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27 August 2018

Beautiful Swimmers, by William Warner

The subtitle of this wonderful book is “Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay.” It’s an excellent account of crab ecology in the Chesapeake Bay as it stood in the mid-1970s, and simultaneously a sympathetic portrait of the lives of the locals who capture those crabs for sale to the seafood market. The writing is thoughtful and calm, paced very similarly to John McPhee’s writing, rich in quotes from the watermen …

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23 May 2017

Silurian tidal flat carbonates of the Tonoloway Formation

Journey to the Silurian period in what is today the Valley & Ridge province of eastern West Virginia to see some exquisite sedimentary rocks that represent deposition in a very arid, very shallow setting.

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8 February 2017

Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer

I’ve always been fascinated by parasitism. Parasites are organisms that live on or in another organism (or organisms) in a way that detracts from the vitality of the host. Nothing in nature is redder in tooth and claw than the parasite. They represent a stark repudiation of the naive way many people think of evolution, with humans at the pinnacle, with a historical sense of purpose or progress, and with …

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4 July 2016

Virtual field trip to Kinkell Braes, Scotland

Walking along the shore east from St. Andrews, Scotland, along the seaside sandstones of Kinkell Braes, you encounter several extraordinary examples of geology. It’s a great place for the next stop on our Grand Tour of the geology of the British Isles. Here’s the scene: The first stop is a giant eurypterid trackway, potentially the largest invertebrate trackway in the world (Whyte, 2005), on the underside of an overhanging sandstone …

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23 December 2015

Four new GIGAmacro images of sedimentary rocks

It’s been a week and a half since Mountain Beltway has seen any publishing action, given the overlapping timesucks of the AGU Fall Meeting and the end of the semester. But now I’m back in the Appalachian mountain belt, and my grades are all in, and I have time to think about indulgences like blogging again. Let me make up for it now with a suite of four new macro …

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25 October 2015

Cool fossils from the Clearville member of the Mahantango Formation

On Saturday, I took my historical geology class on their field trip out to Corridor H, West Virginia. We made a stop at the Mahantango Formation outcrop exposed on the eastbound exit ramp near Baker, and poked around there for fossils. These Devonian-aged siltstones are chock full of invertebrates including rugose corals, crinoids, articulate brachiopods, and even trilobites. Here are two of the best fossils we encountered there: A trilobite …

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10 February 2015

Pisolites in the Tansil Formation, Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Pisolites are large primary concretions that develop in backreef or lagoonal settings such as the Permian Tansil Formation of New Mexico, into which is cut the enormous hole called Carlsbad Caverns.

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26 February 2014

A fistful of fossils (Devonian Helderberg Group of West Virginia)

More images for you today from my field trip a few weeks ago to West Virginia’s bizarro highway Corridor H, a quiet place built for roaring traffic. Its multistory roadcuts are fresh and profound; they offer the most incredible views into the mid-to-late-Paleozoic surface of Earth… and the creatures that lived there. In the Devonian period, the Helderberg Group of limestones was deposited. It’s full of interesting fossils, the remains …

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23 December 2013

Monday macrobugs: mating stick insects

Back in the fall, we saw a lot of sexy scenes among the stick insects on our land. Everywhere, it seemed, the smaller males were searching out larger females, and put gametes together to make the little zygotes that would grow into the next generation of these extraordinarily well-camouflaged insects… Here’s a pair on the side of the house: And, same pair, with a flash illuminating their nuptials… Note the …

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16 December 2013

Monday microbugs: Looking through my new AmScope

Recently, I bought a microscope for home use. This has been a longtime goal for me. I’ve dreamed of having my own microscope the way some guys fantasize about a Porsche 911. It’s an AmScope model, and it has an attachment for a small digital camera that comes with the scope. While the scope is lots of fun, though a little small, I’ll admit that I’m not too impressed with …

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