During the 2011 Spring Semester, the SUU geology faculty invited several scientists from around the West to give talks on their current research regarding the Beaver Dam and Virgin Mountains. Then, the presenters led field trip stops that supported their interpretations. It was a fantastically successful event.
The keynote speaker was none other than Ernie Anderson, one of the most well known geologists in this part of the country. Ernie is a retired geologist who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for over 30 years, and he specialized in southwestern geology. In Ernie’s talk, he questioned the generally accepted paradigm of Tertiary-age extensional structures in the Beaver Dam area. He argued that the field evidence suggests much more strike-slip displacement in large shear zones that are separated by small normal faults. Previously reported amounts of extensional displacement may be greatly exaggerated. On the first day of the field trip, he led stops that showed some of the field evidence supporting his hypothesis. The photo above is Ernie teaching in front of a beautifully exposed fault zone.
Bob Biek (geologist with the Utah Geological Survey) and Gerry Bryant (geology professor at Dixie State College of Utah) gave fascinating talks on the mapping efforts in the southwest corner of Utah and the soft sediment deformation preserved in the Navajo Sandstone. I’m always impressed with Bob’s mapping skills, and the students were exposed to an employee with an agency they could very well work for. Gerry’s talk on the Navajo Sandstone has enhanced my impression of some of the most beautiful exposures in the world. I’ll never look at the Navajo in the same way again due to his elucidation of these structures, and I can’t wait to hike around in some of our canyons to the southeast. The photo above is Bob describing the megabreccia behind him.
The finale to the symposium
was Jim Sears’ talk about the enigmatic evolution of the Grand Canyon.
Despite decades of research, scientists are still not satisfied with
the current explanation of the timing of its formation.
Jim, who is a geology professor at the University of Montana, has a new idea that could not only explain the timing of the
Grand Canyon evolution, but could also have important implications for
explaining the evolution of the West from the late Oligicene to today.
His talk was quite thought-provoking, and the students appreciated
his presentation very much.
After the field trip, Jim and I went to the Grand Canyon and surrounding
areas to test some of his ideas.
We found indisputable evidence supporting his ideas.
This is an exciting time in geology!
I’m working on designing several student projects to contribute to
this new line of research, and I’m confident we’ll have quantitative results
soon. The photo above is Jim teaching several students in the
The photo above is Jim teaching several students in the field.
Mark Colberg and Fred Lohrengel from SUU also did great jobs.
Mark is making some important discoveries in the Precambrian
high-pressure rocks, and I don’t have any doubt his results are publishable.
I’m looking forward to seeing his final interpretations because I
think they will have a significant impact on the scientific community’s
understanding of Precambrian geology.
Fred’s talk was a good lesson
in the scientific process, especially concerning our level of understanding
of this part of the country. He
highlighted the fact that despite the great outcrop exposure, we’re still
searching for answers to fundamental questions regarding the Great Basin’s
geomorphologic evolution. The photo above is Mark in the field
The photo above is Mark in the field with students.
Here's our group!
John and Stephanie looking over some geologic maps...
Jim Sears with his nose on the outcrop...
Skyler, showing off...
Jim showing a Miocene river deposit in the northern Virgin Mountains that could support his ideas about the evolution of the Grand Canyon.
| Johnny MacLean |