Saturday, February 4, 2012

The top 10 reasons I love Wyoming geology

University of Wyoming spring field trip, 1925.  Photo by S. H. Knight, Professor of Geology.
Courtesy American Heritage Center, used with permission.

A spontaneous meme is spreading through the geoblogosphere.  The theme is: why we love our particular specialty in geo-science. Erik Klemetti posted about volcanoes, Siim Sepp about sand, Callan Bentley about structural geology, and Silver Fox about detachment faults and core complexes.  I’m an amateur geologist without a specialty, so instead I will explain why I love the geology of my home state, Wyoming.

1.  It’s fun to be in the field in Wyoming -- lots of public land, not many people, the folks I do meet are friendly and even thrilled to find someone to chat with for awhile.
Photo by Duckboy.  Duckboy postcards are fantastic!  I highly recommend this collection, an astute sociological study of our state:  The Duckboy Way or Quack in the Saddle Again

2.  When I can’t be in the field, I can enjoy aerial photos and geologic maps -- beautiful in their own right.
Bighorn Basin in northwest Wyoming, a classic Laramide syncline (click to view).
3.  Wyoming’s Laramide uplifts, superpositioned drainages and relic periglacial features bring back many fond memories of geotripping when I was a grad student ... in botany :)  The extra time it took to finish my degree was a good investment.  Geology is fun!

4.  All of my dogs have loved Wyoming geology, especially the field trip part.  To right, Ellie studying phonolite porphyry at Devils Tower.
5.  We get to go camping!!

6.  Wyoming has 1.7-billion-year-old fossil stromatolites in a gorgeous subalpine setting.

7.  Just 12,000 years ago, conditions in many of Wyoming’s basins were periglacial, and it’s easy to find fossil frost wedges in road cuts and dumps around the state.

8.  Wyoming geology is quite old as well.  We have lots of Archean cratonic rocks and there is a Precambrian suture just north of where I live.
Modified after Frost et al.  2006.  Archean crustal growth ... in the south-central Wyoming Province.
Can. J. Earth Sci. 10: 1533-1555.

9.  Much of Wyoming geology is comprehensible to a lay person.  Laramide uplifts are especially easy to see and understand, a wonderful way to peer into the the past.
Sheep Mountain anticline; note superpositioned drainage (Big Horn River).
Courtesy ArcGIS online.
10.  Wyoming geology is visible.  In our high dry climate vegetation is relatively sparse -- a good thing because as I learned in my geomorphology class, plants obscure the landscape!
Sheep Mountain, looking north along crest of anticline.  Photo by musicman82.

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