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Nova Scotia Field School 2021

Hello Planetary Pals,

At the start of the month, I had the opportunity to travel to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for 9601y Field School. Our small group of 5 students and two instructors traveled along the coast of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick getting the opportunity to study suites of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. Opportunities to get out into the field and observe rocks in their natural state are very valuable, and I am of the opinion that spending a few weeks in the field is equivalent to a semester’s worth of classroom learning.

The geology of the Maritimes preserves a wide variety of lithologies that represent vastly different paleoenvironments paleoclimates, and tectonic settings.

The breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia was in full effect by the Cambrian. The Cambrian sedimentary rocks of the Goldenville and Halifax Groups are representative of this opening of the early Iapetus Ocean between Gondwana and Laurentia. There are well preserved turbidite sequences that reporesent submarine debris flows in a quiet ocean basin setting. The lack of fossils and trace fossils are ascribed to subpolar environments that were far too clod for abundant life to thrive.

During the Ordovician and early Silurian, these rocks were squeezed and folded as the microcontinent Avalon rifted away from Gondwana and came crashing into Laurentia. In the Silurian, another microcontinent, Meguma, began rifting form Gondwana. These rocks, seen in the Whiterock Formation, are a mix of basaltic and ashy rhyolitic flows and are indicative of a spreading center between Meguma and Gondwana.

The Devonian saw the attempted subduction of the Meguma plate. Part of the plate was scraped off and preserved in the accretionary wedge area of the subduction zone. Also, convergent-style volcanism was initiated as Meguma was partly subducted. Traditional Andean-type subduction zones produce large felsic plutonic bodies similar to those seen near the South Mountain Batholith group. This large granitic body also began to thermally cook the surrounding rock that it was intruded into, causing contact metamorphism in the aureole zone around the pluton.

During the Carboniferous, the tectonic setting changed to become a large strike-slip zone as Meguma scraped along Laurentia. A large number of seismites, faults, and folds attest to this action. The Carboniferous also saw the paleoenvironment change to a hospitable, tropical forest. Abundant plant and amphibian fossils were seen in the Carboniferous formations. Cyclical changes in relative sea level are recorded as the sediments circle through phases of paleosol, lacustrine, fluvial, and shoreline deposits.

The dry, land-locked geography of Permian-Triassic Pangea is recorded as a series of aelian sediments, flash flood deposits, playa lakes and desiccation cracks, and local-scale braided rivers. The rocks were nearly devoid of fossils which also attests to this dry, inhospitable climate.

Finally, with the breakup of Pangea in the Triassic-Jurassic, the rift setting produced large, thick basalt flows. This records the first opening of the Atlantic Ocean.

Being in the field and studying these rocks intimately made it much easier to piece together the important large scale factors at play that created the beautiful and varied geology of the Maritimes. It was also good practice in deducing relations and paleoenvironments that are recorded. I also devised a strategy that I felt worked well for studying for a field school-style final exam for the course. On graph paper, I put a to-scale Geologic Time Scale. I placed each stop in correct geologic order. For each stop, I wrote a detailed description and a summary cross section. Stops with related formations were connected to easily see how they fit together. To aid in my memory of each stop, I “renamed” the stops in a way that it would stick out to me vividly; for me it is much easier to remember “Hippie Camp” than the generic place name “The Ovens” and connecting my brain to that point made it easier to remember what we did and saw at the site.

As an added benefit, almost every stop was right on the beach and we were spoiled with gorgeous views. Unfortunately the weather didn’t want to cooperate though, and most days we fought the rain as we hiked. I also grabbed a whole bunch of mineral and fossil samples to add to my collection and brighten up my desk. I have also started on a new map of Nova Scotia that I am excited to work on! Getting back in the practice of taking decent field notes will come in handy for next year’s PSci Field School in Arizona. We also had extensive practice creating stratigraphic logs and block diagrams for most of the stops, which I feel will be good practice for my research which involves figuring out the stratigraphic sequence that the Martian smectite bed lies in.


Published by Anthony Dicecca

Hello and welcome to my blog. I am Anthony Dicecca, and I am currently pursuing a thesis-based Masters degree in Geology with a Specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration. I am a native of Rochester, New York but moved to London, Ontario to attend the University of Western Ontario. From 2016 to 2020 I worked to complete my undergraduate degree, finishing with a BSc in Physics and a BSc in Geology. During this time I developed a passion for geology, and in particular, planetary science. I've had the pleasure of working with Dr. Gordon Osinski and his team during this time aiding in research ranging from Arctic peri-glaciology to global impact cratering, and from Lunar spectroscopy to Martian mapping. In Autumn 2020 I continued my education at the U.W.O., working towards a MSc in Geology with a Specialization in Planetary Science and Exploration. My research will likely involve insights obtained from the Holuhraun Lava Field in Iceland and their applications to other bodies in the Solar System. This blog serves as an archive of my progression over the next few semesters.

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