People who study the earth

Chemistry Rocks Webinar


The American Chemical Society is hosting a live webinar called “Chemistry Rocks! – Exploring the Chemistry of Rocks and Minerals” on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM CDT. We are surrounded by rocks and minerals everywhere…in the ground we walk on, the places we work and live, and even in the food we eat. How are chemists experimenting with these fundamental materials to help the world and make our lives better? Ask questions live to the experts regarding the amazing work that is being done in rock and mineral science.

To see the webinar, sign up at GoToWebinar and fill out the form. They will send you an email to confirm. Then, on Tuesday at 6PM Central Time, follow the link in the email, make sure you have your computer’s sound turned on, and enjoy!

Spring 2017 Lectures

Lectures presented by the Association of Earth Science Clubs of Greater Kansas City

Friday, March 10, 2017

3:00 p.m. “Opal Down Under”, Ron Wooly, Owner of Dreaming Down Under

Saturday, March 11, 2017

1:00 p.m. “Earth Science… Facts, Frauds and Scams”, Mark Sherwood, Independence Gem and Mineral Society

2:00 p.m. “The Life and Hard Times of the KU T. rex”, Dr. David Burnham, Research Associate, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

3:00 p.m. “Medullary bone in Tyrannosaurs: a question of chickens, eggs and possibly more”, Dr. Josh Schmerge, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

4:00 p.m. “History of Gold Mining”, Doug Foster, Show-Me Gold, Missouri

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2:00 p.m. “The Life and Hard Times of the KU T-rex”, Dr. David Burnham, Research Associate, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

3:00 p.m. “Islands in the sun: Eocene fossil mammals from Turkey”, Dr. Chris Beard, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Baker’s Quarry Cake

This is what happens when you ask a geologist to bake a cake. has a very funny description of the quarry and how it was formed. Make sure you read the whole thing!

Historical records indicate that quarrying operations began in earnest around 9:30pm, although there is anecdotal evidence of small scale nibbling, particularly in the Strawberry Granite, prior to that time. Though only crumbs were removed, a few locals reported their findings to others. Resulting hype and rumor-mongering built up public anticipation to a frenzied hum. When the echoes of dinner had faded, industrial-scale excavations began at Baker’s Quarry.

The real Baker’s Quarry is a mine in Monroe, North Carolina, also known as Martin Marietta Materials. This is what it looks like.

Bakers quarry mine north carolina aerial view map

From Google Maps

Congratulations Scholarship Winners

Every year, the Midwest Federation offers scholarships to students studying geology or earth science related fields at the college or post-graduate level. If you purchased anything at the Scholarship Auction at the March Gem & Mineral Show in Kansas City, or at the auction at the Association Picnic in August, then you contributed to these scholarships. Thank you!

Dr. William S. Cordua is a retired professor from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Cordua is the chair of the Geology committee of the Midwest Federation of Mineralogical and Geological Societies. Dr. Cordua has chosen the two students:

Ms. Kari Wolfe is pursuing her Masters degree in Nitrate Pollution in Tile Water in Dead Zones in the Gulf of Mexico, through the University of Wisconsin in Minneapolis.

Ms. Colleen Hoffman is pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Mineralogy and Biogeochemistry of Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents, through the University of Wisconsin in Minneapolis.

For more information about the scholarships, including how to apply:

Curb Showing Hayward Fault is Replaced

Hayward, California is the home of the Hayward Fault, which is a break in the Earth’s crust. Geologically speaking the Hayward Fault moves very fast. You can see that the tectonic plates are always moving when you look at the roads. Since it only moves a few millimeters a year, the roads and/or curbs don’t crack but instead gently wiggle apart at the seams.[*] See how this curb at Rose and Prospect has moved over time?

curb a few inches offset hayward fault

This is how the curb looked in 1974. It has already drifted several inches from where it was originally. Photo from

hayward fault curb 2012 with people standing on top

This is how the curb looked in May 2012. See how far this piece has moved away? Photo by Andrew Alden at

If you want to go to California and see it for yourself, you are out of luck. The city has just replaced the curb. This is probably the first time that road work has made it into the New York Times. Read the article here: A Curb is Repaired and a Seismic Marker is Lost

[*]Note: Cracks in the road are not caused by plate tectonics. They are caused by thermal expansion/contraction, road salt, heavy trucks, and degredation of the road bed.

Spring 2016 Show Photos

I took way too many photos at the show and most of them were interesting, making it difficult to write this post. Without further ado, here are the highlights from the Spring 2016 Gem and Mineral Show.

People buying and selling rocks

The Association Booth was staffed by club members from Show-Me Rockhounds, IGAMS, and more. Photo by Stephanie Reed

A smiling young woman sitting behind a large wooden spinner with eight sections. She is wearing an ammonite necklace and a shirt proclaiming that the Kansas City Gem and Mineral Show "finally struck gold" and is 50 years old.

The popular prize wheel returned again. It’s only 50 cents to spin and receive one of 8 different prizes. Everyone’s a winner! Photo by David Reed

Cracking geodes

The Geode Gallery (Davenport, IA) cracked a lot of geodes. You can have a geode opened whether you buy it from them or bring your own. Photo by Stephanie Reed

Mr. Bones dinosaur walking around

Look behind you, it’s a dinosaur attack! No, it’s Mr. Bones! From Louisville, CO, Mr. Bones has returned for more dinosaur fun. Photo by Stephanie Reed

Scientist mounting specimen museum science city dino lab

A representative from the Dino Lab in Science City at Union Station. She is cleaning a specimen to be mounted. Photo by Stephanie Reed

free rock mineral gem identification

Mark Sherwood is helping these people identify something. It’s a free service from the Friends of Mineralogy, The Association, and IGAMS. Photo by Stephanie Reed

geology archaeology volcano crystal science kits toys

Science kits for kids (of all ages). Photo by Stephanie Reed

flume mining diy gems agate slabs

Ever wanted to try flume mining? Get a Nugget Bucket from McDe’s River Gems (Topeka, KS). Photo by Stephanie Reed

Case full of handmade silver jewelry

Each club in the Association can submit cases to show off things they have done, created, collected, etc. This case is from the Sterling Guild, a club for crafting with silver. Photo by Stephanie Reed

A display of fluorite octahedrons of many different colors and sizes.

Bruce Stinemetz’s fluorite octahedron collection. Photo by Stephanie Reed

gem trees in many different colors

A stunning assortment of gem trees from Accessory Minerals (DeSoto, KS). Photo by Stephanie Reed

display cases and stands for sale

Jeanne’s Rock and Jewelry (Bellaire, TX) was selling stands and cases for your specimens. Displaying is an important part of collecting, which is often overlooked. Photo by Stephanie Reed

What color were the dinosaurs?

A dinosaur fossil of anchiomis huxleyi

Johan Lindgren/Sci. Rep.

In this article from Chemical & Engineering News, researchers use chemistry to find out what colors the dinosaurs were.

Researchers led by Johan Lindgren of Lund University, in Sweden, used a battery of analytical techniques to scrutinize the molecular makeup of a fossilized Anchiornis huxleyi specimen. This dinosaur is a distant relative of today’s birds, and its remnants were preserved for about 150 million years in what is now northeastern China.

The researchers’ thorough analyses have allowed them to conclude that some of the dinosaur’s melanin, or pigment molecules, and melanin-producing organelles have also survived the intervening epochs (Sci. Rep. 2015, DOI: 10.1038/srep13520).

Scientists have previously observed signs of similar biomaterials in fossils, but studies have lacked sufficient evidence to rule out the idea that these materials come from bacteria or other microbial intruders.

Using methods including infrared spectroscopy and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry, Lindgren and his colleagues have shown that the sample’s fossilized feathers contain substances that closely resemble modern animal—not bacterial—eumelanin, the pigments responsible for brown and black coloration.

Click here to read the whole article.

What Does a Research Geologist Do?

Research Geologist Career Spotlight title
An article originally by Andy Orin found on Lifehacker here:

It’s appealing to think that a geologist spends most of their time scouring remote landscapes with a rock hammer and a magnifying glass, but in reality they spend more time in a laboratory than a Land Rover. The work of a research geologist is eclectic, analytical, and scientific.

To learn a little about the field, we spoke with Circe Verba, Ph.D., a young researcher at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and who has previously worked with NASA and SETI. Circe is also involved with science outreach and education with high school students, and has even designed a LEGO set depicting what it’s like to be a geologist. Now let’s take a look through the microscope:

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.

I am a research geologist at the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s (NETL) Office of Research & Development (ORD). I specialize in bridging geochemistry and civil engineering—specifically projects that involve carbon sequestration and wellbore integrity (relevant to mitigating climate change) and understanding the interaction of oil-gas shale in unconventional systems. My expertise is electron microscopy and image analysis.

What drove you to choose your career path?

I had many inspirations as a child; it started with my earth science class with discovering the planets. I had a thirst for knowledge to understand processes at a macroscopic scale down to a micro-scale. Geology is a multidisciplinary science that spans several fields, such as engineering and research, which enabled me to pursue several interests.

How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?

I wanted to pursue a career that would expand my perception of the universe by conducting research. I participated in high school science clubs which provided a scholarship opportunity to attend college at Oregon State University. Research (nowadays) requires a Ph.D., which took me long nine years. During my undergraduate, I explored astronomy, oceanography, and geology. I studied microbial boreholes in freshwater pillow basalt for planetary applications. Then I started a geology master’s program at Northern Arizona University, studying Martian aeolian [wind erosion] and volcanic features as part of a NASA HiRISE fellowship. Once that program ended, I switched gears and participated in an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) post-graduate fellowship in 2009. At NETL I was encouraged to further my education which led to the completion of my Ph.D in 2013, and a permanent job studying engineered systems on Earth.

Verba in the lab with a SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope).

Verba in the lab with a SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope).

What kinds of things do you do beyond what most people see? What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?

My time depends on what stage the project is at—at the moment I have four projects in different stages. I can spend time in the laboratory conducting experiments, analyzing and characterizing samples under an electron or light microscope, or working on the computer drafting manuscripts for publications. I also spend a lot of time interfacing with other team members and key partners from universities. It is also vital for scientists to communicate with one another on their work at scientific conferences.

What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

One misconception is not about my job, but more about the field. A common joke is that geology is rock for jocks, however, geology can be quite complex. In addition, as a geologist you get a lot of random rocks brought to you hoping for special identification when it’s usually a common rock like an agate (quartz-polymorph).

A close up view of a sample inside a SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope).

A close up view of a sample inside a SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope).

What are your average work hours?

A normal, professional work week—40 hours/week. More if there are deadlines or traveling.

What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?

Spreadsheets are essential for project management to keep track of project tasks or budgets, as well as from a technical stand point to understand chemical analyses and to calculate, graph, and import data.

Another tip is sharing data; part of being a scientist is to not replicate work that has been done or is being conducted. It is then helpful to publish the research or put data onto a database for distribution. We use the Energy Data eXchange (EDX) at NETL.

What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession? What do they do instead?

As I said above, I spend more time in the experimental and petrographic laboratory and interpreting the results. I spend less time in the field than my peers, for example, collecting samples, mapping regions, or being on an oil rig. In addition, several of my peers primary focus use applied geophysical modeling or geographic information system (GIS) to capture, store, manage, analyze spatial data. Furthermore, many geologists are in academia, which includes research and teaching.

What’s the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?

Personally, the worst part of the job is the amount of technical writing required. You undergo a lot of revisions for technical reports and peer reviewed journal articles. I’m a descriptive writer, so I’ve had to learn to reign it in and learn from mistakes.

What’s the most enjoyable part of the job?

The most enjoyable part of the job is when I’m using the microscopes. You get to see details down to a micrometer scale, something the naked eye can’t see. It’s an unseen world that I get to be a part of. It can also be like a micro-treasure hunt to find changes in mineral phases or microorganisms.

What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?

Salary can range depending on your education level and where you are employed. The bottom 10% make $46k whereas the median salary for geologist in all sectors is $84k.

How do you move up in your field?

A geologist can advance their career by getting additional certifications (e.g. registered geologist) or pursue higher education. Specifically where I work, advancement of job positions [would be] into project management, such as technical team coordinator, team lead, or division director.

What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?

The best advice I can give to an aspiring geologist is to never stop learning. Take as many science courses so can to figure out what field interests you, such as geology, engineering, physics, or mathematics. In addition, geography, computer science, environmental science, GIS, and drawing/art courses are also very helpful. Geology is a wide field with many hot topics to explore, including environmental or climate change, energy, geological hazards or mitigation, and mining. Examples of [jobs] in the field are engineering geologist, geochemist, geophysicist, hydrologist, mudlogger, wellsite geologist, environmental consultant, exploration geologist in academia, the oil, gas, petroleum sector, engineering or construction firms, government, museums, and private industry.

The Lego set that Verba designed. There is a figure using a SEM in the lab and another collecting samples of purple crystals in the field.

Vote for her LEGO set here:

I created the Research Geology LEGO set [because] I am also an active participant in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic (STEM) education by being involved in high school career fairs and science activities. I feel that it is important to find fun ways to encourage children, of both genders, to use critical thinking skills. As an adult, I still play with LEGO, a cobblestone of my childhood. So I created a LEGO set called Research Geology, which highlights my career as a research geologist both in the field and in the laboratory. While I included both genders in my set, I wanted to highlight that women can be scientists too. I strongly believe that we can impact young minds and pave the way for future scientists. We can change the world, one geek at a time.