ISGS Geologists Lead Field Trip for International Scientists

Scott Elrick and John Nelson of the Illinois State Geological Survey welcomed a group of international and U.S. geologists to the Illinois Basin in July 2009 for a tour of 10 active Pennsylvanian age surface coal mines across the Basin area. The tour group consisted of four paleobotanists: Stanislov Oplustil of Charles University, Josef Pšenička of West Bohemian Museum in the Czech Republic, Ph.D student Sarah King of the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, and Bill DiMichele of the Smithsonian Institute. Also participating were Ph.D student Nick Rosenau from Southern Methodist University and Kansas State professor Al Archer.

Highlights of the trip include the collection of extensive Desmoinsian plant fossils for research and display at the West Bohemian Museum in the Czech Republic. This collection likely represents the largest Illinois Basin plant collection in Europe and will be used to study cross-continental correlations and fossil plant evolutionary changes. Also, the discovery of a fossil seed fern species on Interstate 24 south of Vienna, Illinois, may prove to be the lowest stratigraphic occurrence of said species, perhaps disrupting current theories on the migration of plant taxa across Pangea. Additional investigations included documenting tidally deposited sediment on coal seams, microtopographic differences of paleolandscapes prior to peat mire formation, and underclay (paleosol) formation.