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    Professor and CC Students Rock the Geology World

    Fascinating Sandstone Formation is 'Backwards'

    Colorado College Geology Professor Christine Smith Siddoway and several CC geology students have made a startling discovery in the rocks of the Front Range. Their findings, published by the Geological Society of America, detail a sandstone formation amidst surrounding granite.

    This astonishing formation, named the Tava sandstone, is sedimentary rock that forms intrusions within the surrounding ancient granite and gneisses that are the spine of the Colorado Front Range. Features of the rock show that catastrophic processes of liquefaction and sediment remobilization — of the sort that may be achieved by earthquake shaking — are responsible for driving the sediment into the host rocks. The name Tava is the Ute word for sun, and the Utes called Pikes Peak “Tavakiev” – Sun Mountain.

    The fascinating aspect of this discovery is, according to Siddoway, that the “sedimentary formations are intrusive into granite rock, where it’s usually the other way around. It’s backwards.”

    Numerous CC students and former student researchers contributed to the breakthroughs and rock unit designation for Tava sandstone. Early work and research was carried out by Matt Rosales ’08 and Elizabeth Fay Douglas ’05, with more recent investigations by David Freedman ’14Ashley Contreras ’13, Sally Shatford ’15, David Goverman ’10, Carolyn Nuyen ’15, and Madison Andres ’15.

    Research will continue for Siddoway and the current group of student investigators, including Sam Elkind ’16, Charlotte Cadow ’16, Alec Lee ’15, Sally Shatford ’15, and Jessica Badgeley ’15.

    “There’s an interesting historical connection between some of the first Earth Science faculty here at CC and our current work,” Siddoway said. “Professor George Hapgood Stone documented and photographed these same formations in the 1890s, and we have Stone’s photographic glass plates here in the CC archives. Then, as now, the sandstone formations captured the interest of scientists from across the world. Until now, however, the age of the Tava sandstone has eluded all investigators.  Now that the time of formation is known, ongoing research can determine its origins and provide a basis for further research.”

    The sandstone is estimated to be from the Cryogenian Period, roughly 750 million years ago. The two greatest ice ages in the history of the planet, the Sturtian and Marinoan glaciations, took place during the Cryogenian Period and lasted about 60 and 15 million years, respectively. It is around this time that a supercontinent known as Rodinia was breaking up, causing cracks in what would later become the Rocky Mountains. These cracks would have filled with sandstone, which explains the location of the Tava sandstone deposit.