I spent the first part of the morning listening to talks in the “Geoscience Education and History” section, as well as some other sessions later in the day. Some of the highlights (links are to the abstracts):
Polly Bouker presented on a program at Georgia Perimeter College to help elementary education students improve their ability to teach science concepts. One of the course requirements is that the students go into an elementary school to teach content learned in the course. The 22 students in the course presented to a total of some 400 elementary age children during the semester, introducing those students to science concepts they were likely not receiving otherwise.
David Schwimmer and Page Quinton talked about a “20 questions”-style game that he uses on long van rides on field trips, but in which the goal of the game is to identify a given organism by asking questions about which clades it belong to (“Is is a prokaryote or a eukaryote?”, etc.).
Kristine Larsen gave a rather disturbing survey of the 2012 disaster pseudoscience that’s so prevalent today. Hopefully the 2012 craziness will end when 2013 arrives and the world is still here, although I suppose it will be replaced with some other “end of the world” meme.
Callan Bentley, the author of Mountain Beltway, presented the results of a survey on the state of the geoblogosphere (I participated in his survey last year, and Callan posted some of the results on NOVA Geoblog). I’m pleased to report that “Updates from the Vertebrate Paleontology Lab” is one of the older geoblogs out there that’s still operating (I’ve been going now for about 2.5 years), and I’m almost exactly on the median for posing rate (about one new post every 3-4 days). One interesting point: there were some topics that were posted fairly frequently on blogs, but that readers didn’t report being especially interested in reading about. These included personal research and general geology, which are things I write about pretty frequently. So, as a person reading this blog, what’s your opinion? Would you like to see more of my own research and general geology, or less, or the same amount?
Kwasi Gilbert et al. presented some interesting work on fossil sperm whale teeth, particularly large enamel-free teeth sometimes referred to Physeterula, primarily from Lee Creek Mine. Based on growth structures visible in cross sections of these teeth, they suggest that these sperm whales may have been growing quite a bit faster than modern sperm whales.
Bill Henika and Martin Chapman discussed the earthquakes that have occurred over the last 10 years in Roanoke County along the Mowes Spring Fault. They suggest that movement along this fault over the last 10 years may have been aided by groundwater fluctuations, due to a drought and the drilling of a number of high-capacity wells around 2000 to provide water to the City of Salem.
There were also two poster sessions, with a total of around 160 posters scheduled. Some that I found particularly interesting:
David Fillmore, Edward Simpson, and Michael Szajna reported the trace fossil Undichna
from the Devonian Catskill Formation in Pennsylvania. Undichna are curved lines that are interpreted as the trace made by a fish’s tail fin as it swims just above the sediment surface. For example, see these Undichna specimens from the Kansas Geological Survey:
James Thomka et al. talked about the taphonomy of disarticulated crinoids in Pennsylvanian deposits from Oklahoma. It turns out that different crinoid taxa are prone to different amounts of disarticulation (basically, some fall apart more easily than others). A disarticulated crinoid deposit looks like a big ol’ mess (like this Devonian example from Virginia):
David Franzi, Robert Feranec, and John Rayburn reported several bones from a harbor seal, Phoca vitulina, from Pleistocene sediments along Lake Champlain (a not-yet-fossilized harbor seal is shown at the top of the page). Beluga whales have also been found in the Pleistocene along Lake Champlain; neither of these taxa currently live in the lake.
Deborah Freile, Melanie Devore, and Matthew Boyle compared growth pattern of the green alga Halimeda from the Bahamas between 2000 and 2009. They tentatively suggest that a reduction in segment length in Halimeda may be a response to increased ocean acidification, which is a predicted outcome of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Ilyse Resnick, Thomas Shipley and Cathy Manduca had a fascinating poster on how geologists think. They had geologists, organic chemists, and English professors attempt to reconstruct written words which had been faulted or randomly scrambled (not just rearranging letters, rather cutting the letters into pieces). The geologists were much more capable of reconstructing the original letters than either of the other groups (surprisingly, including the chemists).