Indiana University Bloomington

News and Outreach Events 2015


March 7 - Petrel Short Course

On Saturday morning, March 7, the department will be sponsoring a short course for the software packaged called Petrel. Petrel is one of the definitive packages used by petroleum geologists worldwide. Schlumberger has given us a license for 20 seats for this short course. The package is now installed on all student technology center Windows computer labs under the "Schlumberger" menu. Justin Stigall, who works for British Petroleum will be teaching this short course.

If you are interested in participating, contact Gary Pavlis by the end of the day on Friday, Feb. 27.

March 27-28: 15th Annual Crossroads Geology Conference

The student members of the Rho chapter of Sigma Gamma Epsilon would like to extend a formal invitation to participate in the 15th annual Crossroads Geology Conference, March 27 and 28, 2015 at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Crossroads is a student-organized event featuring research presentations by graduate and undergraduate students across the Midwest. This conference is open to any student in Earth, atmospheric, or planetary science to present their research. Students from other fields, such as archaeology, physics, or anthropology, are also welcome to present research relating to geological sciences.

Crossroads is free to all students and is an excellent opportunity to interact with judges from a variety of industry and academic fields. Awards will be presented to top oral and poster presentations for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in networking sessions and a career skills workshop presented by a retired lead Anadarko recruiter.

Submission: Abstract templates are located on the Crossroads website along with submission information. In addition, if you plan to attend the career skills workshop, you may submit a resume or CV for personal evaluation by the presenter. Abstracts and resumes are due March 8th.

Questions? Visit the Crossroads website or email Scott David.


Life reconstruction of the skeleton of Agilodocodon scansorius (from Meng et al., 2015).
David Grossnickle is a contributing author on Science article

Recent IU alum David M. Grossnickle, now at University of Chicago, helped describe the oldest known tree-dwelling mammal, Agilodocodon scansorius, from the Jurassic of China, whose specializations indicate that it feed on plant sap and other foodstuffs. Agilodocodon was a docodont, a stem branch of the mammalian radiation whose ecological specializations are now known to include not only tree-dwellers but also beaver-like swimming species, small burrowing species, and a range of dietary specializations from herbivorous to insectivorous. Grossnickle helped demonstrate that the proportions of the animal's limbs are more consistent with a climbing lifestyle than with other modes of life. The paper was published in the journal Science on 13 February 2015.

About his contribution, David writes, "I helped analyze the finger bone dimensions of the fossil and found that they are most similar to modern tree-dwelling mammals, providing strong evidence for our conclusion that the species lived in trees. This is especially significant because it means close relatives of mammals were diversifying ecologically in the Middle Jurassic, which is prior to similar diversifications by later mammal groups. The research benefitted heavily from quantitative methods and anatomical knowledge that I learned while studying under David Polly and Jackson Njau at Indiana University."

Full citation: Meng, Q.-J., Q. Ji, Y.-G. Zhang, D. Liu, D. M. Grossnickle, Z.-X. Luo. 2015. An arboreal docodont from the Jurassic and mammaliaform ecological diversification. Science, 347: 764-768. DOI

Other articles regarding this find are from the University of Chicago News, "Earliest-known arboreal and subterranean ancestral mammals discovered " and "Found: Two sophisticated mammals that thrived during the age of the dinosaurs" from the AAAS Science website.

Bi-monthly DOGS Lunch
DOGS lunch

What is it?

When/where is it? Twice a month. Dates will be announced.

G420: Regional Tectonic field trip, May 10-23, 2015

A regional tectonic field course across the Appalachians from central Pennsylvania to Boston crossing many suspect terranes is being offered. Emphasis will be placed on interpreting the rock record.

This will include:

Skills expected to be sharpened include:

The course will be offered for 3 credits in the second 8 weeks of this semester, and will involve weekly meetings in seminar format to prepare for the field trip. The trip itself will actually leave Bloomington Sunday, May 10 (or Saturday, May 9 if possible) and return by May 21 or at the latest May 23rd.

Registration for 3 credits in Summer Intensive Session I can be considered but participation in seminars is required.

Prerequisites: Required - Competence in G222, Petrology. Recommended, G323. Structural Geology.

See Bob Wintsch (Gy 325) for details and authorization to register.

February 18: Department Co-hosts James Balog
James Balog poster

The Department of Geological Sciences was very excited to co-host the upcoming visit of James Balog, geologist-turned-arctic-photographer and climate activist.

James was here for a two-day residency that involved lectures, a film screening, photographic exhibition, and visits with classes and IU student groups. Featured events included a public lecture Wednesday, February 18, 7:30pm, at IMU’s Whittenberger Auditorium and a screening of the award-winning documentary "Chasing Ice" on Thursday, February 19, 7:00 PM at the IU Cinema, followed by a Q&A with IU Cinema director Jon Vickers. The Wednesday lecture was followed by a reception. Mr. Balog was available to sign copies of his book, ICE: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers, in collaboration with the IU Friends of Art Bookshop.

About James Balog: For more than 30 years, James Balog has broken new conceptual and artistic ground on one of the most important issues of our era: human modification of our planet’s natural systems. He and his Extreme Ice Survey team are featured in the 2012 internationally acclaimed documentary, Chasing Ice (featuring the Academy-award nominated music by Scarlett Johanssen and IU’s own Joshua Bell), and in the 2009 NOVA special, Extreme Ice. His TED Talk, Time-lapse Proof of Extreme Ice Loss, is broadly acclaimed as providing vivid and compelling evidence of climate change in the arctic.

Balog has been honored with many awards, including the American Geophysical Union Presidential Citation for Science and Society, the Duke University LEAF Award, and the Sam & Julie Walters Prize for Environmental Activism. He is the author of ICE: Portraits of Vanishing Glass and seven other books. His photos have been extensively published in major magazines, including National Geographic, and exhibited at more than one hundred museums and galleries worldwide. In 2009, he served as a NASA representative at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

The events surrounding Balog’s visit were featured as part of the Student Sustainability Council’s SustainIU Week, February 16 – 20. All events were free and open to the public. Advance tickets for the film screening are available at the Indiana University Auditorium Box Office.

February 4, 2015: Department mourns the passing of Professor Haydn Murray
Haydn Murray

Prof. Haydn H. Murray passed away peacefully on February 4, 2015 in Bloomington, IN. Many of you are familiar with Haydn’s varied scientific contributions to applied clay science, and he was one of the few members of our science elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2003. In addition, he made tremendous contributions to many aspects of Indiana University and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2004. Prof. Murray mentored an incredible group of graduate students including 68 M.S. and Ph.D. students, and he served on an additional 60 graduate committees. He was also instrumental in establishing the Grassmann Fellowship for clay mineralogy graduate students and the Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy in the Department of Geological Sciences at Indiana University. His presence will be missed in the Indiana University community and in the greater international mineralogical community.

A memorial service will be held for Professor Murray at 2:00 pm on Saturday, February 21, 2015 in the Tudor Room at the Indiana Memorial Union. If you were close to Haydn or the family, Juanita, Haydn’s wife of more than 70 years, would be happy to hear from you. Her address is: 901 S. Fieldcrest Ct., Bloomington, IN 47401


A bill has been introduced in the Indiana Legislature to designate a state fossil for Indiana: the elegant sea lily, Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus.
elegant sea lily

Elegantocrinus hemisphaericus, the Elegant sea lily, is a crinoid, a group of animals that are related to starfish and sea urchins. Elegantocrinus was first discovered at Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1865.

This crinoid was first described from the famous Mississippian-aged Borden Group crinoid beds at Crawfordsville, Indiana. Originally classified in the genus Platycrinites, the species was moved to the new genus Elegantocrinus by department alum Bill Ausich (now of Ohio State University) and Tom Kammer. The platycrinid group is distinctive in having oval shaped columnals, which are the round bits that made up the stem of the crinoid, common around Monroe Lake and elsewhere. E. hemisphaericus itself is also found at Monroe Lake. Here’s a PDF file with more information about the fossil.

The 500 Earth Sciences Club and the Indiana Society of Paleontology are the groups that have worked to push the bill forward. Both sites have a photo of a beautiful calyx of E. hemisphaericus on their homepage. The bill is SB114, which is introduced by the bipartisan pair of Mark Stoops (District 40 - Bloomington’s senator) and Philip Boots (District 23 - Crawfordville’s senator) can be viewed here. SB114 has initially been assigned to the senate rules committee.

David Bish and colleagues
Evolution of the snake body form reveals homoplasy in amniote Hox gene function

From the Bloomington Newsroom: Skeleton study sheds new light on how snakes evolved

Research by paleontologists at Indiana University and the University of Nebraska sheds new light on how snakes evolved their elongated, legless bodies.

Hox genes, which establish the boundaries of the neck, trunk, lumbar, sacral and tail regions in birds, lizards, crocodiles and mammals, were previously thought to have been disrupted in snakes, resulting in a loss of regions in their seemingly simplified body form as they evolved from four-legged lizard ancestors.

P. David Polly of Indiana University and Jason Head of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined regional differences in the shapes of individual vertebral bones in snakes, lizards, alligators and mice. Snakes are different from these other amniote groups in that they lack forelimbs, shoulder girdles and sternal skeletons. Snake vertebrae were assumed to have become less regionalized when the limbs were lost. IU Newsroom article and the Nature article

We look back on the events of 2014 and look forward to an exciting new year in the Department. (News archives)

Alumni and Friends

Colloquium Schedule

Colloquia schedules and archives.