2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


ANDERSON, Thomas B., Geology, Sonoma State Univ, 1801 E Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park, CA 94928-3609 and JAMES, Matthew J., Geology, Sonoma State Univ, 1801 E Cotati Ave, Rohnert Park, CA 94928, tom.anderson@sonoma.edu

The Burgess Shale of Middle Cambrian age is renown for the exceptional preservation of fossils from this significant period in the history of life. Two quarries, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are accessible to the public. The Wolcott Quarry was discovered by C.D. Wolcott in 1909 and a second quarry on Mount Stephen was discovered in 1886 after trilobites were collected during construction of the Trans-Canada railroad.

A September field trip to the two quarries near Field, British Columbia has become a popular event in the Department of Geology at Sonoma State University. The trips are conducted through the Burgess Shale Geosience Foundation that has permits to conduct hikes to the quarries. Collecting is not allowed, but representative samples of the fossils are displayed in the quarries and the guides who lead the trips are extremely knowledgeable and present the history, geology, paleontology, and significance of the sites during the hikes.

Three organizational sessions are held prior to leaving campus. Field, British Columbia, a three-hour drive from Calgary International Airport, is our base. The focus of the trip is the two hikes to the Burgess Shale quarries. These are strenuous hikes and students are advised to get in hiking shape during the summer before the trip. The first day is a guided hike on the Athabasca glacier. The Burgess Shale hikes are done on days 2 and 3 and a final hike is to the glaciers above Lake Louise. During the return to the Calgary airport, we visit the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.

Access to the quarries is limited to 15 people although our party has numbered 10 including two professors. Students pay individually for their airline tickets, the organized hikes, and food. Shared costs are vehicle rental, gasoline, parking, and admission to the national parks. The trips are offered as an Independent Study class for one unit of academic credit.

Students benefit from the rare opportunity to see these significant fossils that they only could hear or read about otherwise. They also are exposed to the geology of a new area containing rocks of the same age as a departmental field area near Death Valley that gives them an appreciation for the variable conditions that existed along the Cambrian continental margin of Laurentia. An additional benefit is information regarding glacial systems and climate change.