Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve
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The Goodsell Ridge Preserve is an 81 acre reef site with a Visitor’s Center/ Museum. Follow the Main Road on Isle La Motte south to Quarry Road. Turn left. Travel to the T. Turn left again. The Goodsell Ridge will be the first left.
Visitors to these sites are asked to respect the rules of these protected sites which include no removal of plants, animals, or rocks from either of the preserves. These are places for quiet walking, observation and learning, but not for vehicular traffic, bicycles, or other activities which may damage the fragile ecosystem and geological formations of the preserves.
About a mile to the northeast of the Fisk Quarry Preserve (Earthcache GC1D16J), the Goodsell Ridge is a site where spectacular reef exposures take the form of outcroppings and mounds throughout beautiful meadow and cedar woodlands. These mounds show the evolution of the reef into a complex ecosystem, different from older and simpler reef layers on Isle La Motte such as those exposed in the Fisk Quarry. Interpretive trails will wind through reef outcroppings in the meadows and cedar forests.
The beautifully preserved and exposed reef formations on the Goodsell Ridge have been studied extensively. 480-50 million year old outcroppings of fossil reef tell the story of an ancient marine environment, the first multi species community in the history of life on earth. Scientists explain that these layers represent the world’s earliest appearance of a complex reef-building community with the framebuilders consisting of a diverse grouping of stromatoporoids, lithistid sponges, tabulate corals and bryozoa.
The 81-acre Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve harbor the fossilized remains of nautiloids (the first cephalopods, which today are mostly represented by squids, cuttlefishes and octopuses); stromotoporoids, a cabbage-like animal that was the primary builder of the reef and represents a Fossil group related to current corals and early snails.
Some fossils are as big as a playing card, others are almost microscopical. "As we walk through the Goodsell Ridge, we'll be able to actually walk across their tops, which would be very similar to what you'd see if you were snorkeling over them 480 million years ago," said Charlotte Mehrtens, Chair of the geology department at the University of Vermont.
These rocks are part of a geologic formation that once ran from Newfoundland to Tennessee and Virginia and the area is known as the Chazy Reef. "There is something unique about the environment here in Vermont, where the reef diversity was very high, meaning there are lots of different kinds of organisms, lots of different kinds of species," said Mehrtens.
"On top of that, those species changed over time, so the organisms that built the oldest layers of the reef are different from the organisms that built the middle layers and are different from the organisms that built the youngest layers.”
This is a perfect example of biological succession, where one species is followed by another during the geological eons. This reef is unique because "It is the first and most extensive reef that was ever built in the earth's history by the phylum bryozoa," said Roger Cuffee, a professor of Paleontology at Penn State University.
Bryozoans are a line of animals that evolved from soft-bodied animals, and are close to mollusks, not to corals, predating the coral reefs by about 30 million years. "Think miniature coral and think the seacrust crud on shell and rocks growing in shallow water when you wade into tidal pools," Cuffee said. It really sort of sparks the wonder and the mystery of things, when you think of something that was alive half a billion years ago, [and] was alive before there was life on land" Mehrtens said.
Visitors to the site are asked to complete the following tasks to claim a find at this earthcache. At the parking coordinates there is a kiosk that you can use to answer the following questions:
1. Name 2 or the 5 reef “city” builders.
2. Name 2 of the 4 “citizens”.
You also must take a photo with your GPSr present in the photo at one of the fossils you find. Explain in your log (in your own words) what it might be.
Make sure you take some time out of the day to walk the interpretive trails. There is the yellow trail which is still under draft as well as the white, blue, and grey trails. There is a wealth of information here, and just walking though the various mounds of fossils is an awesome experience. The interpretive museum on site is open from Wednesday through Sunday from 10am – 4pm or by appointment.
Visitors to the site are asked to respect the rules of this protected site which include NO REMOVAL OF PLANTS, ANIMALS, OR ROCKS FROM EITHER OF THE PRESERVES. These are places for quiet walking, observation and learning, but not for vehicular traffic, bicycles, or other activities which may damage the fragile ecosystem and geological formations of the preserves. Just come and put your imagination cap on and be amazed as you walk the trails.
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