NATURE NOTES - Number 11                December 28, 2020


Extra feature this month:  At the end of this NOTE is a list of the NOTES posted in 2020.  If you missed any of these, email me and I’ll send you what you might have missed.

Introduction:   Welcome to Nature Notes.  I hope these short nature lessons are helpful to you as you try to expose scouts to the world around you.  You can’t teach them to be experts, but making them aware is a big step.                          

Our current topic:  Introduction to Geology

Ask a scout what geology is and most likely they will answer "the study of rocks”.  That’s worth partial credit.  Geology is the study of the earth’s history.  Since no one was around to take notes as the earth developed, we rely on rocks and minerals to reveal that history to us.  Some scouts will be attracted to collecting and identifying rocks.  Others won’t.  As a geology “teacher”, you can expose them to more geology than just the rocks.  Studying terrain (tie it into map reading) is a great way of doing this. Talk about streams and the erosion they have caused over years.  Look at the mountains.  Why are they there? Look at the rock formations and outcrops you see on hikes, or along the highways (CAUTION on that nature study through the windshield). Why do they often lean?  Why are they different colors?  Look at the rocks in a steam bed and see how they are often smooth from being eroded by years of water flowing over them.  Where did all of the sediment in the stream come from? Let scouts collect some rocks and take a closer look at them, and feel them.  You don’t need a lot of knowledge to get some idea of what type of rock they are.  The Geology Merit Badge pamphlet or books such as described below can help you determine if it is sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic.  In our area, you can find them all in some form, but many are sedimentary, such as the sandstone found on the tops of McAfee Knob and Tinker Mountain in the Roanoke Valley, the limestone along I-81, the shale on the reservation, metamorphic rocks in the Piedmont south of Roanoke, and igneous rocks on Mount Rogers.  Pull up a geological map of Virginia on the internet and look at the mixed-up jumble of different types of rocks in the western part of the state. Again, you are just exposing these scouts to something they have not likely seen or discussed before.  To them, a rock is a rock.  To a geologist, a rock is a story.  You can’t tell them the stories without a lot of study, but just let them know that those stories are out there, and a geologist has to be able to read that story and determine what happened millions of years ago.  A geological report on the scout reservation prepared by Radford University in 2015 discusses in detail how the area was formed by several faults occurring through various layers of sedimentary rock millions of years ago.  This is the reason we see a lot of exposed shale and sandstone around camp. All of this formed the higher elevations we now call the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province long before the sharp-ridged Ridge and Valley and Appalachian Physiographic Provinces to the west came into being.  Most scouts going into Powhatan have seen the old iron furnace.  This is there because early geologists found a number of ores and minerals in the area that led to mining of iron, lead and zinc.  This illustrates another role of geologist:  finding mineral and ore deposits, and other material all across the world that can be extracted for human use.  Remember, just talking about some of these things is exposing scouts to a whole new world of nature they have not been introduced to.    Help introduce them.

Nature Opportunities:

A good book to help you understand the “big picture” of geology is the Peterson Field Series, Geology – Eastern North America, by David C. Roberts. Two good guides to identifying rocks and minerals are:  National Geographic Pocket Guide, Rocks and Minerals of North America, and the Smithsonian Handbook, Rocks and Minerals, by Chris Pellatt.  Google “Geological Maps of Virginia” to get a series of interesting maps.  Compare these with the maps of West Virginia.  Surprised?  Also, if anyone is interested in the 12 page Geologic Report for the BRSR, email me and I will send you a copy. These are just some resources that might help you and your scouts learn more about geology – not just rocks.

As always, if you have any comments, please email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..                            Bob Garst

Subjects covered in previous 2020 NATURE NOTES:

#1 Lizards          

#2 Intro to Birds

#3 How a Tree Grows

#4 Why study nature?

#5 Hawks vs vultures

#6  Fall leaf colors

#7 Who owns the forests?

#8 Wildlife Management

#9 Winter Birds

#10 Field Guides