Thursday, July 16, 2015

Missing Posts from Fiona: Part I

Fiona hasn't been able to log on to the blog, so I will be posting her updates instead! To bring her up to speed, here are some of the things we've missed from her:


I never thought that I'd say this, but Ohio is a pretty interesting place.

Ohio's vast and diverse topography was created by geological changes, dating back over five-hundred million years. There are two time frames that Ohio's geographic history: Paleozoic rocks, and Glaciated Deposits.

Paleozoic rocks are the oldest found in Ohio, predating the dinosaurs there by about five-hundred and fifty to two-hundred and fifty years. The rocks form the majority of Geological structures in Ohio, such as naturally occurring bridges, caves, and quarries. They span in location, size, structure, and type. Paleozoic rocks are typically Limestone, Sandstone, Shale, and Siltstone.

The second period, Glaciated Deposits, is much more recent than Paleozoic rocks. While the latter are hundreds of millions of years old, the former are only tens of thousands of years old. Glaciers formed much of the landscape, and even the Great Lakes. The ice eroded grooves in the limestone found in Ohio, leaving deep depressions in the land. Well, not the ice necessarily, but the rocks that were being carried by the ice. The rocks wore down the limestone as the glacier passed through. Think of it as sandpaper. The oldest recorded glacier in Ohio is over one million years old, while the youngest is about fifteen-thousand years old.

There is about a million years between Paleozoic rocks and Glaciated deposits.
Most of Ohio used to be completely underwater in a tropical inland sea. The Ice Age covered about two thirds of Ohio, with only the South/Mideastern parts of the state being unglaciated. The famous Great Lakes were formed by Glacial erosion as well. For example, Lake Erie was once the basin of a tributary system, but each glaciation eroded the drainage system away, until only the lake was left.

Due to the immense amount of rocks found in the state, Ohio has a thriving quarrying industry. They are able to produce roads and highways with rocks mined locally. However, due to all of the industrialization, sandy beaches have all but been eliminated from the state.

BUT, this story does have a happy ending! Headland Dunes National Park is the last natural beach in Ohio. Human-made jetties and breakwaters help protect the beach, trapping sand along the shore to make longer, wider beaches. This beach is a habitat for a wide variety of diverse wildlife, and is a lovely location for a picnic.


What do I have to do to get on Dr. Pincelli Hull's level? Live on a boat for two months? Get a PhD in Geology and Geophysics? Okay.  

The ocean's PH levels have been changing rapidly over the past several years. As the Earth gets hotter, more Co2 emissions are released into the atmosphere. They are absorbed in the ocean, combining with H2O to create a CO32-, leading to an increase in 2HCO3- in the ocean. This is referred to as acidification. Acidification kills pteropods, because the 2HCO3- weakens and dissolves the CaCO3 that their shells of made of. Pteropods are animals such as coral, and shellfish, which are an important part of the ecosystem. If they start to die out, the entire food chain is affected. This impacts every ocean, in mainly shallow waters.  

Dr. Hull's research is in this change of the ocean's PH levels, and it's affects on foraminifera. She lived on a boat for several months, working for twelve hours a day documenting these amoeboid protists that were drilled from the bottom of the ocean. Samples were drilled about a hundred feet down, and a team of geologists documented, analyzed, and tested the samples, to help understand what is happening to the ocean floor as 2HCO3- increases in the ocean.


Ah, Saturday meetings. Free snacks, fun people, five hours of rocks. Fabulous! We actually had a really productive meeting, split into two parts: Science for the first half, and then cart development the second half. And we came up with some pretty wicked cool ideas. I won't write any cart spoilers, so let's talk about rocks!

So, the Earth has three layers: The thin outer-layer crust; the mantle, which is about 82% of the Earth; and the core, which has both solid and liquid parts.

The Lithosphere, which is the crust and the upper mantle, make up tectonic plates. These plates can collide, grind, and rub against each other. This is caused by convection of heat from the core of the earth. The process is similar to boiling a pot of water, and the change in kinetic energy.

Who here has ever heard of Pangea? Almost everyone? Awesome! While Pangea is probably the most famous of the supercontinents, it was by no means the only one. Over the millions of years that Earth has been formed, the continents have changed many times. Other known formations are Gondwana and Laurentia. There is this theory that every hundred million years, the continents collide to form one supercontinent. I guess geologists of the future can tell us for certain!


Dr. Susan Butts is able to look at the fossil record, and predict future climate change and its effects on species on Earth. In order to make this information available to the public, Dr. Butts and a team of other professors and interns have been digitizing the collections of their respective museums. And this lab is one of the two possible labs that we'll be working in this summer.

Dr. Butts has two grants that she is working with, one of which allows her and other scientists to work on a website called Paleoniches. Paleoniches looks at three different periods in Earth's history: the Pennsylvanian, the Ordovician, and the Neogene. From these three periods, the Peabody has over 346,615 specimens!

On IDigPaleo, anyone will be able to access the Peabody's extensive Invertebrate Paleontology/Insect collection online. It's the digitization of all of the records, which will be accessible to teachers, researchers, or even high schoolers!

These two sites will revolutionize the trading of specimens for studying. A scientist from Ohio now no longer needs to fly all the way over to Connecticut to examine a specimen. They can access all of the information on the specimen online. This is especially useful, as the Peabody, (and most museums), only displays about 1% of it's entire collection. So those without special access, such as teachers and students, do not have access to that information. Now they will. These sites will bring museums into the twenty-first century, and appeal to a much wider, and younger, demographic.

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