Tag Archives: rocks

Geology Students Study Tectonic Rifts

note: the following is a news release from Oklahoma State University

Four Oklahoma State University geology students traveled to Malawi in Africa to study tectonic rifts last summer thanks to a 2014 grant from the National Science Foundation.

courtesy: Oklahoma State University: Sam Dawson, from Davidson, North Carolina; Tiara Johnson, from Midwest City, Oklahoma; Courtney Hall, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Bryan Clappe, from Chelsea, Oklahoma.

courtesy: Oklahoma State University

courtesy: Oklahoma State University: Bryan Clappe, from Chelsea, Oklahoma; Tiara Johnson, from Midwest City, Oklahoma, and Dr. Estella Atekwana study tectonic rifts in Malawi.

Dr. Estella Atekwana, geology department head, and Dr. Daniel Laó-Dávila, a geology professor, took four students to Karonga, Malawi, to explore the East African Rift that extends for thousands of miles along the continent’s edge bounded by the Indian Ocean.

“People don’t know what rifts are,” Atekwana said. “There used to be one big continent, called Pangea; it’s because of rifts that the continents broke apart. Malawi has a young rift system and is the go-to place to study the entire rift process.”

The grant allowed the Boone Pickens School of Geology to create an international program for its students, sending a total of 12 students in groups of four for three years. The trips allow the students to collect geological data and gain cultural experience outside of the university.

“The last thing I was expecting was a culture shock,” said Sam Dawson, a graduate student from Davidson, North Carolina. “Seeing what life was like in a developing country was eye-opening. The people are so happy. I saw some kids playing with simple toys for hours on end.”

courtesy: Oklahoma State University

courtesy: Oklahoma State University: Landscape view of Karonga, Malawi, where the students studied tectonic rifts.

courtesy: Oklahoma State University

courtesy: Oklahoma State University

Other students included undergraduates Tiara Johnson, from Midwest City, Oklahoma; Bryan Clappe, from Chelsea, Oklahoma; and Courtney Hall, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Clappe has since enrolled in the graduate program. The trip lasted from July 14 to Aug. 11, with students working five or six days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. This international opportunity will help make the students more competitive for job opportunities after graduation, according to Atekwana.

“It was a win-win experience,” she said. “Students can do research from the beginning of a rift and learn a lot. They don’t just learn about the science, but what it takes to collect it, to learn new cultures, meet new people. Students need to be competitive in the global economy. This gives them the advantage because they’ve now been there and done that.”

Karonga is a small town in northern Malawi, with a population similar to Stillwater. In 2009, there was a major earthquake in the town. Atekwana said the earthquake meant the rift was still active, so they needed to find the earthquake zone and image it.

“It’s sort of like a CT scan but of the underground,” she said.

In previous years, the geology department has led trips to Zambia and is looking into more places in the future, including Uganda and Ethiopia. But Laó-Dávila says there are other places in the U.S. that can be explored as well.

“There’s an ancient rift in Oklahoma not many people know about,” he said. “It’s in the southwest part of the state by the Wichita Mountains. Other places we can explore are the Rio Grande Rift, in New Mexico, and the Mid Continent Rift System that spans across Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan. It’s one of the oldest examples of a rift, at about 1.1 billion years old.”

But the trip wasn’t all work and no play. The group took trips to see different national parks in Malawi, including the Nyika National Park, a major tourist destination for the country. The group also toured the Cultural and Museum Center Karonga as well as going on safari rides.

“I woke up the next morning to see zebras out of my window,” Dawson said. “So that was pretty cool. I enjoyed getting to learn more about the geologic and cultural history at the museum as well. And there were so many beautiful sites to see.”

Some of the struggles the group had throughout the trip included living conditions and Internet connectivity. The hotel they stayed at cost $6 a night. Dawson said sometimes he didn’t have a shower, and if he did, there was only cold water available. Other problems included the electricity going on and off and waiting days to get Internet connectivity.

“That made it difficult for us to record our data or get connected to our resources on campus when we needed to.”

In the end, the experience was one that Atekwana believes changed the students’ lives. She said it showed them how people get by with a tenth of what Americans have and to learn how to get good scientific data from it.

“I recommend people not being closed minded as far as interacting with the culture goes,” Dawson said. “I did not expect to become such great friends with our driver, Kennedy. He taught us some of the language, including some pick up lines for us to use. We paid him $30 a day for a month, and he said that money would pay for his entire living expenses for six months. If I go back, I’d definitely try to find him again.”

The students reported on their trip at the American Geophysical Union’s 2015 Fall Meeting December 14-18, where 24,000 attendees met to present research and discover more about the latest happenings in their fields. For more about the Boone Pickens School of Geology, visit geology.okstate.edu.

courtesy: Oklahoma State University

courtesy: Oklahoma State University: Tiara Johnson, from Midwest City, Oklahoma; Sam Dawson, from Davidson, North Carolina; Courtney Hall, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Bryan Clappe, from Chelsea, Oklahoma.

Adventures on Turkey Mountain

Turkey Mountain is a popular place to hike, walk, or ride a bike. Thousands of people go there every year but I wonder how many have stopped to think about the science that’s all around them.

Dr. Stanley Rice recently gave me a personal science tour of Turkey Mountain. He showed me tree fossils and explained that Turkey Mountain is the only place in Oklahoma where a certain oak tree grows. This just shows that science is everywhere. It’s also why you’ll often find me checking out rocks, I’m looking for fossils and evidence of ancient Earth.

This is important-If you find fossils on Turkey Mountain please do not remove them.

(Dr. Rice has been featured before on SIO…click here to see his impersonation of Charles Darwin.)

 

Free Science Workshop for Teachers

Attention all elementary and middle school teachers…here’s a great opportunity to learn about life sciences and do a little fossil hunting.

Janessa Doucette is a PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma. She’s hosting a free workshop series called Oklahoma Educators Evolve. It’ll take place on Saturday Oct. 17th and Saturday Oct. 24th. The first one is a fossil hunting trip to the rich grounds at White Mound in Sulphur. The second is a workshop in Oklahoma City. You’ll study the nature of science, biological concepts, and paleontology, “We will provide you with a foundation for these concepts, as well as provide you with a variety of ways to successfully teach these topics in your classroom. Participants will leave this workshop with their very own classroom collection of fossils and fossil casts with which to enjoy science learning with their students!”

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The cool thing is these workshops are FREE and you don’t have to be a science teacher!!! Click here to register. Click here to learn about the program.

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What’s a Graptolite?

Remember that Golden Spike? (Click here or scroll down one story.) It marks a boundary between two geologic time spans. In a nutshell, it’s where and when (geologically speaking) a  species makes its debut in the geologic record.
The Oklahoma spike is where Diplacanthograptus caudatus was found. It was a small aquatic animal called a Graptolite that floated around thanks to ocean currents.
Kyle Hartshorn with Dry Dredgers sent along some pictures of Graptolites that were found in Oklahoma. They’re tiny and look like pencil marks in the rock. Hartshorn told me, “Graptolites came in a variety of shapes: long and thin, short and wide, wishbone shaped, spiraled, and more.  There were quite a few forms at the places we went.”
Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

This pic below is of a conodont. It was an small creature that kind of looked like an eel. The conodont below is the yellow-orange speck inside the circle. That circle is about the size of a dime and was drawn around the fossil to help spot it. Conodonts are extremely hard to spot with the naked eye.

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

Courtesy: Kyle Hartshorn

These images are why I can’t help but examine rocks when I’m outside. You never know what you’re going to find, fossils can be all shapes and sizes!!

Camp Quest

Here’s a great chance for you and your child to learn about science and take in the great outdoors this summer. It’s called Camp Quest. The camp focuses on science and caters to the non-religious. Here’s how it’s described on its website, “The purpose of Camp Quest is to provide children of freethinking parents a residential summer camp dedicated to improving the human condition through rational inquiry, critical and creative thinking, scientific method, self-respect, ethics, competency, democracy, free speech, and the separation of religion and government.” 

The kids learn about everything from DNA to biology. They also go canoeing and learn archery. I spent some time at the camp back in my TV days and it looks like a lot of fun. Click here to see that story from 2013.

You can register for the camp here. They’re also looking for adult volunteers. Check out what the president of Camp Quest Oklahoma posted on Facebook about her experience as a volunteer, “I’ve watched these same children blossom from shy, quiet, and immature kids to outspoken and proud young adults. The best part is returning and seeing these kids year after year and seeing how they’ve grown and matured. These kids let me know that they are going to change this world into a better place.

Summer of Science

How about a summer of science for your high schooler (or 8th grader)?!?! OK Higher Ed is offering a fantastic opportunity for students who will be in 8th-12th grade next year. It’s called the Summer Academies.

A total of 26 academies will be held at 17 college campuses across the state throughout the summer.  Topics include biology, engineering, math, aeronautics, meteorology…you know, all the STEM stuff. Best of all, it’s FREE!!!

Check out these quotes from former academy attendees courtesy of OKMath.

“No field of study has started a fire within me like architecture and interior design has. Your enthusiasm for my ideas and designs was new and exciting for me.”

“This is the best thing I will ever do this whole entire summer.”

“College doesn’t seem as unimaginable as before. I will definitely be going to college.”

OKMath also reports, “a greater percentage of Summer Academies students go to college immediately after high school than compared to other students.” Also, “Summer Academies students earn degrees at a higher rate than other students.”

Click here to register and see a full list of academies being offered. You can also call 1-800-858-1840 for more information.

And remember, it’s FREE!!

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This Scientist is OK- Dr. Lynn Soreghan

Dr. Lynn Soreghan is a geologist at the University of Oklahoma. She studies what’s called deep time climate, basically we’re talking about Earth’s climate from hundreds of millions of years ago. She does it by studying ancient dust that has now solidified and become rock.

In this video she talks about why she loves geology, what ancient dust particles tell you about climate of the past, and what she thinks about the state of science education in Oklahoma. You can really see at the 2:52 mark as she tries to find the words to describe her frustration with some of the meddling that goes on in science education in our state.

What is the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum?

We talk a lot about the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History here at SIO. This outstanding story is produced by the museum. It explains what it is, what it does, and how its mission serves Oklahoma.

This is a great look at why the Sam Noble Museum is unique and why Oklahoma is better off because of it.

The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is a fantastic place for the kids. Spend the day and learn all about Oklahoma’s rich history.

How you can help find Fossils

If you’ve ever wanted to work with fossils and help paleontologists make new discoveries this is the story for you. The Vertebrate Paleontology lab at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa needs volunteers. You don’t need to have any experience, just a love for science. You’ll also get to work with Dr. Anne Weil.

Volunteers work Wednesday-Friday, 9 to 5 sifting through rock and soil looking for fossils.

Click here for a more information, as well as how to get in touch with the volunteer coordinator.

A Geologic Tour

Dr. Jim Derby is a geologist who has taught at the University of Tulsa and worked in the petroleum industry. He knows a thing or two about rocks.

He gave me a tour of the geology around his house. The cool thing is you can find similar features in the rocks at your home…fossils, traces of long dead organisms, maybe even some dino droppings.