PGS: Geology and Public Policy – Recent Issues in Virginia

The February 19, 2015 meeting of the Potomac Geophysical Society will be held at the Fort Myer Officers’ Club in Arlington, VA ( in the Glassed-in room in the Fife and Drum (main dining room).

Geology and Public Policy – Recent Issues in Virginia

David B. Spears, State Geologist

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy

Government decision makers are faced with difficult choices when it comes to public policy regarding energy and mineral resources. Our nation is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, radioactive isotopes, and rare earth elements that often must be imported from foreign countries to meet U.S. demand. Even though developing our own domestic supplies has obvious strategic advantages, such development often conflicts with other societal priorities such as environmental protection and social justice. To further complicate matters, conflicting pressure is brought to bear on policy makers by an uninformed or misinformed populace that is generally anti-development, and by pro-development businesses who have a financial interest in resource development. In this presentation, Virginia’s State Geologist will use recent, Virginia-specific examples such as uranium mining, offshore drilling, and shale gas to highlight the ways in which government-based geoscientists play a unique role in providing scientific guidance in public debates about how to best manage our nation’s energy and mineral resources.

David Spears is the State Geologist of Virginia, a position residing in the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. He is responsible for coordinating the work of the Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, a small group of geoscientists focused on mapping Virginia’s geology, mineral resources, energy resources, and geologic hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes. In recent years, the State Geologist has played an increasing role in responding to public policy issues such as offshore drilling, natural hazards, and hydraulic fracturing. David received a B.S. in Geology from Lafayette College and a M.S. in Geology from Virginia Tech. He began his professional career in the petroleum industry before coming to Virginia state government in 1993. A native of New Jersey, he currently resides in Buckingham County in central Virginia. In 2012, David received the Bradley Prize from the Geological Society of Washington for his presentation about geology and public policy.

Hatfield Gate, open 24 hours a day ( Reservations are not necessary, however, we need a head count, so, if you wish to attend dinner ($25), please inform Bob Fraser at 540-888-3001 or via E-mail at If you wish, please feel free to attend the talk without dinner. Non-members and guests are welcome. Visit the PGS web site at for new meeting announcements, etc. Please send changes of address or email to

UMD Geology: “Can Flat Slabs Really Do That?” (Wagner, Carnegie)

2015 Geology Colloquium Series

Friday, January 30th 2015 at 3:00 pm
in PLS 1130, University of Maryland, College Park

Lara Wagner
CIW – Department of Terrestrial Magnetism

Can Flat Slabs Really Do That? New Constraints from New Data

PSW: The Coal Age

The Paleontological Society of Washington

Wednesday, February 18, 7:00 pm, in the Cooper room (E-207A), National Museum of Natural History, Constitutional Ave. entrance

The Coal Age — Reality, Imagination, the Search for Truth and Relevance

William DiMichele, Curator of Fossil Plants, NMNH

In this talk, we will travel back to the Carboniferous, or the “Coal Age as it is commonly called, often depicted as a vast steaming jungle of asparagus-like scale trees, giant horsetails and fern-like plants. In reality, the Carboniferous tropics were complex and dynamic, marked by broad environmental swings reflecting glacial-interglacial oscillations. Wetlands dominated the glacials transitioning to dryland forests during the interglacials, during which wetlands were reduced to refugia. Thus, the Carboniferous was both a strange and strangely familiar world with a different biota, different land masses, but climate patterns much like today. We will consider what all this means for our understanding of what this world might have looked like and what it can tell us about today.

Non-Smithsonian visitors will be escorted to the Cooper Room at 6:30 and 6:55 p.m. Society members will host the speaker for dinner at the Elephant & Castle (1201 Pennsylvania Ave.) prior to the meeting. Members may meet at the restaurant or inside the Constitutional Ave. entrance of the NMNH at 5:00 and walk to the restaurant as a group.

GMU geology seminars, spring 2015

This spring semester the geology program at George Mason University will have 7 Geology Seminars.  The seminar schedule is listed below:


Speaker                                                                                                    Talk title or subject
28-Jan​ Bill Burton, USGS                        ​
“Searching for the fault:  Geologic investigations in the epicentral region of the Aug. 23, 2011 Mineral, Virginia earthquake”
11-Feb Scott Southworth, USGS
subject: the Blue Ridge
25-Feb Carlos Peredo, MS candidate, GMU
“An analysis of marine mammal generic diversity across major ocean regions across the Cenozoic”
18-Mar Jared Marske, Postdoctoral fellow, Carnegie Institute
tentative talk subject: geochemistry of Hawaiian basalts
2-Apr Douglas Howard, USGS                                                                                      talk subject: catastrophic outflow channels on Mars OR jokulhlaups on Iceland
15-Apr GMU senior thesis presentations: J. Culpepper, S. Fabian, B. Nunez
general talk subjects: coastal geomorphology/stratigraphy of Assateague Island
29-Apr GMU senior thesis presentations: C. Green, J. Benefield, T. Vomocil
talk subjects: 3D strain across the Blue Ridge; Structural geology of ductile shear zones, Harcuvar Mtns., AZ; Brittle faulting in in the South Mtns., Phoenix

All of these seminars will take place at 4:30 pm in Exploratory Hall 3301.  Note that all are on a Wednesday, except for the April 2 seminar, which is on a Thursday.

These talks are open to the public.

PSW: The ‘Chicken from Hell’

The Paleontological Society of Washington

Wednesday, January 21, 7:00 pm, in the Cooper room (E-207A), National Museum of Natural History, Constitutional Ave. entrance

The ‘Chicken from Hell’ – an unusual new theropod dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of North America

Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, NMNH

Oviraptorosauria is a clade of maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs with peculiar craniomandibular specializations. Most discoveries of oviraptorosaurs have been made in Asia, principally Mongolia and China, and as a result, the balance of our knowledge of the group is derived from fossils found on that continent. Anzu wyelei, a new, large-bodied (total length ~3.5 m) oviraptorosaurian taxon based primarily on three well-preserved partial skeletons from the late Maastrichtian of North and South Dakota, will be discussed. The new taxon offers the first comprehensive picture of the skeletal structure of Caenagnathidae and sheds light on long-standing controversies regarding the taxonomy and interrelationships of North American oviraptorosaurs. Furthermore, its analysis confirms caenagnathid monophyly and provides additional insight into the paleobiology of this enigmatic clade.

(Non-Smithsonian visitors will be escorted to the Cooper Room at 6:30 and 6:55 p.m.) Society members will host the speaker for dinner at the Elephant & Castle (1201 Pennsylvania Ave.) shortly after 5:00 prior to the meeting. Members may meet inside the Constitutional Ave. entrance of the NMNH at 5:00 and walk to the restaurant as a group.

Tracking Human Influences at NMNH

Tracking Human Influences

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Q?rius Theater
Ground floor, National Museum of Natural History
10th St. and Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
United States
featuring Torben Rick, Curator of North American Archaeology, National Museum of Natural History 

How does studying our past impact our actions of the future? What clues lie in Earth’s history to help guide environmental conservation, restoration, and management efforts today?

Dr. Torben Rick looks back over thousands of years to see how humans influenced the West Coast (Channel Islands) and East Coast (Chesapeake Bay). Using radiocarbon-dating of bones, DNA analysis, and other techniques, he tackles elusive questions such as how foxes arrived in the Channel Islands and how changing environmental conditions interacted with human lifestyles to shape the biodiversity of the islands. Find out how archaeological information can help manage island ecosystems today.
Part of the monthly Anthropocene: Life in the Age of Humans series hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Peridotite Xenoliths! AEG-BWH Meeting, Thursday, January 15

Geologists and students:

I want to personally invite you and your colleagues to the January 15, 2015 AEG-BWH meeting featuring Fred Davis of The Smithsonian. He will be speaking on: Peridotite Xenoliths: A Window into the Mantle. The meeting is at Brewer’s Alley in Frederick. Please register immediately via email to Patrick Hastings at AEGBWHSecretary. Below is the full notice.

Steve Stokowski, PG
Chairman, AEG-BWH


Notice of Meeting

Announcement from the BWH Section of the
Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists

Date: Thursday Jan. 15, 2015

Baltimore MD – Washington DC – Harrisburg PA

TOPIC: Peridotite Xenoliths: A Window into the Mantle

Xenoliths are rocks from the deep crust and upper mantle that are carried to the surface by violent volcanic eruptions. Peridotite xenoliths are a direct source of information about the chemistry and petrology of Earth’s mantle, which cannot be observed directly. The mantle is the largest layer of the Earth and is the source of basaltic lavas. In my research, I analyze the chemical compositions of the minerals olivine, orthopyroxene, clinopyroxene, spinel, and garnet from peridotite xenoliths to investigate how the composition of Earth’s mantle has changed over time due to recycling of crust and sediments from the surface back into the deep earth through subduction. I am particularly interested in using the concentrations of transition metals, such as Mn, Fe, and Zn, to learn about mantle rocks that partially melt to form basaltic magmas. This work connects with information from seismology and high-pressure experiments to give a clearer picture of the present state of Earth’s interior and how it has evolved through time.

Dr. Fred Davis, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral fellow in the division of petrology and volcanology at the Smithsonian Institution. Fred is interested in the chemical evolution and dynamics of the solid Earth and terrestrial planets, particularly as expressed by the chemistry of basaltic lavas. He investigates the processes of melt generation and evolution through experimentation at high temperature and pressure in the piston cylinder apparatus and under varying redox conditions in gas-mixing furnaces. He is also interested in investigating the petrology of the upper mantle by examining natural basalts and mantle xenoliths.


Chair: Steve Stokowski, AEG BWH, (508) 259-3536,
Vice Chair: William Mikalik, Applied Environmental, Inc.,
Secretary/Treasurer: Patrick Hastings, Seismic Surveys Inc.,


DATE: Thursday Jan. 15, 2015
TIME: 6:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.


Brewers Alley
124 N. Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701 (Downtown)

Here is the Google Map link to Brewers Alley. (or here:,+Frederick,+MD+21701,+USA&pw=0&t=h&z=16
); Parking is either where you can find it on the street, OR, there is a
multistory, municipal parking garage directly behind the restaurant (note
the long rectangular building east of Brewers Alley when you open the Google
Map/Satellite link). The clearance is approximately 6”8”, which is lower
than some vans.

The parking garage entrance is off Church Street, a one-way heading east. If
coming north on 355/N. Market Street (from I-270), cross over Patrick Street
(the divider between N & S street designations), and turn Right on Church,
and left into the garage. If exiting I-70 (from Balto, for ex), go north
on North on S. East Street, cross over canal, turn left on E. Patrick, Right
on Frederick and Right on Church into garage on left.

COST (dinner & mtg):
Bring personal or company check or cash to the meeting and pay treasurer
before presentation.
Members: $35
Non-members: $40
Students: $25


6:00 to 7:00 pm Social, Networking and Registration
7:00 to 7:45 pm Dinner
7:45 to 8:45 pm Presentation, Questions, Closing Statements

To reserve a seat, please email Patrick Hastings by Monday, January 12,
2015 at AEGBWHSecretary.

AEG-BWH 2015 Upcoming Meetings/Field Trips
February 19 – Employment Roundtable at George Mason University
March 19 – Presenter TBD
April 18 (Saturday) – AEG-BWH Spring Symposium (NEW! and at James Madison
May 21 – Presenter TBD