Under the Sea in Kentucky

Maggie here-

Picture from the outcrop in Leitchfield, KY. This really demonstrates just how packed this outcrop is with fossils. Visible here are many bryozoans and crinoid stems, but we also found blastoids and rugose corals.
This past weekend my lab mates, Tim and Michael, and I went to northern Kentucky to do some field work. Our first stop was in Leitchfield, KY to look at rocks from the Mississippian Period (~355-325 million years old). Michael was there to do some locality scouting for his thesis work so he had some very specific goals to accomplish while we were there. He measured some section (measuring the thicknesses of different beds), made interpretations of the past environments based on the rock types, as well as collected sediment samples to look for microfossils. I had the really fun job of simply going and looking for fossils! This locality is super cool because of the amount of fossils that are just sitting in the loose sediment-they’re everywhere! We were all able to surface collect for a while and found some rugose corals (horn corals), bryozoans, blastoids, and millions of crinoid stems.

After Michael completed his work in Leitchfield we continued on to Danville, KY to the Curdsville Limestone. Tim has used this locality in his own research and I wanted to see this locality because it is where some of the fossils I study come from. While I was unsuccessful in finding a paracrinoid (not actually a crinoid, but an asymmetric echinoderm) it was very cool to see the type of locality that they are found in. The Curdsville Limestone is a “hard ground” so any organism that needs to attach itself to hard ground can be found there. This kind of background information is still useful to my own research to see what kind of community paracrinoids were a part of and what kind of environment they lived in. So while I didn’t find what I was looking for I still learned a lot and saw some cool fossils.

Daedalocrinus (extinct crinoid) from Danville, KY. This locality is known as a hard ground so any organism that needed a hard substrate to attach themselves to would have lived here.

This was certainly a fun (and needed) trip. Doing field work is not a crucial part of my research, but it is still nice to tag along with lab mates, see some cool fossils, and get a break from staring down a microscope. I will say though, this was much different from the field work I did in Scotland-it was much more laid back but at least 20 degrees warmer than what I was used to there! Lots of water and sunscreen was definitely necessary. But again, geologists and paleontologists live by the adage that those who have seen the most rocks/fossils make the best scientists. You never know what you will learn or see going in the field, so definitely go every chance you get!

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