12 October 2006

Indiana John

As with so many things in life, I have my very definite opinions about research. I believe real science is done in the lab and the library, while field work is just data collection. Still, it can't be denied that field work can be a very fun time, especially in paleontology. Heading to wide-open spaces to unearth the remains of organisms that haven't seen the light of day for millions of years does have a certain romance to it, it can't be denied. The powers that be at the U of O gave a group of us from the Geology Department a chance to experience that romance today, though in place of the wide-open spaces, we got an enormous hole in the ground in the middle of campus. The university is in the process of building a new integrative science facility, and at this stage all they've done is dug down to begin work on the foundation. Turns out that if you dig anywhere in Eugene, you wind up in the aptly (if unimaginatively) named Eugene Formation, which was seabed in the Eocene. So, while it wasn't the Gobi Desert of Mongolia or the sculpted red rocks of the Chinle Formation (see, I do know a little geology), there were certainly lots of fossils to be found. In fact, pretty much any rock you picked up was filled with fossils. There were three main types: "regular-looking" clams, shells that looked very much like razor clams, and much rarer snail shells. I found some very nice specimens of each type (which I would include a photo of, but apparently my camera has decided that life isn't worth living anymore), though some will require a bit of gluing after some overzealous chisel work on my part. We didn't advance paleontology one iota, but I think it's fair to say a good time was had by all. Tomorrow, back to the real science...

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