Ohio Earth Science Week spotlights real gems

When we think of Ohio’s rich diversity of natural resources, most of our minds often turn to thoughts of trees, birds, insects, fish, or flowers. In other words, living beings. This week, however, is Earth Science Week in Ohio and the purpose of this celebration is to help residents discover or learn more about the non-biological aspects of our environment such as rocks, minerals, soils, fossils and landforms that can be found everywhere. the state.

For many children, earth science offers a way to spice up their exploration of the outdoors. I would wager that many of the readers of this column had some form of rock collection during their youth. Rocks and minerals provide a relatively safe and immobile source of entertainment and while a parent might not appreciate a handful of dirty rocks making their way into the laundry, it certainly beats the alternative of having a bug stranger or a reptile inadvertently released into the home. Once placed in a box or on display, these geological wonders require no feeding or watering, no litter box to empty, and only a light dusting for basic hygiene.

Earth sciences are also not limited by seasonal fluctuations. Spring wildflowers may only bloom for a few weeks, but you can explore geological formations or scour a riverbank for fossils and gems year-round. I find myself doing this subconsciously whenever I spend time in the field for other reasons and, as the rock-laden windowsill next to me while I type this can attest to this, I rarely return to the desk without a new piece of quartz, sandstone, or fossilized reminder of Ohio’s prehistoric past.

When discussing minerals and rocks native to Ohio, one of the first questions each student asks is whether they can pan for gold or mine for diamonds, emeralds, or other stones. precious in his garden. Unfortunately, we’re not in a hotspot for natural occurrences of these showier gems, but Ohio is famous for its massive deposits of more utilitarian rocks and sedimentary minerals – remnants of the seas that once flooded this region there. millions of years ago.

Limestone makes up much of Ohio’s bedrock and was formed from the calcium-rich remains of ancient marine life, including corals and brachiopods. Ohio is a major supplier of this stone which is used in crushed form as gravel and driveway concrete or can be processed for products such as agricultural lime, chalk and even toothpaste.

The mineral halite, commonly known as salt, was left behind in large quantities as prehistoric seas evaporated. Some of the largest rock salt mines in the United States are in Ohio. Most of these mines are located under Lake Erie. Yes, you read that right. The entrances to the mines are located near the shore, but the vast excavated tunnels and caverns extend several miles north and several hundred feet below the waters of the Great Lake. These mines place Ohio in the top five states for annual salt production, although most of our salt is used for road de-icing, in water softening systems or for supplements for the cattle.

Perhaps Ohio’s most influential mineral product is one whose use has been largely lost to technological advancements. Flint, which is also the official state gemstone of Ohio, was a vital resource when the first human inhabitants settled in North America. This gem’s ability to be worked into razor-sharp cutting tools and projectile points enabled our ancestors to hunt, skin and process game as well as create many tools for carpentry and sewing. Flint collected from the famed Flint Ridge area in present-day Licking and Muskingum counties has been found at archaeological sites across the continent, and the Ohio flint trade is believed to have provided significant economic benefits to Native American tribes. local.

I’m sure I’ll be celebrating Earth Science Week by adding another piece to my ever-growing windowsill collection and would love to hear stories about rare or special rocks that readers have found over the years .

Tommy Springer is the Wildlife and Education Specialist for the Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at 740-653-8154 or [email protected]

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