I’ve been down with the flu or some similar illness for the last week, which has kept me away from the museum and most any other activity. Even though I’m still at home, I’ve finally recovered enough to blog on some of our activities from last week.
Over the last few months DB Poli and I have been making a lot of plans for collecting and studying plant fossils from the Boxley quarry in Beckley, WV. In their usual fashion, Boxley has bent over backwards to accommodate us. We’re mostly interested in a shale unit, apparently within the Pennsylvanian New River Formation, which is perhaps 50-100 feet thick. Boxley blasts through this material in their quarrying operations, and they’ve set aside several thousand tons of rocks for us to pick through (above).
DB and I spent a couple of hours last Thursday filling up my truck with several hundred pounds of plants and rock samples. We’ve barely started to look at these in detail, but even at a glance there are some pretty nice specimens, like this piece that includes at least three species of ferns, as well as larger plants:
When I first visited Beckley, I thought these deposits were a pretty straightforward prograding delta sequence with minimal marine influence. As is so often the case, a more detailed look suggests that the geologic picture is more complicated. Large quantities of the shale seem to have lenticular bedding, a feature often associated with intertidal environments:
We’re going to need to look closely at these sediments and plants to try and build up a detailed picture of the paleoenvironment at this site. In the short term DB and I are hoping to make several more trips to Beckley in the coming months to get as much material as we can.