Trace Fossil Research Presented by CU Prof. to Geological Society of America
Athens, W.Va. – Dr. David Matchen assistant professor of geology at Concord University was selected to make a presentation at the 119th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, October 27 to 31 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. He, along with many other selected geologists, shared their ideas and presentations, which Matchen believes is important to the overall field of science.
“You’re not really doing science if you’re not sharing your research,” he explained. “You have to send your work out there and have other people critique it so your work will become stronger.”
In his presentation, Matchen discussed various “trace fossils” found on the campus of Concord University, which is part of an exercise he does with his Geology 202 class. “My students classify the fossils they see and then we try to figure out what the ancient environment was like,” he said. “Students then make predictions and interpretations of these fossils.”
Discovering these trace fossils when he first came to Concord, he said the subtle “squiggle marks” jumped out at him.
“The first day I walked in, I looked at the sundial and saw these trace fossils,” he recalled. “I realized that these are not by a physical process. Something biological disturbed this. I thought that I could put this to use and that’s what I did.”
These “squiggles,” according to Matchen, are evidence that worms or other creatures once dug into the sand. The tracks were then covered by sediment and preserved over a period of millions of years.
“That’s what we call a trace fossil. There isn’t a bone or shell but there is a trace—a track.”
Although these signs might not catch the attention of the average person, Matchen said recognizing this is part of his specialty as a field geologist for the West Virginia Geologic Survey. Through this, he said he wants to convey the message that one doesn’t have to go on a field trip in order to find relevance to geology.
“This is one of the main things I’m trying to emphasize. Sometimes the data is right around you, but you have to keep your eyes open,” he said.
Matchen said the field of geology relates the past to the future. “We’re trying to figure out what’s happened before and then hopefully carry on to the future and see what will happen then. This was what I conveyed at the presentation.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: Andrea Meador a freshman majoring in English and journalism wrote this news release. Her hometown is Ghent, W.Va.