A new year and some reflections…

Pålsjö skog

A small stream over Lower Jurassic sedimentary rocks in the lush forest outside my hometown.

 

I was born in the sixties. I guess I wasn’t much into science back then. At least I wasn’t aware I was. Life was more about learning new skills, playing and growing. There was one children’s program on TV and as I recall, it rarely featured cartoons. Instead it aired shadow- or puppet theatres, or grown-ups talking to puppets on strings. We had no computers or mobile phones. We had board games and cards. Playing on your own was something you did to pass time. Or you were just bored beyond belief.

Time could sometimes move very slowly when I was a kid. I can still remember the sounds and smells of my childhood home so vividly, probably because I sometimes was so bored that I couldn’t do anything but listen to the ticktock of my grandfather’s clock, while I was lying on the floor scrutinizing the pattern on the wallpaper or brading the fringe of the carpet. Time is relative.

We played a lot outside in the park or the nearby woods. My home town is built on an escarpment of Triassic–Jurassic boundary rocks. We scrambled the slopes of the escarpment, climbing on 200 million year old sandstones and shales, every day. We climbed trees and crawled through bushes, picking berries and nuts. We played veterinary hospital in the rose garden at the centre of the park, saving butterflies and beetles from drowning in the spring fountain. Science was everywhere in the subtlests of ways.

We watched re-runs of the lunar landing, and tv-shows like Star Trek, Space: 1999, Mission impossible, the Invisible man etc., shows where science was always present as part of the story. Maybe that is why I already in 4th grade had my mind set on becoming a doctor, a veterinarian, an astronomer, or a microbiologist. I never thought about becoming a geologist. Geology wasn’t anything we were taught at school. It wasn’t until I had to apply for university that I suddenly realised geology was a university subject. I remember reading the few lines that described it, thinking “that could be interesting”. It wasn’t my number one choice, but when I was accepted for the Geology program, I deleted all other options. I have never regretted that. I love geology! I love the way it encompasses so many aspects of our planet and the life on it. There is always something new to discover and something new to learn.

In this day and age when some of the world leaders turn their backs on science, knowledge and learning, it is particularly important for scientists around the world to continue their work. Science is everywhere, in the world around us and in the technology that we use. In the water that we drink, the medicines we use and in the food that we eat. Let us not ignore climate change or environmental issues. Let us be smarter than that.

Let us make 2018 a Happy New Science Year!

 

 

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On the end-Triassic mass extinction – In Danish

This spring an entire issue of the Danish Geoscience journal Geoviden was dedicated to our research project “The Triassic–Jurassic boundary: Impact of a Large Igneous Province on the geobiosphere”. Geoviden is a popular science magazine aimed at high school students and everyone else interested in geology and geography. Our issue is called “A crisis in the history of life” and  presents the background, hypothesis and progress of our Geocenter Denmark financed project. Unfortunately for non-Scandinavian readers it is in Danish. It is richly illustrated and covers various aspects of our research. It can be downloaded for free using this link, so feel free to check it out: Geoviden No 1 2016: “En krise i livets historie”

GEOVIDEN_1_2016

Front page illustration by Stefan Sølberg, GEUS.

“What lies beneath…”

The Sose Bay area on the Danish island of Bornholm is a beautiful place. Here, the lush greens of the partly forested coastline with its white sandy beaches meets the Baltic Sea, and at the horizon there is nothing but sky.

Sosebugt Oktober 2013 502

Sose Bay in October 2013 (Photo: Lars Henrik Nielsen, GEUS)

Early Jurassic rocks crop out along the coast; the sands and clays still soft after 200 million years, revealing a multitude of sedimentary structures when scraped free of their weathered surfaces.

section before and after

Left: a small weathered coastal section. Right: Same section after rinsing. (Photo: Sofie Lindström, GEUS)

 

 

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Wave ripples (Photo: Gunver K. Pedersen, GEUS)

The most continuous sedimentary succession in the coastal cliff is exposed east of Sose Odde. It comprises a c. 24 m thick section including restricted marine, eustarine, lacustrine and fluvial deposits, and was described in detail by Surlyk et al. (1995). The outcropping succession belongs to the Sose Bugt Member of the Rønne Formation, which was assigned a Hettangian–Sinemurian (Early Jurassic) age based on its fossil palynological (spores, pollen, microalgae) content. In 2014, Clemmensen et al. described the presence of steep-walled, flat- to concave-bottomed depressions, with a raised ridge at each side, that were interpreted as dinosaur tracks.

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One of the dinosaur tracks described by Clemmensen et al. (2014). (Phoyo: Sofie Lindström, GEUS)

 

The dinosaur tracks are found in layers interpreted to have been deposited in small streams on a large coastal plain. Clemmensen et al. (2014) suggest that the dinosaurs may have preferred to use shallow channels as paths. The succession also contains thin coal seams and layers penetrated by numerous vertical roots, remnants of 200 million year old vegetation.

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Numerous thin vertical roots penetrating a thick sand layer (Photo: Sofie Lindström, GEUS).

 

So these are the sediments that lie immediately beneath our feet when we walk the fields at Sose Bay, below a thin cover of Quaternary sediments. But what lies beneath? Would sediments deposited before, during and after the end-Triassic mass extinction be present?

Borested m udstyr

The drill site and equipment (Photo: Gunver K. Pedersen, GEUS).

 

In order to find out, we performed a core drilling in the Sose Bay area, with the aim to reach typical red and green coloured Late Triassic sediments – and hopefully Triassic–Jurassic boundary sediments.We drilled with a core drilling technique that sealed the sedimentary cores in plastic pipes.

kernehenter kommer til syne

The core catcher brings up a new core (Photo: Gunver K- Pedersen, GEUS).

 

John tager kerne ud af kernerør

John Boserup checkes the bottom of a core (Photo: Gunver K. Pedersen, GEUS).

 

By checking the bottom of each pipe when they were brought to the surface, it was possible to see when the red and green Triassic had been reached. At a depth of 110 m below ground, we reached red Triassic sediments.

Trias rødt ler stedvis grønt stedvis sandet

Red and green clay and some sand at the bottom of a core (Photo: Gunver K. Pedersen, GEUS).

 

But because the cores were sealed in red plastic pipes, we still had no idea how complete the drilled succession would be. All we could do was wait until the cores had been transported back to GEUS.

borekerner 1

Sealed red plastic pipes  containing the cored succession of the Sose-1 well (Photo: Gunver K. Pedersen, GEUS).

 

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

Mignon Talbot and the forgotten women of Paleontology.

Nice blog post on women in palaeontology by Paleonerdish! Check out her nice blog 🙂

Letters from Gondwana.

Sin título Mignon Talbot  (From Turner et al, 2010)

The nineteenth century was the “golden age” of Geology, and women began to play an important role in the advance of this field of science. They collected fossils and mineral specimens, and were allowed to attend scientific lectures, but they were barred from membership in scientific societies. It was common for male scientists to have women assistants, often their own wives and daughters. A good example of that was Mary Lyell (1808–1873), daughter of the geologist Leonard Horner and the wife of eminent geologist Charles Lyell. But for most of men, the participation of women in geology and paleontology was perceived as a hobby.

Mary Anning (1799-1847), was a special case. She was the most famous woman paleontologist of her time, and found the first specimens of what would later be recognized as Ichthyosaurus, the first complete Plesiosaurus, the first pterosaur skeleton outside Germany…

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We’ve reached the Triassic!

During Saturday core drilling at Sose bugt continued slowly. Because the sedimentary succession is fairly unconsolidated we are drilling with a technique that encase the cored sediments in 1,5 m long pipes. This means that it is only possible to investigate the cored sediments at the top or bottom of each core section. Typical Early Jurassic whitish sands and grey clays had been cored during the first three days of drilling. On Saturday we were closing in on two prominent seismic horizons, one which we suspected could be the top of the Triassic redbeds. At 91 m there were still grey clays but also coal. But at 95 m the top of the core showed dark grey clays, while the bottom consisted of light green sand and clay typical for the Upper but not the uppermost Triassic. We had finally reached the Triassic! 🙂

Drilling will continue for a few more hours tomorrow until the geophysical logging equipment arrives. We are all very excited and can’t wait to get the cores back to GEUS so that we can study them. Almost 95 m of Lower Jurassic and hopefully also uppermost Triassic (Rhaetian) near coastal sedimentary strata which we think will provide us with additional information on the end-Triassic mass extinction and the biotic recovery that followed.

Sose Bugt on Bornholm is a beautiful place (photo: S. Lindström)

Sose Bugt on Bornholm is a beautiful place (photo: S. Lindström)

Drilling through Triassic-Jurassic boundary strata

On Tuesday next week we launch our new core drilling project. This time we are going to drill through the lowermost Jurassic sedimentary succession at Sose Bugt on the Danish island of Bornholm, with the aim to reach uppermost Triassic rocks. Despite many excellent geological studies in the area it is not clear if the Triassic-Jurassic boundary is preserved on the Sose Fault block, but the presence of Hettangian-Sinemurian strata in the coastal cliffs at Sose Bugt and Upper Triassic green and red clays along parts of the coast make it an ideal area to drill for the TJB.

Our core drilling project is funded by Geocenter Denmark and is a part of our research project on the end-Triassic mass extinction event. The core drilling will provide us with new research material, hopefully both of the mass extinction interval and of the recovery in the earliest Jurassic.

Quite excited about this! 🙂

Beautiful Hettangian (lowermost Jurassic) clays and sands at Sose Bugt, Bornholm, Denmark (Photo: Sofie Lindström)

Beautiful Hettangian (lowermost Jurassic) clays and sands at Sose Bugt, Bornholm, Denmark (Photo: Sofie Lindström)

EGU2014 Thursday: “Volcanism, Impacts, Mass extinctions and Global environmental change” – a brief review of two talks.

Thursday afternoon at the EGU2014 was totally dedicated to the session “Volcanism, Impacts, Mass extinctions and Global environmental change” in which I also presented a talk. The session contained a total of eleven oral presentations covering various subject within the above mentioned topics. The first four talks were on the volcanism of the Siberian Traps and the end-Permian mass extinction event.

In the first talk, Seth Burgess presented new high-resolution geochronological data for the intrusives of the Siberian Traps. Burgess and his colleagues had used the same analysis and standards on not only zircons from the Siberian Traps, but also on zircons from the ash-layers bracketing the end-Permian mass extinction level at the GSSP Meishan in China. According to these new datings all the dated intrusives post-date the end-Triassic mass extinction event. Seth Burgess stated that although these data could be taken as “the nail in the coffin for the theory that the intrusive activity caused the mass extinction” he didn’t believe that they did. He then went on to explain that the majority of the intrusives of the Siberian Traps are situated at depths and those that have been dated are the ones that are accessible, probably producing a biased record.

This was good news for the second speaker, Henrik Svensen, who presented a talk on the sill-induced evaporite and coal metamorphism of the Siberian Traps. Svensen and colleagues showed that the Siberian Traps contain very thick sills that have been emplaced into both coal-bearing sediments and salt deposits, with the potential for degassing of both green house gases (CH4, CO2), aerosols (SO2), and ozone destructive gases (CH3Cl, CH3Br), which could explain the end-Permian biotic crisis.

A fuzzy picture of Henrik Svensen and his audience.

A fuzzy picture of Henrik Svensen and his audience.