Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Glacier National Park Geology & Paleontology: Part 1 - background

Since I have just returned from my honeymoon to Glacier National Park, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the geology and paleontology from that part of the world. A little background on why I am talking about this first. I am not calling myself an authority by any stretch of the mind, don't get me wrong! I worked in Glacier during the summer of 2005 as the park paleontologist and Geoscientists-in-the-Park sponsored by the Geological Society of America GeoCorps internship, in association with the National Park Service Geological Resources Division. I was hired to write the paleontological resource report for the park and spent 5 months living in the park, which was awesome. During that time I learned quite a bit about the geology and paleontology of the park and published one paper giving an overview of the park paleontology (where the info for this series is coming from if you would like to read ahead). Another interesting side affect of the project was learning about all of the interesting people who have worked in the park. So I thought I would start this series off with a post about the people who did most of the paleontological work that is known for the park. I hope this series is interesting and useful to some.

*Please remember that all collecting of rocks, minerals, plants, fossils or cultural objects (i.e. arrowheads) from National Park Service land is illegal and punishable by a fine*

PALEONTOLOGISTS IN THE PARK: AN HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Since before Glacier National Parks establishment in 1910 as the tenth national park in the United States, there have been seven paleontologists who devoted research time to the paleontology of the park. The first major paleontological research was conducted during the summer of 1908 by Charles Doolittle Walcott (right; 1906, 1908), who had been appointed the new Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1907 (Yochelson, 2001). His panoramic photographs of the region from these excursions assisted George Bird Grinnell, who was a major player in the establishment of the park, to persuade congress to preserve the area. Walcott returned to the area in 1914, after his discovery of Cambrian fossils in the Burgess Shale of British Columbia, with his findings being published later that year (Walcott, 1914).

Two paleontologists, Carroll and Mildred Fenton (left), continued the work during the 1930s, publishing four papers on the area from 1931 to 1939 (Fenton and Fenton 1931, 1933, 1937; Fenton, 1939). In the 1950s, Richard Rezak (1953, 1954, 1957) conducted his dissertation research within the park and worked with Clyde P. Ross on a publication of the geology and paleontology of the park for the U.S. Geological Survey (Ross and Rezak, 1959). Rezak also wrote the first summary of stromatolites known from the Belt Series of GLAC.

The 1970s-1980s seem to be the peak of paleontological research within Glacier. During the 1970s to early 1980s, Brian White worked extensively on the columnar stromatolites found in the upper Altyn Formation. White published six reports (White, 1970, 1974a,b, 1979, 1984; White and Pedone, 1975) about these stromatolites, along with reports of microfossils from the Altyn Formation.

The 1970s also brought with it the man who would complete the bulk of the research done on the parks paleontological resources, to date. Robert J. Horodyski completed his dissertation on the stromatolites and paleoecology of the park in 1973 (Horodyski, 1973). From 1975 to 1994, he went on to publish and co-author over 15 reports on many aspects of the paleontology of the park. In the mid-1990s, Horodyski began to work on pseudofossils from the Appekunny Formation with Mikhail A. Fedonkin of the Russian Academy of Science and Ellis L. Yochelson of the U.S. Geological Survey and Smithsonian Institution (right). Horodyski’s untimely death in 1995 brought an abrupt end to his extensive research within the park. After Horodyski’s death, Fedonkin and Yochelson continued to work in the Appekunny Formation within the park. They have since published their findings on Horodyskia moniliformis (below; Yochelson and Fedonkin, 2000; Fedonkin and Yochelson, 2002), possibly one of the oldest known eucaryotes.



Fedonkin, M.A. and Yochelson, E.L., 2002, Middle Proterozoic (1.5 Ga) Horodyskia moniliformis Yochelson and Fedonkin, the Oldest Known Tissue-Grade Colonial Eucaryote: Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 94, 29 p.

Fenton, C.L. and Fenton, M.A., 1931, Algae and algal beds in the Belt Series of Glacier National Park: Journal of Geology, v. 39, p. 670-686.

Fenton, C.L. and Fenton, M.A., 1933, Algal reefs or bioherms in the Belt series of Montana: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 44, p.1135-1142.

Fenton, C.L. and Fenton, M.A., 1937, Belt Series of the north: Stratigraphy, sedimentation, paleontology: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 48, p. 1873-1969.

Fenton, C.L., 1939, Sea floors of Glacier National Park: Scientific Monthly, v. 49, p. 215-226.

Horodyski, R.J., 1973, Stromatolites and paleoecology of parts of the Middle Proterozoic Belt Supergroup, Glacier National Park, Montana [Ph.D. dissertation]: Los Angeles, University of California, 264 p.

Rezak, R., 1953, Algal Zones in the Belt Series in the Glacier National Park region, Montana: Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, v. 64, p. 1553.

Rezak, R., 1954, Stromatolite classification in the Belt Series: Science, v. 119, no. 3097, p. 659.

Rezak, R., 1957, Stromatolites of the Belt Series in Glacier National Park and vicinity, Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 294-D, p. 127-154.

Ross, C.P., and Rezak, R., 1959, The rocks and fossils of Glacier National Park: The story of their origin and history: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 294-K, p. 401-439.

Walcott, C.D., 1906, Algonkian formations of northwestern Montana: Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, v. 17, p. 1-28.

Walcott, C.D., 1908, Cambrian sections of the Cordilleran area: Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, v. 53, no. 5, p. 167-230.

Walcott, C.D., 1914, Cambrian Geology and Paleontology. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, v. 64, no. 2, p. 77-156.

White, B., 1970, Algal stromatolites, depositional environments and age of the Altyn Formation of Montana: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 2, p. 719-720.

White, B., 1974a, Microfossils from the Late Precambrian Altyn Formation of Glacier National Park, Montana: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 6, p. 85.

White, B., 1974b, Microfossils from the Late Precambrian Altyn Formation of Montana: Nature, v. 247, p. 452-453.

White, B., 1979, Stratigraphy and microfossils of the Precambrian Altyn Formation of Glacier National Park, Montana, in Linn, R.M., ed., Proceedings of the First Conference of Scientific Research in the National Parks, v. 2, p. 727-735.

White, B., 1984, Stromatolites and associated facies in shallowing-upward cycles from the Middle Proterozoic Altyn Formation of Glacier National Park, Montana: Precambrian Research, v. 24, no. 1, p. 1-26.

White, B. and Pedone, V.A., 1975, A new microfossil locality in the Precambrian Altyn Formation of Montana: American Association of Petroleum Geologist- Society for Sedimentary Geologist (AAPG-SEPM), Abstracts with Programs, v. 2, p. 80-81.

Yochelson, E.L. and Fedonkin, M.A., 2000, A new tissue-grade organism 1.5 billion years old from Montana: Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, v. 113, no. 3, p. 843-847.

Yochelson, E. L., 2001, Smithsonian Institution Secretary, Charles Doolittle Walcott: Kent, Kent State University Press, 589 p.

3 comments:

Peter Bond said...

Congratulations on getting married, Dinochick! And great start on Glacer Park - I'd love to go there!

BrianR said...

very cool post ... and congrats on gettin' hitched!

ReBecca Foster said...

Thank you both!