|Ropy lenticular cloud, southern Sierra Nevada on the Kern River. Photo by Mrs. Geotripper.|
|Photo by Mrs. Geotripper.|
We left the previous evening, driving for four hours through the southern San Joaquin Valley. I talk a lot about how interesting the geology is in my home turf, and it is, but frankly, it's as interesting to drive through it at night as it is in the daytime! Maybe even more interesting...
We set up camp late at night at Ming Lake in Kern River County Park. We awoke to a strange ropy looking lenticular cloud off to the east (top of the post), and held our first class in the field, discussing the geography of our journey. We would be passing through a sort of structural nexus of California, with six provinces within view this day: the Great Valley, the Sierra Nevada, the Coast Ranges, the Transverse Ranges, the Mojave Desert and the Basin and Range. We talked about how geologists view a new landscape, establishing the types of rocks, and organizing the layers into formations, members and groups. We discussed the rock we could see from our campsite, and what we might find as we looked at it more closely. We reviewed the fossils that might be discovered. And we talked about Valley Fever.
Buena Vista Museum of Natural History in Bakersfield). We would instead check out some more limited exposures on public land nearby. Some diligent searching usually ends in a few exciting discoveries.
The search was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever have detected in these soils. The students were very cautious about raising any dust, and some wore face masks.
After an hour, a number of students had made some exciting discoveries. For most of them, it was the first time that they had discovered a fossil in place. There are around two dozen species of shark teeth known from these beds, as well as the fragments of bone from marine mammals like dolphins, whales, seals, and large extinct manatee relatives. Upwards of 140 species have been recovered from these layers, making it one of the most significant paleontology localities in the state of California.