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General Ichnology

A Trichophycus hunt

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Another grand day out on Bell Island, though a little on the nippy side at -10oC.

Stimulated by Dario wanting to collect a bentonite (to help with stratigraphic correlations), and me feeling the need to initiate Tiff into the department with some fieldwork, we had a grand day out.

 grebes nest

Bell Island was doing a good impression of Spitzbergen today with icy winds off the ocean, rocks glazed in rime and icicles hanging off the cliffs, but somehow you don't notice so much when there are trace fossils to see (well I don't anyways).

 Sampling of a thin bentonite, the weapon of choice being a key according to Dario, went smoothly enough. It appears to be a mafic bentonite, so there are a couple of possible local sources. Greg Dunning is going to help us with the fingerprinting if there are no datable zircons apatites etc.

 Then on to one of my favourite places to show off ichnology, Grebes Nest.  We had a happy couple of hours poking about, discovering in the process a hybrid Rosselia/Asterosoma/Zoophycos trace which has me scratching my head.  I added to my growing collection of Trichichnus/Polykladichnus (I think I might need some help with kicking that particular foible).  Perhaps when Adirenne Noftall has finished with her reconstructions I will be happier to leave them in the field.

Ichnology of the Winterhouse Formation

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Highlights of a short ichnological exploration of the Winterhouse Formation at Long Point on the Port au Port Peninsula, western Newfoundland.

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The Winterhouse Formation is of Late Ordovician age, sitting in the Long Point Group between the Lourdes and Misty Point Formations.  We have been interested in the unit as it sits around the oil window, and there has been some prior work on the palaeontology Bergstrom 1974 and palynology Gillespie 1998 (unpublished MSc thesis Memorial University- helen still works here in the CREAIT facility).  I saw my first Receptaculites which was a suprise.  I am kind of intrigued by them- it is ages since I came across a type of fossil I have never even heard of.

Turbidite Ichnology in Baja California, Mexico

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My research is focussed upon using trace fossils to help understand depositional environments in deep water turbidites. The Rosario Formation in Baja California, Mexico, are an excellent case study, because the depositional environments, architecture, stratigraphy and evolution of these channel turbidite rocks have been studied by members of the “Slopes 2 Consortium” ( for several years, and I have been working in the field with other members of this research team. Surprisingly, the trace fossils within this system have not been studied in detail until now, and as with other turbidite systems, they have not been studied systematically across the range of depositional environments present in these settings.

Things you need to do before you try nearest neighbour analysis in pipe rock facies

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One of the remarkable things about the predominantly Lower Palaeozoic pipe-rock facies is the sheer intensity of bioturbation by the vertical tubular trace fossil Skolithos.

The question that has been asked by a number of earlier authors is... How does the palaeoecology represented in pipe-rock compare to modern marine systems?

Over the last few years my Ph.D. student Michael Garton and I have been working at methods to study the fabrics produced in ancient sediments by the action of burrowing organisms (ichnofabrics).  The quartz-rich sandstones of the pipe-rock facies are particularly difficult to study.


Alfie the accidental ichnologist

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This is a story about the short but productive period that Alfie the alpheid shrimp (Alpheus bellulus) spent as a member of our group.

Alfie, as he was named by Michael Garton, came to us in a plastic bag on a flight from Vancouver from an aquarium to be our startunnel building shrimp.  It was only once he arrived that we discovered that Alpheus bellulus is not a burrowing species.  Many species of Alpheus are, but this one is not.  This was to be one of the centrepieces of Chris Phillip's thesis, but it was not to be (Chris subsequently moved on to thalassinid shrimps with better success).

Alfie came with a number of buddies in the bag, but they proved to be somewhat feisty with one another when released into the lab mesocosms so  I adopted him and moved him into the tank in my office.  At about this time Michael Garton was visiting in the midst of thesis submission and he shared my office with me and Alfie.

Discovery of the oldest trace fossils?

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One of our own, Alex Liu, has hit the headlines this week with the publication of his discovery of trace fossils in the Mistaken Point Formation at Mistaken Point itself (which is near Cape Race, Portugal Cove South, on the southern tip of the Avalon Peninsula, about 2.5 hrs drive from MUN).  Alex has a real eye for discovering fossils, which-when combined with his dedication to fieldwork-has led him to unearth new finds from localities thoughout the Avalon and Bonavista areas in localities that have been considered to be "done to death".

Alex made the discovery in the summer of 2008 while he was a visiting student with us at MUN (he is co-supervised by Martin Brasier at Oxford University and myself). 

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