Oregon Gems of the Rice Museum

Oregon Gems of the Rice Museum

Rice Museum curator Leslie Moclock is in charge of the museum’s education curriculum. In the course of her educational presentations, she finds that kids always ask deceptively tricky questions like, “Why are minerals the color that they are?” Moclock enjoys this part of her work because answering these questions opens doors to doing research. Examples of research topics she has pursued include two famous Oregon gemstones, opal (notably from Opal Butte in Morrow County) and sunstones (from Ponderosa and Plush area mines). 

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High School Teacher Emphasizes the Scientific Method in his Geoscience Class

High School Teacher Emphasizes the Scientific Method in his Geoscience Class

Frank Hladky, registered geologist who worked for DOGAMI (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries) for 22 years, came to talk to GSOC about how he used his geological background to transform himself into a high school science teacher. He has been teaching high school in southern Oregon for over a dozen years now and is a member of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

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New Info on the Origin of Bimodal Volcanism on Oregon’s High Lava Plains

New Info on the Origin of Bimodal Volcanism on Oregon’s High Lava Plains

April’s Friday night lecture was given by a truly distinguished Oregon geologist and highlighted recent research into an area that has long intrigued geoscientists about Oregon. Dr. Grunder has led a team of researchers, including PSU’s Martin Streck, exploring the possible origin of the magma that has peppered Oregon’s High Lava Plains geologic province in the last 12 million years. This magma includes both rhyolite and basalt eruptions in a swath of territory between Steen’s Mountain region to the southeast and Newberry Volcano to the northwest. 

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Thomas Condon's Fossil Collection

Thomas Condon's Fossil Collection

Professor Emeritus and Condon Collection Curator Dr. William Orr spoke to GSOC on May 12 about Thomas Condon’s fossils. This collection was assembled for teaching and reference and ranks with the best collections for stratigraphic continuity and taxonomic breadth. Many specialists from around the world come to the University of Oregon to study its fossils.
Photo: Thomas Condon with his pals Dr. Bill Orr (left) and GSOC President Rik Smoody (right).

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Climbing Through Cascades Geology

Climbing Through Cascades Geology

GSOC Past President Bo Nonn delivered the 82nd Annual GSOC banquet speech on March 12 to a fascinated crowd at Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant in Beaverton. He has a unique perspective on the geology of the Cascade Mountains: he has witnessed it in person by climbing all 16 Cascade peaks more than once, and has received several certificates of achievement from the Mazamas, as well as being a climbing instructor with that organization.

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Speaker Mike Collins Provides Dramatic Visualizations of Hotspot Evolution

Speaker Mike Collins Provides Dramatic Visualizations of Hotspot Evolution

Mike Collins, a retired administrator in manufacturing, and an avid mountaineering and geology enthusiast, presented his slide show “Flood Basalts, Hot Spots, and Spreading Centers and the Creation of the Western Landscape,” to a full house last month at the GSOC Friday night lecture. His show was based upon a manuscript he has produced explaining the evolution of the Western landscape in terms that non-technical people can understand. It is lavishly illustrated with scratchboard drawings that he has drawn, which take the reader back to scenes he describes in the book. 

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Dark Noon

Dark Noon

Dr. Richard Waitt, who arrived in Washington state from the USGS office in Menlo Park, California, shortly after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, stayed to study the volcano and built the bulk of his career at the Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) in Vancouver, Washington. Dr. Waitt came to promote his new book In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens, Washington State University Press, 2015, to the GSOC audience and to describe the book’s origin and some of the stories it contains. He said that early in his research into the events of the volcanic eruption, he was focused more on the hard geology that people could describe. However, he became involved more in the stories that people told about their experiences and the process of determining the details of the event by analyzing the interviews of the witnesses. 

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Paleontologist to the Rescue!

Paleontologist to the Rescue!

Synopsis of Friday night lecture on July 8, 2016, with speaker Sheila Alfsen

GSOC Past President Sheila Alfsen described her experiences working as an onsite paleontologist on construction sites for Paleontology Associates, a company run by Oregon paleontologist Dr. William Orr for more than 15 years. Paleontology Associates was created to address the need for preserving important fossil finds on government property when they are threatened by construction projects. 

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Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

Teams Led By OSU Scientist Seek To Discover Answers On Climate Change At Petermann Glacier In Greenland 

by Carol Hasenberg

Dr. Alan Mix, Professor of Oceanography in the divisions of Ocean Ecology and Biogeochemistry and of Geology and Geophysics in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University and Chief Scientist of the Petermann Glacier 2015 research expedition, spoke at the GSOC 81st Annual Banquet about the research he led at Petermann Glacier in Greenland. His talk stressed the value of the research in helping to further our understanding of climate change and drive the political policies needed to help us face the changes. 

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Paleoseismicity Research: From Trench to Earthquake Hazard Map

Paleoseismicity Research: From Trench to Earthquake Hazard Map

Dr. Ashley Streig, Assistant Professor in the Geology Department of Portland State University and NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow, gave a talk to GSOC about her paleoseismology research on the San Andreas Fault in California. Streig’s research in the Hazel Dell site in the Santa Cruz Mountains was interpreted as showing the results of 3 significant earthquakes happening since the land was settled and logged by the first Spanish settlers.

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Traveling Oregon’s Geologic Highways and Byways with Dr. Marli Miller

Traveling Oregon’s Geologic Highways and Byways with Dr. Marli Miller

Synopsis of GSOC Friday night lecture, October 9, 2015, given by Dr. Marli Miller, University of Oregon Department of Geology and author of Roadside Geology of Oregon, Second Edition (Mountain Press Publishing Co., 2014).
by Carol Hasenberg

Dr. Marli Miller explained and gave examples of her recent book, Roadside Geology of Oregon, Second Edition, to one of GSOC’s largest audiences ever. The book was a 4 year project from which Miller laughingly said that she learned an embarrassingly large amount of material. Amongst her reviewers for the project were Portland State University professors Martin Streck and Scott Burns. The Second Edition is a long awaited rewrite of the classic Roadside Geology of Oregon by David Alt and Donald Hyndman, written in 1978.

Photo credit: Marli Bryant Miller

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Meteorite Findings and “Greatest Hits”

Meteorite Findings and “Greatest Hits”

Pictured: polished and etched silicate-bearing iron meteorite, with millimeter scale at left

Meteorites “Greatest Hits” from Dr. Ruzicka's May 8th lecture: (1) The solar system formed relatively fast, in only 10 million years; (2) Much early planetary material was either partly melted, evaporated, and/or dispersed in the early solar nebula; (3) Pre-solar grains are incorporated in the chondrite matrix; (4) Pre-biotic organic synthesis occurred as building blocks in the early solar system; (5) Decay of short-lived radioactive isotopes gave the heat source of silica-rich bodies in the early solar system; (6) Planetary rock swaps occurred throughout the history of the solar system. 

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Synopsis of Dr. John Bershaw's GSOC Friday Night Lecture, April 10, 2015

Synopsis of Dr. John Bershaw's GSOC Friday Night Lecture, April 10, 2015

Using Fossil Teeth and Paleoclimatology to Bracket Duration of Andean Uplift 

Dr. John Bershaw, PSU Department of Geology, came to the GSOC Friday night lecture in April to discuss his research using fossils to determine information about past climate change. Specifically, Bershaw’s task was to use oxygen isotopes in fossil mammal teeth to bracket the age of formation of the Andean Plateau (Altiplano) in South America. 

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When the Plate Tectonic Revolution Met Western North America: the Lure of Science and the Oddness of being Female

When the Plate Tectonic Revolution Met Western North America: the Lure of Science and the Oddness of being Female

I was in high school in 1957 when the Russians successfully launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik. It is hard to explain to younger generations just what a profound event that was. To us, it was totally astonishing: that we humble humans could put an object into outer space. Until then I had planned to be an artist, but I thought “Wow! If scientists can do that, they can solve anything (ghettos, hunger, strife, …)”. So began my checkered studies in science.

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Mt. Lassen – a Geological Must-See

Mt. Lassen – a Geological Must-See

About 100 of us gathered in Cramer Hall 53 to hear the very knowledgeable geologist Dr. Scott Burns talk about his newest adventure – first trip to Mt. Lassen National Park. This active volcano, the southernmost in the Cascade Mountains, last erupted in 1916. The mode of eruptions seems to be bi-modal – either quiet or violent. The volcano was named after Danish immigrant Peter Lassen who was a local blacksmith. The LA Times recently wrote that Mt. Lassen was California’s “most overlooked volcanic park” with only 400,000 visitors per year, as compared with Yosemite’s 4-million visitors per year.

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Evolutionary Flight Paths (Dr Orr: "There were many")

Evolutionary Flight Paths (Dr Orr: "There were many")

Over 100 of us gathered in Cramer Hall 53 – a big upgrade from the smaller classroom – to hear a former aeronautical engineering student now turned paleontologist share the geologic evidence on how the ability to fly has come to evolve.  He described the various modes of flight and the thresholds between what humans might define as “true flight” and all the ways evolution has developed gliding, falling, and powered flight.  The idea of flight is a major part of American culture, along with automobiles.  The idea of flight goes back to ancient times.  How did the wing evolve?  Unlike a simple airfoil, a bird-wing is a complex venetian-blind like structure and with an opening-and-closing folding motion. 

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Rhyolites, CRBs & the Yellowstone Hot Spot — Research by Dr. Martin Streck

Rhyolites, CRBs & the Yellowstone Hot Spot — Research by Dr. Martin Streck

Martin Streck spoke to a standing room only GSOC crowd about the work that he and a number of his graduate students have done in advancing our knowledge of the Columbia River Basalt (CRB) flows of the Miocene. His team has focused upon the rhyolite flows that occurred as a result of heating by the basalt magma that produced the CRB.

Miocene rhyolite flows in eastern Oregon have long been studied by geologists. The relationship between the rhyolitic magma and the massive amounts of CRB basaltic magma is not precisely known, although they are spatially close so infer that the rhyolite is a result either of partial melting of the crust by or fractional crystallization of the CRB magma. In fact, the spatial distribution over time of the rhyolite can give geologists ideas about the origin of the CRB magma itself.

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Radon in the Willamette Valley: An Unexpected Hazard

Radon in the Willamette Valley: An Unexpected Hazard

At the end of the last ice age 18,000 to 15,000 years ago massive hydrologic floods ran down the Columbia River Gorge.  Originating from a huge glacial lake near Missoula, Montanta around forty floods were large enough to flood the entire Willamette Valley to a depth of 400 ft.  These floods did not just bring huge volumes of water, they brought huge amounts of rocks and sediments from the continental batholiths.  A large percentage of these rocks and sediments are composed of granite.  Granites from the Idaho batholith are high in uranium bearing minerals.  This high uranium content brings with it an unexpected hazard, radon.

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