UC Rocks Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America

An aggregate of more than 6,000 geoscientists amassed in Colorado Nov. 7–10 for “Geoscience in a Changing World.” Nearly 250 symposia, topical sessions and discipline-specific sessions covered a wide variety of topics in the earth sciences. As always, University of Cincinnati faculty and students had a terrific show in this prestigious professional meeting of the geosciences discipline. UC faculty and students presented 18 abstracts, which is remarkable considering the size of UC’s geology department, and a testimony to the strength of its faculty. Professor Warren Huff says that UC has always fielded a strong contingent at the GSA annual meetings.

“If you look at the history of this department you will find that the study of geology at the University of Cincinnati has always been in the national spotlight since the department was founded in 1907,” says Huff. “There have been a succession of outstanding geologists at Cincinnati and the record established by those individuals provides strong impetus for us to maintain that record of excellence." Before the group left for Colorado, several faculty and students took the time to listen to the presentations and provide feedback to the presenters. 

Seven full-time faculty (Algeo, Brett, Dietsch, Huff, Lowell, Miller and Owen), one emeritus faculty (Potter), nine graduate students (Bartholomew, Bonilla, Cornell, DeSantis, Glover, Hendy, Lablanc, McLaughlin and Waterson) and two undergraduate students (Brockman and Reuter) were authors or co-authors in the abstracts. These abstracts reflected the wide range of research carried out by UC faculty and graduate students. Especially important is the involvement of undergraduate students in research.

Here are some of the highlights of the UC presentations. Besides the range demonstrated by faculty and students, both undergraduate and graduate, the presentations also represent a commitment to intercollegiate research by UC’s collaboration with universities both inside and outside of the United States.

“Mineralogical and Compositional Variation of Glauconite”
Tracy Brockman, Christy Reuter, Jeffrey Barrow (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Alejandra Bonilla, Michael DeSantis, Warren Huff and Hari-Prasad Ponnaboyina (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Glauconite is an iron-rich clay mineral that forms in certain low-oxygen sedimentary environments, and thus it is a good indicator of those particular conditions. The problem is that what many authors have called “glauconite” turns out not to be the same mineral. In this presentation, nine glauconite samples of different ages were compared by several analytical techniques. The results show that while some characteristics of glauconite do vary from sample to sample, the fundamental characteristic of iron in the crystal structure is the same for all samples. Thus, the term continues to be useful as an environmental indicator.

“A New Resource in Geoscience Education: Taking Invertebrate Paleontology Collections Online and Back to the Field”
Sean Cornell
(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati), Jessica Cundiff (Department of Invertebrate Paleontology, Musuem of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University), Frederick Collier, (Department of Invertebrate Paleontology, Musuem of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University), Matt Corbett (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Northeastern University), Frances Caudill (Department of Invertebrate Paleontology, Musuem of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University) and James Hanken (Department of Herpetology, Harvard University)

The Department of Invertebrate Paleontology at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) has developed a unique way to showcase one of their classic, century-old, invertebrate paleontology collections. Through the construction of an interpretive Web site that documents both a fossil collection and the geological background of the collection locality, the MCZ has developed an innovative tool for advertising its own collections, while enhancing educational opportunities for a wider audience.

“Resolving Questions of Consanguinity Between the Late Ordovician Deicke, Millbrig and Kinnekulle K-Bentonites in North America and Baltoscandia”
Warren Huff (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati), Elif  Muftuoglu (Ugur Mumcu Cad. Ugur, Mumcu’nun Sok., Ankara, Turkey), Stig Bergstrom (The Ohio State University and Dennis Kolata (Illinois State Geological Survey)

“I’m reporting on new evidence concerning the origin and distribution of the largest volcanic ash layers known in Earth history,” says Huff. “These formed during the Ordovician Period (454 million years ago) and can be found over large portions of eastern North America and in Northern Europe. Europe and North America were much closer together at that time. Our work shows that there was more than one giant eruption, as previously thought, and that the volcanoes were associated with the collision of tectonic plates.”

What this means is that geologists are re-defining the scale of volcanic events in the rock record. “Our measure of ‘bigness’ of a volcanic eruption is based largely on historic events,” explains Huff. “But evidence clearly shows that prehistoric eruptions occurred many times on scales much larger than known historic events. So, in this case, the historic record is not a fair representation of what nature can do.”

“Climatic Control of Sediment Production, Storage and Routing in the Chugach Mountains, Southeast Alaska”
Meghan Blair and Andrew Meigs (both from Oregon State University, Department of Geosciences) and Lewis Owen (University of Cincinnati, Department of Geology)

This work helps to define the amount and rate of sediment removal from mountains by glacier systems. Lewis Owen is brand new to the UC geology faculty, having arrived Sept. 1, 2004. His area of expertise is the Himalaya.

“Deglaciation of the Fort McMurray, Alberta, Area: Is It Later Than We Think?”
Thomas Lowell, Timothy Fisher (Department of Earth, Ecological, and Environmental Sciences, Univ of Toledo), Nicholas Waterson and Katherine Glover (University of Cincinnati, Department of Geology)

One suggested process to force climate change is the sudden introduction of fresh water in the North Atlantic Ocean; however, this study shows that one proposed route of this water cannot work because it was blocked by the Laurentite Ice sheet until after the climate change.

“Improved Estimates of Phanerozoic Marine Diversity”
J. Alroy (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California), M. Aberhan (Institute of Paleontology, Humboldt University, Museum of Natural History, Berlin, Germany), David Bottjer (Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California), Michael Foote (Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago), F. Fürsich (Institute of Paleontology, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Germany), Linda C. Ivany (Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University), W. Kiessling (Institute of Paleontology, Humboldt University, Museum of Natural History, Berlin, Germany), C. R. Marshall (Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University), Arnie Miller (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati) and Mark Patzkowsky (Pennsylvania State University) 

Geology department chair Arnie Miller.

Geology department chair Arnie Miller.

This is an update of a large, group effort to: (a) construct a Web-hosted database (The Paleobiology database) that captures the fossil record of life on a computer, and (b) utilize this database to construct a more accurate, statistically-based curve that depicts the history of global biodiversity (the number of different kinds of organisms) throughout geologic time.

“Can Marine Anoxic Events Draw Down the Trace-Element Inventory of Seawater?”
Thomas J. Algeo
(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati) and Philip Heckel (Department of Geology, University of Iowa)

Organic sediments commonly have high concentrations of molybdenum and other trace metals. Widespread deposition of organic sediments during episodes of oceanic anoxia, when seawater was depleted in dissolved oxygen, may have caused the amount of molybdenum and other trace metals in seawater to decrease because these metals were transferred to the sediment. This study demonstrates that such an event probably occurred during the Late Devonian, about 360 million years ago. The broader significance of removal of trace metals from seawater is that many of these are elements that are essential for biologic metabolism, and their removal may have adversely affected marine ecosystems.

“Cyclothemic Offshore ‘Core’ Shales as Records of Climate Dynamics and Interglacial Durations Of The Permo-Carboniferous Ice Age”
Thomas J. Algeo
(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)

Growth and decay of continental icesheets during the Gondwanan Ice Age of the Pennsylvanian-Permian periods (about 310-260 million years ago) resulted in large sea-level fluctuations that were recorded in sediments in Kansas and surrounding states. This study demonstrates that it is possible to reconstruct changes in paleoclimate and paleoenvironments at millennial timescales during this Ice Age through a highly detailed analysis of the sedimentary geochemistry of these sediments.

“Reading the Fossil Record: Using the Literature to Analyze Ecological Patterns in Cenozoic Taxonomic Diversity of New Zealand”
Austin J. W. Hendy
(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)

Measuring changes in biodiversity during the Earth’s geologic past is not as simple as merely counting the number of unique fossil organisms described in journals and housed in museum drawers. The amount of rock representing intervals from the past has varied, as has the intensity to which the paleontologists have studied them, causing bias in biodiversity estimates. There is also significant variation in the range of paleoenvironments represented in the rock record through time. New research in fossils preserved in New Zealand over the last 35 million years by Austin Hendy of the University of Cincinnati Geology Department has used novel techniques to (1) overcome biases caused by variations in sampling and (2) quantify paleoenvironmental change and its bias over biodiversity estimates. This study’s findings and its methodology will have application throughout the fossil record beyond New Zealand and deeper in Earth’s geologic past.

“Latest Eifelian-Early Givetian (Middle Devonian) Succession in the Subsurface of Southern Ontario: Correlation of Sequences/Bioevents Between the Appalachian and Michigan Basins”
Michael K. DeSantis, Carlton Brett and Alexander Bartholomew (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)

This work clears up some old misconceptions among Middle Devonian formations in New York, Southwestern Ontario and Michigan. Why is this important? On a broader scale, these particular formations were deposited during a time of biological crisis in the Appalachian basin (the area that is now New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio). While not as “big” as the end-Permian or end-Cretaceous extinctions, it does appear to be a worldwide event.

“Deglaciation and Post-Glacial Climate Change in a Regional Network of Sites, Ohio and Eastern Indiana”
Katherine C. Glover and Thomas Lowell (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati), Donald Pair (Department of Geology, University of Dayton) and Gregory Wiles (Department of Geology, The College of Wooster)

This paper contributes to the understanding of the large environmental shift from the Ice Age to present conditions by reporting as a network of sites in the Midwestern United States.

“First Inventory of Grenvillian Rocks in South America"

João Orestes Santos (Porto Allegre, Brazil), Gilmar Jose Rizzotto (CPRM, Porto Velho, Rondonia, Brazil), Craig Dietsch and Paul Potter (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati) and Robert Easton (Ontario Geol Survey)

“Glacial Dispersal Patterns and Numeric Modeling: A Combined Approach to Interpreting Large-Scale Patterns of Subglacial Erosion and Deposition”
Kelly Lablanc
(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)

“Geographic Ranges of Marine Genera Following the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction: Development of a Stable Distribution”
Arnie Miller
(Chair, Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)

Carlton Brett.

Carlton Brett.

“Faunal Gradient Analysis of Third-Order Cycles in the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group in New York State: A Test of Faunal Recurrence”

Alexander J. Bartholomew and

Carlton Brett

(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)


Pat McLaughlin.

Pat McLaughlin.

“Sequence Stratigraphy and Stratinomy of Marine Hardgrounds: Examples from the Middle Paleozoic of Eastern Laurentia”

Patrick McLaughlin


Carlton Brett

(Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)


“Eo-Ulrichian to Neo-Ulrichian Views: The Renaissance of ‘Layer-Cake Stratigraphy’”
Carlton Brett and Patrick I. McLaughlin (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)

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The University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences is partnering with the Lab Safety Institute to offer the Safer Science Summit July 22-26. The three-day STEAM Safer Science Summit will of educators and administrators K-12 an opportunity to keep up with the latest on chemical management, laboratory safety, regulatory compliance, hazard identification, legal aspects of safety and much more. Chemistry professor and A&S dean James Mack says the partnership and summit are designed to offer STEAM educators instruction and education about keeping students safe while they perform experiments. “Safety is always first,” Mack says. “We want to make sure our K-12 teachers have the equipment they need to be safe. People can get cut, or lose their sight, and spills can happen, especially when you’re dealing with chemicals.” The Laboratory Safety Institute, a non-profit educational institute, has been providing safety courses and consulting for chemical labs worldwide for the last 40 years. Its courses have been taught to more than 100,000 people in 30 countries, across industries from high-tech to government, and academia to medicine. The event is free, and educators who enroll can receive continuing education credits. Sign up here.

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