

 

 

 

 

 

A rope is attached to the fence at the promontory to help the climber down the cliff face. As it was a muddy and slick climb down to the North Sea, I was very glad to use the rope! Much thanks to whoever put the rope there!

Roping down the cliff face was a welcome way to get to the rocks below.

The rope climb back up Siccar Point – once again, I was very appreciative of the rope being there!

It was fun to investigate the unconformity at the sea’s edge. The base of the Old Red Sandstone contained lags from the graywacke, some of which are cobble size.

A closer view of Hutton’s Unconformity with the Old Red Sandstone atop the Silurian graywacke.

A layer of lag clasts at the base of the Old Red Sandstone. The vertically-oriented beds of the Silurian graywacke can be seen beneath the Old Red Sandstone.

A view back up the cliff face gives a good visual of the gently dipping Devonian Old Red Sandstone overlying the vertical beds of Silurian graywacke.

I know that we were very lucky to have good weather for our Siccar Point excursion, but I would have gone there whatever the weather. It is really one of the great geologic sites and well worth traveling part way around the world to see. For a drone view of Siccar Point, take a look at the video done by the British Geological Survey which is posted in an earlier Geopostings blog: Siccar Point from a drone’s view.

 

 

 

Canadian Rockies – Alberta Badlands Geology Guidebook

The Canadian Rockies to Alberta Badlands geology guidebook is published by the Association for Women Geoscientists.

The Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) published their first geology field trip guidebook in late 2016 and it is now available for sale to the general public. This guideboook is a collection of geology road logs, associated geological information, and local cultural history of areas within the Canadian Rockies and the Alberta Badlands. The following text is a brief summary of the guidebook:

“TECTONICS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND EVOLUTION – SOUTHERN CANADIAN CORDILLERA: Road Log and Accompanying Narratives From: Calgary – Lake Louise – Icefields – Field – Revelstoke – Fernie -Dinosaur Provincial Park – Calgary”, published by the Association for Women Geoscientists, 2016.

This field trip guidebook is written by Katherine J.E. Boggs and Debra L. Hanneman, and edited by Janet Wert Crampton and Stephanie Yager. It is the AWG’s first fully published field trip guidebook and is a field-tested guide from their two-week 2014 field trip through the Canadian Rockies and Alberta’s Badlands area.

The guidebook is a 209-page geology tour through many of the well-known parts of the Alberta Canadian Rockies, including the Front and Main Ranges of the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Icefields. The Burgess Shale’s Walcott Quarry, the Okanagan Valley vineyards, and the Rocky Mountain Trench are trip highlights for geo-tours in British Columbia. The field trip guidebook ends with a geology tour of the Crowsnest Pass area on the British Columbia/Alberta border, and with field stops in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park and at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta.

The field guide is printed on double-sided 8.5″ x 11″ pages with the guide cover on 100 lb paper and the text on 80 lb paper. It has black wire-o binding and a clear acetate front and a black acetate backing for improved field durability. The guidebook’s cost is $55 USD (which includes shipping), and can be purchased at the AWG online store or by phoning the AWG main office at 303-412-6219.

The Field Season Is Going Strong in Southwestern Montana

My field season is in full swing. I recently spent time with students from the Webb Schools in Claremont, CA, during their annual sojourn to southwestern Montana. We prospected a few Tertiary localities, with the students making some good fossil mammal and fossil invertebrate finds. We were also extremely lucky to have a southwest Montana landowner give us a tour of a buffalo jump that is on his land. The following photos are from our various fossil site and buffalo jump field adventures.

woodin-snails

Tertiary fossil snails (about 25 My in age) at one locality captured the interest of students. Once one snail was found, everyone was intent on finding more.

Bob Haseman talks about a buffalo jump in the Toston Valley. He is standing by one of the many tepee rings associated with the jump site.

Bob Haseman talks about a buffalo jump in the Toston Valley of southwestern Montana. He is standing by one of the many tepee rings associated with the jump site. The small boulders on the surface between Bob and the students are part of a tepee ring.

Webb School students hiking up to the "Looking-Out" site associated with the buffalo jump. A eagle catchment area is immediately below the highest point of the "Looking-Out" site.

Webb School students hiked up to the “Looking-Out” site associated with the buffalo jump. A eagle catchment area is immediately below the highest point of the “Looking-Out” site.

eagle-catchment

The eagle catchment area is a shallow depression where a person would hide beneath brush awaiting the approach of an eagle. A nearby animal carcass would aid the quest to capture a eagle which was then used for its feathers.

Chadronian (about 36 Ma) age rocks yielded a few brontothere teeth and bone fragments.

Chadronian (about 36 My in age) rocks near Three Forks, Montana yielded a few brontothere teeth and bone fragments for the curious students.

Chadronian strata in this area contain brown to reddish, popcorn textured floodplain deposits and whitish-colored fine-sand channel deposits.

Chadronian strata in this area consist of brown to reddish popcorn-textured floodplain deposits that contain paleosols and whitish-colored fine-sand channel deposits.

 

 

Siccar Point – The Roots of Modern Geology

Siccar Point, located on the southeast coast of Scotland, is well revered in the geological community. Outcrops at this locale display ‘Hutton’s Unconformity’. This is an angular unconformity where tilted rock units of about 370 million years in age called the Old Red Sandstone (with a basal layer of conglomerate) lie atop nearly vertical strata of greywacke that are approximately 435 million years in age. James Hutton observed these rock juxtapositions while on a boat trip past Siccar Point in 1788 with James Hall and John Playfair. His observations and contemplation of this unconformity formed a basis for his theory of repeated cycles of deposition, uplift, and erosion, which was later known as uniformitarianism.

The British Geological Survey posted a new video on Siccar Point a few days ago. Their video features amazing drone video of the locale and good accompanying audio. It is well worth a view!

A High-Elevation Eocene Fossil Vertebrate Site in the Elkhorn Mountains, Southwestern Montana

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The Dog Town Mine vertebrate fossil locality is an isolated occurrence of Eocene strata found on the divide between the Toston-Townsend Valley (on the east side of the photo)  and the North Boulder Valley (on the western edge of the photo), southwestern Montana.

The Dog Town Mine Tertiary fossil vertebrate locality is nestled on private property within the southern extent of the Elkhorn Mountains, southwestern Montana. The locality is about 20 miles southwest of Townsend, Montana, where Mesozoic and Paleozoic carbonate, quartzite, and red-colored mudstone, siltstone, and sandstone rocks underlie Eocene (Chadronian) strata. These unconformable Eocene strata contain the Dog Town Mine vertebrate fossil locality.

Earl Douglass (yes, that Earl Douglass of the Dinosaur National Monument fame) first collected at the site on Friday, June 27, 1902 (based on transcriptions from Earl Douglass’ journals done by Alan Tabrum and volunteers from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History). According to his journal, Douglass met a man from Toston, Montana, on horseback and this person told him about the Dog Town Mine, which was located on the divide between the Toston/Townsend and North Boulder Valleys. Douglass was headed to the North Boulder Valley anyways, so he rode to the mine where he found invertebrate fossils (brachiopods and bryozoa) in carbonate rock which was in contact with the ore deposit. A Mr. Allen, who he dined with that evening, told him that more fossils could be found a little ways west of the mine. After dinner Douglass rode a short way west of the mine and found banks along a ravine that looked like Tertiary White River beds. Here he found  “Oreodont, Ischyromys, Palaeolagus, Titanotherium, and turtle remains” (June 28, 1902, Douglass Journal entry). This area is the present Dog Town Mine vertebrate fossil locality.

The Dog Town Mine site encompasses all of the light-colored exposures on the right side of the county road.

The Dog Town Mine locality encompasses all of the light-colored exposures on the right side of the county road seen in this photograph.

 

Tertiary strata at the Dog Town Mine are fine-grained, predominantly consisting of siltstone with minor fine-grained sandstone units. The deposits are probably of aeolian origin, originating from areal sediments rich in volcanic ash. These deposits are probably similar lithologically and in mode of origin to those Tertiary White River units found at high elevations within the Laramie Range and Medicine Bow Mountains (Evanoff, E., 1990, Early Oligocene paleovalleys in southern and central Wyoming: Evidence of high local relief on the late Eocene unconformity: Geology, v. 18, p. 443–446; Lloyd and Eberle, 2012, A late Eocene (Chadronian) mammalian fauna from the White River Formation in Kings Canyon, northern Colorado: Rocky Mountain Geology, v. 47, no. 2, p. 113–132).

Vertebrate fossils have been collected at the Dog Town Mine site for various museums since Douglass’ initial collection. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA houses a collection from the site as well as the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT.

Iceberg Lake Glacier, Glacier National Park – Hiking Through A Changing Landscape

Iceberg Lake is situated in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. The hike is about a 10 mile round trip and gains about 1275 feet in elevation. The trail winds through prime grizzly bear habitat, so be sure to hike with a group, make lots of noise, and carry bear spray. It would also be good to get a strong bag or pack that can withstand a bear attack (click the following to learn more) because if one punches a hole in a weaker bag, it could mean bye-bye bear spray. When I hiked the trail back in September, many returning hikers told our group about a grizzly sow and two cubs that were roaming around by Iceberg Lake. The bears actually walked by the lakeshore while my group and many others were at the lake, but there were no harmful encounters. However – just this past week, in this same general area, a sow grizzly with 2 sub-adult cubs (I’m guessing that this is the same set of bears that walked by my group at Iceberg Lake) was surprised by a lone hiker and the sow grabbed and shook the hiker. The hiker used his bear spray escaped with puncture wounds to his lower leg and a hand. So – some words of caution about hiking in bear country!

The Iceberg Lake Trail

A part of the Iceberg Lake Trail - note the u-shape valley sculpted by glacial processes.

A part of the Iceberg Lake Trail – note the u-shape valley sculpted by glacial processes.

The trailhead to Iceberg Lake is behind the cabins near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The first part of the hike, about 1/4 mile, gains about 185 feet. After that initial elevation gain, the trail’s elevation gain moderates. Ptarmigan Falls is about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, and a short way above this is a footbridge that crosses Ptarmigan Creek. The rocky area near the footbridge is a great place for a snack break. Another 1/10 mile beyond the footbridge is the Iceberg Lake Trail junction. The Ptarmigan Trail continues towards the right and goes to Ptarmigan Tunnel and Ptarmigan Lake.Take the other trail branch to continue on to Iceberg Lake. A good trail hike summary for the Iceberg Lake Trail is found at the website “Hiking in Glacier”.

Footbridge over Ptarmigan Creek - good  place for a snack break.

Footbridge over Ptarmigan Creek – good place for a snack break.

Nearing Iceberg Lake as the snow and sleet continue to fall.

Nearing Iceberg Lake as the snow and sleet continue to fall.

The popularity of the trail was clear to me when even on a rainy, sleety, and snowy day,I passed many people on the trail. My group did a leisurely hike, stopping at several places to look at the geology alongside the trail and to do a snack stop by the Ptarmigan Creek footbridge both on the way up and back. It took us about 5 hours for the round trip. That put us back just in time to have a much enjoyed dinner at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Ah - the trail's end at Iceberg Lake!

Ah – the trail’s end at Iceberg Lake!

 

 

The Iceberg Glacier: Recession from 1940 to the Present

Comparisons of the Iceberg Glacier from 1940 to 2015. The photo on the left is a circa 1940 Hileman photo. GNP Archives; the center photo is a 8/14/2008 photo by Lisa McKeon, USGS, and the photo on the right is a 9/6/2015 photo by Debra Hanneman.

Comparisons of the Iceberg Glacier from 1940 to 2015. The photo on the left is a circa 1940 Hileman photo (GNP Archives) the center photo is a 8/14/2008 photo by Lisa McKeon, USGS, and the photo on the right is a 9/6/2015 photo by Debra Hanneman. Click on the photo to enlarge it in a new window.

The Iceberg Glacier is shown in the above photo set beginning in 1940 (this is the photo on the left, which is a Hileman photo from the Glacier National Park Archives) and ending with the 9/6/2015 photo on the right, which I took during my hike to Iceberg Lake. In the 1940 photo, the glacier terminus is quite thick and extends into the basin. By 2015, there is not much left of the glacier. Even with a comparison between the center 2008 photo by Lisa McKeon and my 2015 photo, one can see that much more bedrock is exposed. The older photos are also posted on the US Geological Survey’s Repeat Photography Map Tour Website. For those interested in glacial recession within Glacier National Park, the Repeat Photography website is a valuable resource. The Repeat Photography project is summarized on the USGS website –

This project began in 1997 with a search of photo archives. We used many of the high quality historic photographs to select and frame repeated photographs of seventeen different glaciers. Thirteen of those glaciers have shown marked recession and some of the more intensely studied glaciers have proved to be just 1/3 of their estimated maximum size that occurred at the end of the Little Ice Age (circa 1850). In fact, only 26 named glaciers presently exist of the 150 glaciers present in 1850.

Trail Geology

Sheet sands interbedded with muds in Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

Jeff Kuhn points out sheet sands interbedded with muds in Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

Much of the Iceberg Lake Trail winds through the Grinnell Formation, which is a Proterozoic geologic unit within the Belt Supergroup. As Callan Bentley has succintly said of the Belt Supergroup rocks in Glacier National Park:

The rocks exposed firstly from the top down are old sedimentary rocks of the Belt Supergroup. It is called “Belt” after Belt, Montana, and “supergroup” because it is immense. These rocks were deposited in a Mesoproteozoic (1.6-1.2 Ga) sea basin, and show little to no metamorphism despite their age.

Rip-up clasts in Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

Rip-up clasts in Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

I was lucky to be hiking with Jeff Kuhn from Helena, Montana, who has done much work with Belt Supergroup rocks in the Glacier Park to Whitefish Range areas. Jeff stopped us at several locations along the trail to look more closely at features within the Grinnell Formation. In general, the Grinnell Formation consists of sandstone and argillite and is approximately 1740-2590 feet thick. It has a deep brick-red color owing to its contained hematite and because it was deposited in a shallow oxygen-rich environment. Sedimentary features that are consistent with the shallow water depositional interpretation include mudstone rip-up clasts, mudcracks, and ripple marks.

Mudcracks preserved in the Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

Mudcracks preserved in the Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

All told, it was a hike well worth doing, even if you are not a geology enthusiast!

Ripples preserved in the Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

Ripples preserved in the Proterozoic Grinnell Formation.

 

A Different Look At The Burgess Shale – The Stanley Glacier Burgess Shale Hike, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada

The Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and its contained fossils are legendary to earth scientists. These fossils are by far the best record of Cambrian animal fossils. The importance of the Burgess Shale fossils is also linked to their excellent preservation. The fossils include many soft bodied animals in addition to those with hard parts – an extremely rare occurrence for fossil assemblages.

I finally hiked to the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge near Field, B.C., last year, just to better understand the context of the Burgess Shale. It was well worth the effort (it is a long, and as other hikers phrased it – a gut-busting hike). Before my Walcott Quarry hike, I’d read that Kootenay National Park just started hosting hikes to Burgess Shale type faunas (BST) in the Stanley Glacier area. It only took a good dinner and a beer after the Walcott Quarry hike to decide that I’d do the Stanley Glacier Burgess Shale hike.

Stanley Glacier Valley, Kootenay National Park - the view is looking west from the upper talus slopes.

Stanley Glacier Valley, Kootenay National Park – the view is looking west from the upper talus slopes.

Stanley Glacier BST fossils (approximately 505 million years in age) are about 40 km southeast of the Field, B.C. (Yoho National Park) locales. Recent work in both the Marble Canyon and the Stanley Glacier areas of Kootenay National Park yielded noteworthy additions to understanding the BST fossils and their depositional environments. BST fossils found in the Marble Canyon area include 25 new species of organisms; 8 new species are now recorded for the Stanley Glacier BST fossils. Of more interest to me (being a sedimentologist), is that the depositional environment in the Kootenay National Park area differs from that of the Field, B.C. area. Although the Burgess Shale fossils are found within the Stephen Formation in both areas, there is a marked difference in this rock unit from one area to the other area. Around Field, B.C., the Stephen Formation is the “thick or basinal” (about 276 to 370 meters thick) Stephen and it resulted from deposition at the base of the older Cathedral Formation Escarpment (a submarine cliff) via turbidity flows. In the Stanley Glacier area, the Stephen Formation is relatively “thin” (about 33 meters thick) and is probably the result of deposition at the distal edge of a marine platform (Caron and others, 2010; Gaines, 2011). The stratigraphic placement of the Burgess Shale rock units also differs from the Field, B.C. area to the Stanley Glacier area. Based upon the presence certain trilobites and stratigraphic evidence (Caron and others, 2010), the “thin” Stephen Formation at Stanley Glacier is stratigraphically above the Field, B.C. Burgess Shale localities.

The Cambrian rock units on the south wall of the Stanley Glacier area. The Stephen Formation is the unit that contains the Burgess Shale type fossils. The lockbox location is the hike’s end.

With that small bit of Burgess Shale background, I’ll get back to the actual hike up the Stanley Glacier valley to the Stephen Formation talus slopes and outcrop. The hike is hosted by Kootenay National Park and is about 10 km for the round trip. The elevation gain is about 450 meters. The first part of the hike is through glacial material and a fire-swept lodgepole pine forest. Forest fires burned through this area most recently in 1968 and in 2003. Luckily for paleontologists, the fire bared many slopes and definitely helped in locating BST fossil beds. A little more than halfway through the hike, one breaks out of the trees onto the talus slopes of Stanley Glacier’s valley. The hike continues over the talus slope to a very large boulder. Several BST fossil specimens are locked in a box kept behind this boulder. Our guide gives an informative talk about the lockbox fossils and we have much time to pick around the talus slope for more fossils.

Burgess Shale type fossil specimens are kept in a lock box behind the large rock. These specimens are the focus of an informative talk by the Kootenay National Park hike guide.

Burgess Shale type fossil specimens are kept in a lockbox behind the large rock located on the talus slope. These specimens are the focus of an informative talk by the Kootenay National Park hike guide.

In 1989, an expedition party from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) located fossils from Stephen Formation talus in this area (Rigby and Collins, 2004: Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and Stephen Formations, British Columbia; Royal Ontario Museum Contributions in Science 1: 1–155.). Caron and others (2010) also document that some of their fossil assemblage material came from the talus slope, so it’s worth some time to look around (Caron and others, 2010 GSA Data Repository).

Talus slopes beneath the Cambrian Stephen Formation are prime areas for Burgess Shale type fossils.

Talus slopes beneath the Cambrian Stephen Formation are prime areas for Burgess Shale type fossils.

Keep in mind that this is within a Canadian National Park, so do not keep any of the fossil material. The quarry that has been worked recently in this area (the quarry was initially worked in 2008 by ROM earth scientists) is yet beyond the hike’s end point, near the southwest edge of the cirque.

Stanley Glacier BST shelly fauna includes characteristic Cambrian taxa such as hyolithids, brachiopods, and trilobites. Soft-bodied BST creatures such as the necktobenthic or nektonic arthropods and proto-arthropods Stanleycaris hirpex n. gen., n. sp., Tuzoia retifera, and Sidneyia inexpectans also are part of the BST fauna. Trace fossils are plentiful on some bedding surfaces. These include trails, shallow burrows, and arthropod trackways.

Tuzoia - a fossil arthropod specimen from the lockbox collection.

Tuzoia – a fossil arthropod specimen from the lockbox collection.

Sidneyia - a fossil arthropod from the lockbox collection.

Sidneyia – a fossil arthropod from the lockbox collection (this specimen is actually from Marble Canyon).

Sponge spicules - from the fossil lockbox collection.

Sponge spicules – from the fossil lockbox collection.

Haplophrentis - an enigmatic tubular fossil known as a hyolith. This fossil is from the lockbox collection.

Haplophrentis – an enigmatic tubular fossil known as a hyolith. This fossil is from the lockbox collection.

Anomolarcaris claw - from the lockbox collection.

Anomalorcaris claw – from the lockbox collection.

Feeding traces - from the talus slope near the lockbox.

Feeding traces – from the talus slope near the lockbox.

The Gravelly Range, Southwestern Montana: High Elevation Tertiary Rocks

The Gravelly Range is located in southwest Montana, about 10 miles southwest of Ennis, Montana. Much of the range is covered by the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is in the northern part of the Gravelly Range.

Gravelly Range - looking east over Paleozoic rocks to the Madison Range in the far distance.

Gravelly Range – looking east over Paleozoic rocks to the Madison Range in the far distance.

Our field group was interested in looking at Tertiary rocks, so we headed for the Black Butte – Lion Mountain area, the more south-central part of the range. A cold front had just swept through western Montana a few days prior to my field trip. That storm left some snow up on the range crest – yep, that’s right, snow in July. But it did melt off fast and it left vegetation along the Gravelly Range road (the main road that stretches along much of the top of the range’s extent) extremely lush. So it was a gorgeous drive from the Lyon Bridge crossing on the Madison River up to Lion Mountain and Black Butte. And as Black Butte is the highest peak in the Gravelly Range at 10,542 feet in elevation, it was not difficult to find our destination.

Black Butte, at 10,542 feet  in elevation, is the highest peak in the Gravelly Range.

Black Butte, at 10,542 feet in elevation, is the highest peak in the Gravelly Range. Eruptions at Black Butte have a radiometric age date by whole-rock K-Ar of 22.9 Ma.

East side of Lion Mountain as seen from Wolverine Basin. Alkaline basalt caps Lion Mountain, with a K-Ar age date of 30.8 Ma.

East side of Lion Mountain as seen from Wolverine Basin. Alkaline basalt caps Lion Mountain, and has a K-Ar age date of 30.8 Ma.

The Tertiary rocks of interest to us were primarily the Tertiary strata exposed on the west side of Lion Mountain. Fossil fauna from these strata have a North American Land Mammal Age of Whitneyan, and are approximately 29 to 32 million years in age. Carnivore, rodent, insectivore, and rabbit are some of the fauna of the fossil assemblage collected here by past workers.

The west side of Lion Mountain with Tertiary strata exposed under the 30.8 Ma basalt cap.

The west side of Lion Mountain with Tertiary strata exposed under the 30.8 Ma basalt cap.

It was a good workout to reach the top of Lion Mountain, but really was well worth the effort. The Tertiary strata had plenty of features to keep a sedimentologist like myself busy. And the views – just spectacular! To top off the trip – it was obvious that someone had been there before us because we found an aluminum ladder stashed is the trees near the top of the Tertiary exposures. None of us availed ourselves of its use, but maybe next time it will come in handy!

A ladder stashed in the bushes near the top of Lion Mountain. The Snowcrest Range is shown in the distance on the left hand side of the photo. Black Butte pops over the ridge in the photo's upper right.

A ladder is stashed in the trees near the top of Lion Mountain. The Snowcrest Range is shown in the distance on the left hand side of the photo. Black Butte pops over the ridge in the photo’s upper right.

 

 

 

Geological Travels In Cuba

A part of the Vinales Valley in western Cuba – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you’ve ever thought about Cuban geology, now may be the time to get serious about actually going to Cuba and looking at it. As a U.S. citizen, it’s been extremely difficult to legally go to Cuba. I went there in March of 2013 as part of an Association for Women Geoscientists’s geological field trip that we did through the travel company Insight Cuba. It was a very good trip. Our geological guide was Manuel Iturralde, a retired curator from the National Museum of Natural History in Havana and current President of the Cuban Geological Society. Manuel’s knowledge of Cuba’s geology is immense and consequently the geology part of the trip was amazing. But – because I am a U.S. citizen, my travel at that time was done under the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, initially imposed in 1960. That meant to be fully legal I had to travel to Cuba via a licensed “people-to-people” travel agency. The people-to-people visits involve booking a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities for each traveler that will bring about a “meaningful interaction” between the travelers and Cubans – and hence the time for geology is limited. Additionally, the places one can go in Cuba were also limited. For example, U.S. citizens could not visit “tourist” areas, and thus areas of geological interest such as most beach geology was off limits during my tour.

President Obama’s 12/17/2014 announcement on easing of Cuba travel restrictions may well help out those interested in seeing Cuban geology. According to the White House Fact Sheet – Charting A New Course on Cuba -, “general licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in 12 existing categories”, two of which – professional research and professional meetings and educational activities – will help for improving the quality of travel for earth scientists. However, I talked with a person from Insight Cuba today about the new travel requirements, and they said, “a traveler still needs to get a license from OFAC (U.S. Office of Foreign Assests Control), and it still might take about 2 months to get the license”. Unfortunately, in the Insight Cuba rep’s opinion, not much has yet changed for travel to Cuba. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on what transpires with this in the near future.

But – as I said earlier in this blog, it still may be a good time to think about geology-based travel to Cuba. Manuel Iturralde recently emailed me an announcement for The Cuban Society of Geology’s VI Cuban Convention on Earth Sciences and Exhibition of Products, Services and New Technologies – GEOEXPO 2015 – May 4 – 8, 2015, in Havana. This should be a excellent convention and good way to be introduced to Cuba’s geology.

Just to mention a couple other earth science resources for potential travelers:

  • 2013/2014 Yearbook of the Cuban Society of Geology (Volume 1, No. 1, 2013. ISSN 2310-0060, Scientific Journal of Geosciences, Havana – now this is the July 2014 version) is online. As described from the website:

    This version of the Cuban Digital Library of Geosciences brings together some 3700 references, 2091 in digital format, most of the published contributions, unpublished lesser extent, the existence of which the authors are aware. The topics cover the various branches of Earth Sciences, with emphasis on geology, geophysics and mining Cuba, or in any way relevant to the best knowledge of Cuban territory, although centrally relate to other geographies. These contributions include books, monographs and scientific articles, a few summaries and maps dating from 1535. Some very important unpublished documents are referenced as are available at the National Bureau of Mineral Resources (ONRM), the Centre National Geological Information ( CNIG ), the map library and collection of science in the National Library José Martí; and library (1989), Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas at Austin. In the year 2012 was published a list of Information Centers Geosciences across the country and how to access them.

  • Journeying Through Cuba’s Geology and Culture: This is a brief article that I wrote for the “Travels in Geology” section of Earth magazine (published July/August 2013) about my trip through western and central Cuba with the Association for Women Geoscientists in March 2013.

 

One of the towering limestone hills locally known as “mogotes” of the Pinar del Río Province in far western Cuba. This mogote is known as Abra de Ancón and it is famous for the site where Manuel Fernández de Castro first found Jurassic marine invertebrate fossils in the late 1800’s.

One of the towering limestone hills locally known as “mogotes” of the Pinar del Río Province in far western Cuba. This mogote is Abra de Ancón and it is famous for the site where Manuel Fernández de Castro first found Jurassic marine invertebrate fossils in the late 1800’s.

Canadian Rockies AWG Field Trip – A Summary

The AWG 2014 Canadian Rockies Field Trip took place from August 28 to September 7, 2014, with a Calgary-area geology pre-trip for early arrivals on August 27. The main part of the field trip commenced with a mid-morning departure on the 28th from Calgary, and we all headed west along Canada Highway 1 to Lake Louise. After spending two days in the Lake Louise area, we drove north to the Columbia Icefields. A few of us continued further north the next day, on an side trip to Jasper. From the Icefields we toured south to Field, British Columbia, over to Revelstoke, and ended our British Columbia time in Fernie. We then drove east, back into Alberta, and spent time at Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks and at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller. The trip ended with our group once more back in Calgary, Alberta.

There were 22 people as full-time field-trippers and two more people on the trip during the Icefields to Field, B.C. part of the trip. Two of the full-time trip participants were students, and one of the additional, part-time trip participants, was a student. All of the students on the field trip are from Mount Royal University in Calgary and are students of our field trip leader, Katherine Boggs. Paul Hoffman and Mindy Brugman also helped out for a day or so during the trip. Marcia Knadle and Debra Hanneman did the trip budget and logistics. We had a great field trip guidebook, thanks largely to Katherine Boggs’ efforts. The field trip guidebook, “Tectonics, Climate Change, and Evolution: Southern Canadian Cordillera” will be on sale at the AWG online store soon. The group is already looking at going on another trip soon as this one was so good. Some of us are looking at the best US credit card for Canadian people so that we can travel to America and see some off the great lakes and national parks down there.

Some of us took to the water and canoed around Moraine Lake near Lake Louise, Alberta. Moraine Lake is located within the valley known as the “Valley of the Ten Peaks” which was once featured on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill.

Some of us took to the water and canoed around Moraine Lake near Lake Louise, Alberta. Moraine Lake is located within the valley known as the “Valley of the Ten Peaks,” which was once featured on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill.

Katherine Boggs talks to the field trip crew about area geology at a stop along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta.

Katherine Boggs talks to the field trip crew about area geology at a stop along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta.

Our intrepid field crew hikes the Athabasca Glacier, one of the six major glaciers of the Columbia Icefield.

Our intrepid field crew hikes the Athabasca Glacier, one of the six major glaciers of the Columbia Icefield.

Paul Hoffman explains features of the Neoproterozoic Old Fort Point Formation near Jasper, Alberta.

Paul Hoffman explains features of the Neoproterozoic Old Fort Point Formation near Jasper, Alberta.

Some of the field trip group took the arduous hike up to the famous Walcott Quarry that is developed within the Cambrian Burgess Shale near Field, British Columbia.

Some of the field trip group took the arduous hike up to the famous Walcott Quarry that is developed within the Cambrian Burgess Shale near Field, British Columbia.

A member of our field trip group shows us one of the Burgess Shale’s trilobites from the Walcott Quarry.

A member of our field trip group shows us one of the Burgess Shale’s trilobites while at the Walcott Quarry.

One of the trip’s frequent rainy days – but we still had fun by the Kicking Horse River at its confluence with the Columbia River, near Golden, British Columbia.

One of the trip’s frequent rainy days – but we still had fun by the Kicking Horse River at its confluence with the Columbia River, near Golden, British Columbia.

Our field trip group poses by Columbia Lake, which forms the headwaters for both the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, and lies within the enigmatic Rocky Mountain Trench near Canal Flats, British Columbia.

Our field trip group poses by Columbia Lake, which forms the headwaters for both the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, and lies within the enigmatic Rocky Mountain Trench near Canal Flats, British Columbia.

The Frank Slide was a must-stop as we drove along the Crowsnest Highway near Blairmore, Alberta. The slide happened on April 29, 1903, when about 82 million tons of limestone fell off of Turtle Mountain.

The Frank Slide was a must-stop as we drove along the Crowsnest Highway near Blairmore, Alberta. The slide happened on April 29, 1903, when about 82 million tons of limestone fell off of Turtle Mountain.

Part of our field trip group discusses Centrosaur Bone Bed 43 during our guided hike at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.

Part of our field trip group discusses Centrosaur Bone Bed 43 during our guided hike at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.

Notes From the Field – The Rest of the 2014 AWG Geology Field Trip

The 2014 AWG Canadian Rockies Geology Field Trip did actually end last Sunday (9/7) and we did indeed make it back to Calgary largely unscathed. As many of you probably know, when lodging amenities state that WiFi is included, it most likely means that one can check email – not post blogs with photos of any size, or maybe not even post blogs without photos. Anyways, we did run out of somewhat viable WiFi in our remaining travels. So – this blog is a brief summary of what other adventures awaited us on the road from Revelstoke, B.C. to Fernie, B.C., and then eastward to Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta, and finally to the amazing Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller, Alberta.

Dutch Creek Hoodoos at mouth of Dutch Creek along Highway 93/95 south to Cranbrook, B.C.. The hoodoos are calcite-cemented Quaternary deltaic foresets deposited at edge of Glacial Lake Invermere.

Dutch Creek Hoodoos at mouth of Dutch Creek along Highway 93/95 south to Cranbrook, B.C.. The hoodoos are calcite-cemented Quaternary deltaic foresets deposited at edge of Glacial Lake Invermere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View southeastward of the Rocky Mountain Trench along Highway 93/95 South where Columbia Lake forms the headwaters to both the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers.

View southeastward of the Rocky Mountain Trench along Highway 93/95 South where Columbia Lake forms the headwaters to both the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers.

 

The Three Sisters as viewed from Fernie, B.C.. All the rock units are upside down, with the Devonian Palliser Formation comprising the top of the far left "sister" and the Mississippian Rundle Formation overlying the Triassic Spray River Group (in the lower right of photo and occurring mostly in tree-covered slopes) via the Hosmer Thrust.

The Three Sisters as viewed from Fernie, B.C.. All the rock units are upside down, with the Devonian Palliser Formation comprising the top of the far left “sister” and the Mississippian Rundle Formation overlying the Triassic Spray River Group (in the lower right of photo and occurring mostly in tree-covered slopes) via the Hosmer Thrust.

 

The Frank Slide, located east of the towns of Coleman and Blairmore, Alberta, in the Crowsnest Pass area. The slide occurred on 4/29/1903. when 82 million tons of limestone fell off Turtle Mountain, burying part of the town of Frank, Alberta.

The Frank Slide, located east of the towns of Coleman and Blairmore, Alberta, in the Crowsnest Pass area. The slide occurred on 4/29/1903. when 82 million tons of limestone fell off Turtle Mountain, burying part of the town of Frank, Alberta.

 

Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta - the darker colored unit, the Dinosaur Park Formation sits atop the lighter colored, Oldman Formation. Both units are placed within the Cretaceous (Campanian) Belly River Group.

Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta – the darker colored unit, the Dinosaur Park Formation sits atop the lighter colored, Oldman Formation. Both units are placed within the Cretaceous (Campanian) Belly River Group.

 

Centrosaur bone bed located near the central part of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Our group had an amazing guided tour to this bone bed which occurs in the Dinosaur Park Formation.

Centrosaur bone bed located near the central part of Dinosaur Provincial Park. Our group had an amazing guided tour to this bone bed which occurs in the Dinosaur Park Formation.

 

Finally - the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller, Alberta. The museum has fantastic displays, and of course I spent much time in their Burgess Shale faunal reconstruction display!

Finally – the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller, Alberta. The museum has fantastic displays, and of course I spent much time in their Burgess Shale faunal reconstruction display!

 

Notes From The Field – Revelstoke to the Okanagan

Finally we had a mostly sunny day! We began the day with a tour of the Revelstoke Dam. This dam was one of the last Canadian dams built within the Columbia River watershed. The dam area is really interesting because just across the highway from the dam is the Columbia River Fault zone – a Early to Middle Eocene crustal-scale, east-dipping, extensional fault zone that follows the Columbia River Valley near Revelstoke. Now that was a bit disconcerting for me as I looked at the zone while standing on the top of the dam structure. Our group split up after the dam tour, and I went with the group to the Okanagan Valley. Among our stops were: 1. Three Valley Lake for a look at the hanging wall of the Monashee decollment, Craigellachie, where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was set in 1885, and the Okanagan-Eagle River Fault zone. Below are some of the day’s photos….

Revelstoke Dam spillway

Revelstoke Dam spillway

 

Mass wasting in rocks cut by the Columbia River Fault Zone near the Revelstoke Dam.

 

Rocks of the Three Valley assemblage – pelitic gneisses and mica schists – are cut by mafic dikes.

The last spike cairn at Craigellachie.

The last spike cairn at Craigellachie. Note the coal train in the background going by the cairn.

 

Quest for the Eagle River fault zone.

 

AWG 2014 Canadian Rockies Geology Field Trip Gears Up

Castle Mountain (Canadian Main Ranges) and Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta, by Ben Rye.

Castle Mountain (Canadian Main Ranges) and Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta, by Ben Rye.

The Association for Women Geoscientists’ 2014 Canadian Rockies geology field trip is fast approaching. The trip starts and ends in Calgary, and runs from August 28th through September 7th, with pre-trip hikes around the Calgary area on August 27th. Because the trip geology will be so spectacular and many people wanted to go, but just did not have the available time to do so, we decided that we will do blog postings during the trip whenever we have access to wifi (which should be most of the field trip nights). And – if anyone is really interested in the trip after following our travels, the field guidebook will be on sale at the AWG Online store after the trip.

To better follow our postings, I thought it would be helpful to give a brief run-down of the trip itinerary so that everyone knows what to expect for our travels:

August 27thFish Creek Park in Calgary – looking at the 2005 and 2013 Calgary flood features and constraining the boundary between the Laurentian and Cordilleran Ice Sheets.

August 28th and 29th – Trans-Canada Highway to Lake Louise for classic transect through Foothills to Main Ranges of Foreland Fold and Thrust Belt.

August 30th and August 31st – Icefields Parkway: Peyto Lake, Saskatchewan Glacier, Athabasca Glacier stops just to name a few. We also will have Paul Hoffman with us, so we will have good discussions on topics like “snowball earth”.

September 1st – Field, B.C. area with Burgess Shale Hike or other options such as Iceline Trail hike,Takakkaw Falls.

September 2nd  and 3rd – Revelstoke – Rocky Mountain Trench to Omineca Crystalline Belt, Roger’s Pass, Illicillewaet Glacier hike.

September 4th – Rocky Mountain Trench to Fernie – Windermere Supergroup (Rodinia breakup, turbidites discussions).

September 5thCrowsnest Pass to Dinosaur Provincial Park (Crowsnest duplexes & Lewis Thrust; Crowsnest Volcanics; Frank Slide).

September 6thDinosaur Provincial Park: hiking in the Badlands and guided tour of DPP bone beds.

September 7th – Dinosaur Provincial Park to Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller and return to Calgary.

2014 AWG Canadian Rockies Geology Field Trip – Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for the Association for Women (AWG) Geoscientists 2014 Canadian Rockies Geology Field Trip. All registration information and associated forms are posted on the AWG website at: AWG 2014 Field Trip. 

Castle Mountain (Canadian Main Ranges) and Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta, by Ben Rye.

Castle Mountain (Canadian Main Ranges) and Bow River, Banff National Park, Alberta, by Ben Rye.

The AWG 2014 Canadian Rockies field trip is scheduled for August 28 to September 7, 2014, and will be the field trip of a lifetime! The field trip begins and ends in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

There are two trip options available:

  • The 9-day main trip itinerary includes a classic geological transect through the Canadian Foothills to Main Ranges of the Foreland Fold and Thrust Belt, the geology of the Columbia Icefields Parkway, the Rocky Mountain Trench, and Crowsnest Pass areas, and a hike to the Burgess Shale.
  • An optional 2-day trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park and to the Royal Tyrrell Museum can be added on to the end of the main field trip.

The trip itinerary includes:

  • A classic geological transect through the Canadian Foothills to the Main Ranges of Foreland Fold and Thrust Belt via the Trans Canada Highway from Calgary, Alberta to the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
  • Columbia Icefields Parkway Geology
  • Burgess Shale Hike or less strenuous geotourism options such as Takkakaw Falls, Natural Bridge, and Emerald Lake in the Field, B.C. area
  • Columbia, Athabasca, and Saskatchewan rivers’ headwaters and Revelstoke Dam visits
  • Rocky Mountain Trench Geology: Omineca Crystalline Belt, Windermere Supergroup,  Illecillewaet Glacier in the Field, Revelstoke, Golden, & Fernie, B.C. areas
  • Crowsnest Pass Geology: Duplexes & Lewis Thrust, Crowsnest Volcanics, Frank Slide (Crowsnest Pass, B.C./Alberta area)
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park and Royal Tyrell Museum explorations in the Brooks and Drumheller, Alberta areas. This part of the field trip is an optional 2-day addition to the end of the main trip

The field trip leaders are:

  • Katherine Boggs, Department of Geology, Mount Royal College, Calgary, Alberta Canada
  • Mindy Brugman, PhD, Geological and Planetary Sciences – Cal Tech

Field trip costs and payment information:

The field trip base fee is US$1700/person for the full 11-day field trip and US$1400/person for the 9-day field trip without the Dinosaur Provincial Park/Tyrrell Museum option. A deposit of US$200 for AWG members/US$300 for non-members to AWG will be due by April 1, 2014, and is non-refundable after April 1. The remaining balance of the field trip fee is due by June 30, 2014, and is non-refundable after June 30.

Cuba Geology Via the Cuban Digital Geoscience Library

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The Cuban Digital Geoscience Library, compiled by Yasmani Ceballos Izquierdo and Manuel Iturralde-Vinet, is now available at  www.redciencia.cu/geobiblio/inicio.html. This is an extremely complete compendium of resources on Cuban geology – one that I wish I had access to before I went on geology/”people to people” tour to Cuba last March that was sponsored by the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG). Manuel Iturralde-Vinet (one of the co-authors of the Cuban Digital Geoscience Library) was our geology guide for the AWG trip. That Manuel was our guide was fortunate for us given his extensive expertise in Cuban geology. For more information on our AWG trip, link to a trip article published by Earth magazine and to a previous blog on our Cuba journey posted on Geopostings.

Here’s a brief intro to the Cuban Digital Geoscience Library (using my sometimes loose translation skills):

The “Cuban Geoscience Digital Library” brings together a considerable number of references, most of the contributions published and unpublished to a lesser degree, the existence of which the authors are aware of (over 3000 references). The topics cover the various branches of Earth Science, with emphasis in geology, geophysics and mining Cuba, or in any way relevant to the best knowledge of Cuban territory and other geologically/geographically related areas. These contributions include books, monographs and scientific articles, abstracts and a few maps, dating from 1535. Some very important unpublished documents are referenced, and are available at the National Bureau of Mineral Resources (NDRA), the National Geological Information Center (IGP ), the map library and collection of science of José Martí National Library, and in the Institute for Geophysics Library, University of Texas at Austin.

The “Cuban Geoscience Digital Library” has several pioneering works, namely the literature on geology of Cuba News, released by Pablo Ortega (1910), the Cuban Scientific Library compiled by Trelles (1918), the Bibliography of West Indian Geology of Rutten (1938), the Cuban Geological Bibliography published by Peter J. Bermúdez (1938), Mining Bibliography of Colonial Cuba (Anonymous), Geology of the sketch on Cuba prepared by Antonio Calvache Dorado (1965), and the Compilation on Paleontology Publications (Bonzoño et al., 2008). Of these bibliographic lists, Bermudez and Trelles are noted for their excellent compilation of the oldest contributions.

The existence of many compilations on contributions to the geosciences of Cuba, made at different times, denotes the interest of researchers to present the results of their time, to facilitate future professionals, and to provide a computer database to serve as basis for their work. This compendium is also a broad recognition of the scientific work of several generations of outstanding professionals.

On this basis, the development of this “Cuban Geoscience Digital Library”, with the quality that current technologies can provide to users for accessing most texts and maps in digital format (pdf and jpg) was inspired, and thus for the first time puts a “click” access to this vast intelligence, particularly for the paper originals that are hard to acquire. A first version of this database was published as part of the “Compendium of Geology of Cuba and the Caribbean” in the 2010 and 2012 editions done by Manuel Iturralde-Vinet.

AWG 2014 Canadian Rockies Field Trip

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I thought that I’d give some advance notice for a geology field trip that is being sponsored by The Association for Women Geoscientists. The field trip will go through a part of the Canadian Rockies and the Alberta Badlands, and anyone can sign up for a spot on the field trip. Here’s the trip information that we have so far:

Tentative Dates: Late August/Early September 2014 (11 days)

Itinerary (Main part of the trip is Day 1 through Day 8.5; the remaining 2.5 days are an add-on option of continuing on to Dinosaur Provincial Park/Tyrrell Museum): 

  • Trans Canada Highway from Calgary, Alberta to the Icefields Parkway, Alberta (classic transect through the Foothills to Main Ranges of Foreland Fold and Thrust Belt – 2 days total)
  • Columbia Icefields Parkway Geology (2 days)
  • Burgess Shale Hike or less strenuous geotourism option such as Takkakaw Falls, Natural Bridge, Emerald Lake (Field, B.C. area)
  • Rocky Mountain Trench Geology: Omineca Crystalline Belt, Windermere Supergroup, Illicillewaet Glacier (Field, Revelstoke, Golden, & Fernie, B.C. areas)
  • Crowsnest Pass Geology: Duplexes & Lewis Thrust, Crowsnest Volcanics, Frank Slide (Crowsnest Pass,  B.C./Alberta area)
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park and Royal Tyrell Museum Explorations (Brooks and Drumheller, Alberta). This part of the field trip is an optional 2.5 day addition to the main trip.

Field Trip Leaders:

  • Katherine Boggs, Department of Geology, Mount Royal College, Calgary, Alberta Canada
  • Mindy Brugman, PhD, Geological and Planetary Sciences – Cal Tech
  • Various Guest Lecturers

Tentative Cost (Includes field trip transportation, tours, lodging, and meals – except for dinners):

  • $1600 for field trip without Dinosaur Provincial Park/Tyrrell Museum option; $1900/person with Dinosaur Provincial Park/Tyrrell Museum option. Field trip cost may decrease depending on number of field trip participants, so spread the word about the field trip to your friends!

Trip Information Contacts: Marcia Knadle: MarciaAWG@aol.com; Debbie Hanneman: whgeol@gmail.com. We have not opened registration for the trip yet, but anticipate that registration will begin in early 2014 and will be done through the AWG web site – http://www.awg.org/.

A Geological Field Trip in Cuba

416270070_370The Association for Women Geoscientists sponsored yet another of their remarkable geological field trips. This time it was a March 2013 trip to Cuba. I detail the trip in the August 2013 issue of Earth magazine (published by the American Geosciences Institute), in “Travels In Geology: Journeying Through Cuba’s Geology And Culture”. As I explained in the article’s introduction:

It’s not every day that you get the chance to go to Cuba, so when I found out that the Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) was offering an organized trip there in March 2013, I jumped at the opportunity. The excursion — nearly two weeks of exploration of our southern neighbor’s geology and culture — did not disappoint.

Cuba is truly an extraordinary place – both geologically and culturally – and as I said at the end of the article:

I look forward to returning and seeing even more of Cuba’s geology.

As noted above in this post, AWG puts together some great geological field trips. The next one will be in September 2014, and it will be a geological field trip through the Canadian Rockies. More details on that will be uploaded to Geopostings as they become available.