Minutes of the March 12, 2001 Meeting
Smoky Mountain AMS Chapter


Everyone met at the Logan's Roadhouse on Kingston Pike around 6:15 P.M. After dinner, our speaker for the night was Ms. Cynthia Stiles. Ms. Stiles is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Geological Sciences Department of the University of Tennessee. She is working on her Ph.D. in geochemistry/clastic sedimentology with Drs. Steve Driese and Claudia Mora (co-advisors) and hopes to defend her dissertation this spring. Her topic of study is paleoenvironmental reconstruction using modern soil geochemistry and morphology. Past academic/work experiences include: B.S and M.S. in Soil Science (Biochemistry) from North Dakota State University, soil chemistry/archaeology technician at UT, and work on the North Slope with faculty at the University of Alaska. Her interest in climate/ weather stems from early childhood experiences in western North Dakota, and a lifelong interest in climatic influences on living systems.

Here's a synopsis of her talk "Climatic influence on soil development - a climosequence example from the Texas Gulf Coast":

"The physical and chemical nature of a soil is dictated by several factors. Basically, it is the influence of climate on a geologic material within a topographic setting over time. We know that regional climatic trends rarely remain static, affected on a geologic time scale by dynamic forces such as tectonic plate motion, mountain-building, global sea-level changes. The soil development time scale is intermediate to geologic time and human time, and soils can record an integrated picture of the climate over several thousand years. What has become a hot topic in the paleoclimate reconstruction science world lately is linking modeled paleoclimate trends with evidence from the terrestrial geologic record, particularly in preserved soils - or paleosols. Enigmatic entities at best, paleosols hold numerous clues about the environments in which they formed, environments which may or may not have been much like present day. Geologists are starting to realize the best way to understand ancient soils is to first study processes within modern soil analogs and apply it to the paleosols.

My talk will cover the basics of the climate factor in modern soil formation, emphasizing a soil climosequence from coastal Texas. A climosequence is a particular setting where series of soils have developed on the same parent rock - in this case a (really) flat sedimentary unit - across a climatic (precipitation) gradient. I will show different climatic signatures within modern soil profiles, and then use some of this information to make climate interpretations for Appalachian Basin paleosols which are up to 350 million years old. It turns out that paleosols will allow us to determine regional climate trends on a relatively fine time scale (geologically speaking) and to give us a better idea of the Earth's distant past."




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