A day in the life of a geologist

Back in February I was invited on a fossil hunting trip with students from my old university; the University of Birmingham. The trip was organised by ‘Lapsoc’, which is the geology department’s student society. With the opportunity of getting muddy in the quarries beckoning I was quick to agree. After a typical student minibus journey we arrived at the first quarry. The group leader described the fossils which could be found at the site; unfortunately my legs were already fighting their way in the direction of fossils. There was obviously something wrong with us, a group of students eagerly getting up early on a Sunday morning to grovel around in a mud bath searching for bits of rock! After a slow start, the finds began springing up, with a number of bivalves, brachiopods and sea urchins from the Upper Cornbrash being found.  As we moved through the quarry to the Lower Cornbrash, movement became slower and challenging due to the fact there was more mud on my feet than there was in the quarry! Although entertainment was provided by a number of students attempting to lower themselves down a bank without losing their dignity… all I can say was epic fail!

 At lunch the group descended on a typical geologist’s hunting ground, the pub. Sometime later, after dragging geology students from the bar (which didn’t know what had hit it) we headed to a gravel pit containing Oxford Clay from the Jurassic and Glacial gravels. Here we experienced yet more mud, some mud and oh yes… mud. Within the mud were rounded nodules, which revealed exquisite ammonites when chiselled into. These ammonites had their original mother of pearl on them. Other finds included beautiful pieces of fossil wood, belemnites and Gryphea (Devils toe nail) bivalves. There was even a chunk of bone found in the clay which was part of a Jurassic marine reptile such as a Pliosaur.

 By the end of the day we were all dressed in the standard issue geologist’s uniform, which consisted of any item clothing covered in so much mud nobody could tell what you were wearing in the first place. Once home, the next job was to clean and identify the finds providing as much information about where and when they were found for future generations of geologists. Oh, and to send the dirty washing home to mum!

Chris Broughton
Geologist
Wolverhampton Art Gallery

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