Drone video of Patagonian outcrops

We tested out using drone-based photography this field season for the Chile Slope Systems project. There’s a lot of potential with this technology for the high-resolution stratigraphy work we do. Simple, but fundamental, visualization is the most obvious value. Getting a view of impossible-to-get-to outcrop faces is a game-changer.

Here’s a ‘fly by’ video taken of the Rio Zamora outcrops that Ph.D. candidate Neal Auchter is working on. The 2-minute video starts lower in the section highlighting the outcrops in the river canyon and then the drone turns up a side creek to show the overlying strata.

IODP Expedition 342 — Episode #8 of documentary film series

The 8th (and final) installment of the documentary film series on IODP Expedition 342 is now out. The expedition to drill and recover sediments from the Newfoundland Ridge that contain climate archives going back >50 million years was over three years ago (summer 2012) and much work has been done since.

This episode summarizes the post-cruise science meeting we just had in September 2015 where all the participating scientists get together to share the latest on their research and to re-kindle collaborations.

Ultimately, all this work is strengthened through multi-disciplinary collaborations — this meeting was critical to keeping the momentum going. I’m definitely excited about all the science that will come out of this effort.

To view all the past episodes and the 20-minute documentary, go to this page.

Fall 2015 Update

The Sedimentary Systems Research group is quite busy this semester with various research, teaching, and other activities. Here’s what we’re up to:

Ph.D. candidate Neal Auchter is immersed in preparing the first manuscript to come out of his work the past few years. This first paper will highlight the occurrence and style of gravitational deformation features (i.e., faults/folds from down-slope movement) preserved in outcropping stratigraphy. What’s intriguing is the relationship of these deformational features with the stratigraphic architecture. Neal plans to submit this paper by December. Neal is also going to be presenting a poster at AGU in December about work he did during his internship this past summer with the Shell clastic sed/strat research team in Houston.

M.S. candidate Kristin Chilton is crazy-busy taking multiple courses and TAing the undergraduate Sed-Strat course. Even with all of this, she is making progress on her research investigating the response of North Atlantic deep-sea circulation to climate change at the Eocene-Oligocene Transition. Kristin will be presenting a poster at GSA in Baltimore in a few weeks sharing the preliminary results. Undergraduate researcher Shauna Flynn, also a co-author on this poster, is working in our lab this semester focused on characterizing the coarse fraction (>63 microns) of these dominantly muddy deposits.

M.S. candidate Sarah Jancuska is taking courses and working up the wealth of data she collected during the field season in Patagonia back in February-March of this year. Right now, Sarah is focused on compiling statistics from the measured stratigraphic sections (e.g., bed thickness, degree of bed amalgamation, etc.) to test ideas about the degree of large-scale confinement, or ponding, of these turbidite deposits.

Ph.D. candidate Cody Mason is TAing the course I’m teaching this semester, Seismic Stratigraphy, and working on the project he’s doing with Virginia Tech faculty Jim Spotila on the Late Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Coachella Valley region of southern California. Cody, Jim, and their co-authors will be presenting at AGU in December highlighting some new helium thermochronology data.

Finally, my colleague here at Virginia Tech, Ken Eriksson, and I have a new Basin Research paper in press just this week that estimates sediment flux of a ~325 million-year-old river system sourced in the Alleghanian Orogeny mountain belt (the remnants of which are the Appalachian Mountains). We use a remarkable succession of prodeltaic tidal rhythmites as a high-resolution chronometer and make calculations of sediment load and yield. The figure below (Fig. 8 from the paper) compares our range of estimates with a database of modern rivers (Milliman and Farnsworth, 2011).

Eriksson-Romans_BR_Fig8

Uncertainties in these estimates arises from the true total duration of the stratigraphic interval of interest as well as inferences about the size of the paleo-catchment. However, even with conservative uncertainty ranges incorporated, the paleo-flux of this ancient river system is comparable to modern river systems such as the Fly, Po, and Eel. With the sediment yield estimates we then calculate denudation of the long-gone Alleghanian Mountains, which agrees with denudation estimates from independent methods. We suggest that such paleo-sed flux estimates can, in certain types of systems, provide additional insight into surface process response to tectonics in deep-time archives.

Review paper on signal propagation in sedimentary systems by Romans et al.

I’m pleased to announce the publication* of a comprehensive review paper of signal propagation concepts in sedimentary system analysis in the journal Earth-Science Reviews. My co-authors and I initiated the idea for this review way back in the spring of 2013. The notion that tectonic and climatic changes can be recorded in erosional landscapes and the depositional record as ‘signals’ for geologists to extract and examine has been around for decades, if not centuries. However, more recent ideas concerned with how such signals move through the landscape — and with that movement, how the signal of interest may lag, be dampened/amplified, or even destroyed — deserved a synthesis in our opinion.

The illustration below is the first figure of the paper and an attempt to summarize the idea of signals and signal propagation conceptually and schematically. We focus on sediment supply as the main ‘carrier’ of signals from source to sink.

We don’t set out to solve all the problems and answer all the questions related to signal propagation in this review. Rather, our aim is to present the ‘state of the art’ and identify the most interesting questions to a broader Earth science readership with the hope that researchers in overlapping fields (e.g., geomorphology, climatology, oceanography, tectonics, ecology, biogeochemistry, and many more) find some value in our perspective.

You can find a link to the paper on the Publications page.

* this is the online early (‘in press’) version of the paper, which has a DOI and can now be cited

Summer 2015 Update

It’s getting hot and humid here in Blacksburg, so summer is in full swing. The Sedimentary Systems Research group is scattered a bit as three of the four graduate students (Sarah Jancuska, Neal Auchter, and Cody Mason) are away doing internships in Texas. I saw them and many other colleagues/friends at the recent AAPG conference in Denver, which turned out to be a very good meeting for us. Cody and Sarah both presented posters and Neal gave a great talk.

Master’s candidate Kristin Chilton is here this summer and she is neck-deep in sample preparation for her project. Kristin is building on a preliminary dataset that undergraduate researchers (all now graduated) and I generated to examine the variability in abyssal bottom-current intensity across the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (~34 Ma). Kristin added to this dataset this spring and the preliminary results suggest there is a change that corresponds with the transition, but (as always) it may not be as straightforward as we predicted. She will be working this summer to prep many more samples for grain-size analysis to better constrain the problem.

I am heading to the NOC (National Oceanography Centre) in Southampton, UK, next week to give a talk and work with some collaborators on this same Eocene-Oligocene Transition effort. Following that, I’ll be attending the IODP (International Ocean Discovery Program) Science Evaluation Panel meeting in Brest, France.

Sed Systems Research group at AAPG 2015

aapgNext week is the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in Denver, CO. Sedimentary geology plays an important role in AAPG so there will be a strong contingent of the Sedimentary Systems Research group there presenting our latest research. As you’ll see below, the majority of our presentations are updates on the multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional Chile Slope Systems project, which had an incredibly productive past year.

[Unfortunately, I can’t link to static pages of each abstract — they have one of these systems where you have to log in and create an itinerary and all that. The entire technical program is here.]


Monday, June 1st:

  • Steve Hubbard (Univ of Calgary) is presenting a poster (Brian Romans is a collaborator and co-author) in the SEPM Research Symposium Channels: From Geomorphic Expression to Stratigraphic Record with a poster titled “How many turbidity currents pass through a submarine channel and what is their stratigraphic expression?” I know you want to know the answer to that question.
    • when: 8:30am-5:00pm
    • where: Exhibition Hall

Tuesday, June 2nd:

  • Brian Romans is co-chairing the first of two oral sessions as part of the SEPM Research Symposium Channels: From Geomorphic Expression to Stratigraphic Record, which will include talks from Mike Blum, John Holbrook, Kyle Straub, and many more. (And make sure to check out the second oral session later that afternoon.)
    • when: 8am-11:50am
    • where: Four Seasons Ballroom 4
  • Casey Meirovitz (Univ of Utah) is presenting poster (Brian Romans is a co-author) in session ACE 13 titled “Quantifying inter- and intra-channel architecture controls on reservoir performance in a deep-water slope channel system, Tres Pasos Formation, Magallanes Basin”
    • when: 8:30am-5:00pm
    • where: Exhibition Hall
  • Ph.D. candidate Cody Mason is presenting poster in session ACE 04 titled “Quantifying sediment supply in stratigraphy using cosmogenic nuclides: Insights from the Pleasant Canyon complex, Panamint Mountains, California”
    • when: 8:30am-5:00pm
    • where: Exhibition Hall
  • Jake Covault (Chevron) is giving a talk (Brian Romans is a collaborator and co-author) in the SEPM Research Symposium Channels: From Geomorphic Expression to Stratigraphic Record with a poster titled “Geomorphic and stratigraphic records of the composite evolution of submarine channels”
    • when: 2:20-2:40pm
    • where: Four Seasons Ballroom 4
  • Ph.D. candidate Neal Auchter is giving a talk in session ACE 04 titled “Outcrop example of intrastratal slope deformation controlled by depositional architecture, Tres Pasos Formation, Magallanes Basin, Chile”
    • when: 4:45-5:05pm [last talk of the day, stick around for it!]
    • where: Room 605/607

Wednesday, June 3rd:

  • Allie Jackson (Univ of Utah) is giving a talk (Brian Romans is a co-author) in session ACE 04 titled “Characterizing static reservoir connectivity of deepwater slope deposits using sub-seismic outcrop-based facies models, Tres Pasos Formation, Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia”
    • when: 8:45-9:05am
    • where: Room 501/502/503
  • Lisa Stright (Univ of Utah) is giving a talk (Brian Romans is a co-author) in session ACE 04 titled “Optimizing the preservation of deepwater intra-channel architecture and model connectivity during upscaling, Tres Pasos Formation, Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia”
    • when: 10:30-10:50am
    • where: Room 501/502/503
  • Sarah Jancuska is presenting a poster in session ACE 00 titled “Stratigraphic expression of the transition from basin plain to slope sedimentation in outcropping strata of the Magallanes Basin, Chilean Patagonia”
    • when: 8:30am-noon
    • where: Exhibition Hall
  • Daniel Niquet (Univ of Calgary) is presenting poster (Brian Romans is a co-author) in session ACE 04 titled “The orientation of sandstone-filled U-shaped trace fossils as indicators of deepwater channel axis position, Tres Pasos Formation, Chile”
    • when: 8:30am-noon
    • where: Exhibition Hall
  • Ben Daniels (Univ of Calgary) is presenting poster (Brian Romans and Neal Auchter are co-authors) in session ACE 04 titled “Constructing a seismic-scale 3-D geo-model of stacked slope channel deposits grounded in high-resolution outcrop observations, Magallanes Basin, Chile”
    • when: 8:30am-noon
    • where: Exhibition Hall

 

Photos of Patagonia 2015 Field Season

The 2015 field season for the Chile Slope Systems project is now over and a great success. Despite some not-so-great weather towards the end of the 7-week season the team was very productive. Ph.D. candidate Neal Auchter and M.S. student Sarah Jancuska amassed an impressive amount of data this season.

Here are some photos (captions are below each photo):

Neal-Sarah-Zamora

Neal and Sarah measuring section along Rio Zamora. The first half of the field season was unusually dry and the river level quite a bit lower. We were able to see some new section that is typically under water!

Neal-RZ3

Neal with Rio Zamora in the background. The outcrops Neal is working up are a result of rapid incision by this river over the past several thousand years, which has produced some magnificent exposures along the river canyon walls.

Paine-sampling

We did a bit of mudstone sampling this year.

PuntaBarrosa

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a trip to the Argentine side of the border where these same Upper Cretaceous foreland basin strata are exposed. This outcrop, not far from Perito Moreno glacier, highlights some fascinating transitional flow deposits of the Punta Barrosa Formation. These rocks are currently being studied by the Stanford Project of Deep-water Depositional Systems group.

Upsala

Stunning view of Upsala glacier in Argentina while examining the older part of the basin history.

vacas

Typical Patagonia traffic jam.

field-lunch

What I ate for lunch most of the field season: canned tuna, avacado, and hot sauce on a cracker.

PPC

Some spirited debate during our sponsor’s trip regarding the nature of inclined surfaces in submarine channel strata.

Senoret

A view of Cordillera Manuel Senoret from one of the areas worked up this year by a Univ of Calgary student as part of the collaborative Chile Slope Systems effort.

Photos of Field Work in Panamint Valley

Ph.D. candidate Cody Mason and I spent the past week out at his research area in Panamint Valley, California. This was the final field data and sample collection trip for this project (at least on this grant). There’s still much to do on the project, but field work is done!

January in the greater Death Valley region is a lovely time of year for field work — not too hot and very few gnats to contend with. Here are some photos with the caption that describes the image below the photo:

PV-1

Standing on an alluvial fan looking west toward the basin (Panamint Valley). Note the bar and swale morphology.

PV-2

View of the Panamint Valley playa (which actually had some water in it) from a canyon incised into the outcropping Pleistocene deposits we are studying.

PV-3

The research we are doing requires good age control, which is notoriously difficult to get in alluvial deposits. The main goal of this trip was to collect samples for optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating. Here’s Cody hammering the sampling tube into the sediment.

PV-4

A view of the Panamint Mountains in the late afternoon sun light. The lower hills in the middle ground is the proximal part of the now-exhumed alluvial/lacustrine deposits we are characterizing.

PV-5

Geologist, educator, and GigaPanner extraordinaire Ron Schott was kind enough to meet up with us one afternoon to shoot a few GigaPan images of the field site. The photo above shows the GigaPan rig doing it’s thing. There are three GigaPans, from three locations in the playa: Position #1, Position #2, and Position #3. Cody and I will be using these images to help with facies correlations across the outcrop.

PV-6

There was actually standing water down in the playa and one morning it was so still we had to stop and appreciate the reflections.

PV-7

Although these sedimentary deposits are geologically young (<1 Ma) they are cemented and indurated enough to erode into vertical cliffs. Here, we took a quick detour into a very narrow slot canyon.

PV-8

The focus of our work here is the ~0.2 to 1.5 Ma old deposits but we spent a day exploring the younger (<0.15 Ma) deposits associated with more recent lake highstands. These deposits sit atop the outcrops we’ve been studying in small and sparse outcrops. Above you can see a roadcut exposure behind Cody.

PV-9

These exposures of the younger sediments may not be extensive but they are quite interesting. Here are some dipping laminated sands interbedded with granule-pebble conglomerate truncated by flatter-lying pebble-cobble conglomerate beds. The Jake staff in the upper right is 1.5 m tall. We interpret the lower dipping beds to have been deposited on steeply dipping foresets of a fan delta building out into the lake.

Sed Systems Research at AGU 2014

FM14-logo-483px

Next week is the annual Fall Meeting for the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a contingent of Sedimentary Systems Research group be there presenting the latest on our work:


Monday is a big day for us:

Cody and Neal’s posters are in different sessions, but in the same theme, so they will likely be somewhat close to each other. Come on by and see the latest and greatest related to their Ph.D. projects.


And then we have a couple of presentations on Friday:

  • Steve Hubbard (Univ of Calgary) is giving an invited talk (Brian Romans is collaborator and co-author) in session EP53E-04 about comparison of fluvial and submarine channel processes and deposits titled “The stratigraphic expression of formative processes in channels”
    • when: Friday 2:25-2:40pm (early afternoon session)
    • where: Moscone West 2007

Hope to see you there!