From Saturday, July 31 to Friday, Aug. 6, the University of Utah will host some of the world's top experts in trace fossils, the preserved tracks and burrows left by ancient organisms.
The study of fossilized tracks, borings and trails, a field called ichnology, is useful not only for understanding the history of life in prehistoric oceans, but it also is valuable in locating oil reserves.Oil companies know that alterations in the fabric or texture of rock, caused by the action of animals, can give clues to the geological origin of sites being examined. According to the U., this led to at least one major petroleum discovery in the Norwegian section of the North Sea.
The meeting is the second International Ichnofabric Workshop, expected to attract scientists from 10 countries. It was organized by the chairman of the U. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Allan A. Ekdale. Ekdale also organized the first worldwide ichnofabric workshop, held in Norway in 1991.
"Ichnofabric refers to alterations in the texture and structure of sedimentary rocks resulting from such animal behavior as feeding, crawling, resting and dwelling in subsurface environments," Ekdale said.
In addition to technical meetings at the university and Alta, the scientists plan to make field trips to the Wasatch Plateau, Book Cliffs, and three ranges in western Utah, the House, Confusion and South Lakeside mountains.