Washington State Rocks and Minerals Exhibit at WWU in Bellingham

If you are heading north into Washington State, way far north towards the Canadian border, take time to drop by Western Washington University in Bellingham for their free and open to the public exhibit of the minerals, fossils of Washington state, reports the Bellingham Herald. The exhibit is on the ground floor and part of the first and second floors of the Environmental Studies Building.

It’s like a mini-museum, with displays that include mineral crystals, mammoth teeth and fossilized plant leaves, along with interpretive exhibits that highlight coal mining in Whatcom County and show some of the tools and equipment that scientists use to study the Earth. There’s even a seismograph and seismometer.

…Possibly the most fascinating display is a four-foot slab of sedimentary rock containing the three-toed footprint of a diatryma, a giant flightless bird from the Eocene Period, some 34 million to 56 million years ago. It was discovered in sedimentary rock that shook loose in a landslide several years ago near Racehorse Creek in the Mount Baker foothills. The slab was airlifted by helicopter to WWU.

As our members know well, Washington (as well as Oregon) is one of the most geologically dynamic areas in the world. This exhibit is designed to showcase what they are calling “Northwest Origins” going back more than 1 billion years old.

If you head up there, please let us know and consider writing a report about the exhibit for the website and newsletter.

Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals Highlighted as a Destination

John Gottberg Anderson wrote a travel piece for the Central Oregon newspaper, The Bulletin, recently highlighting Washington County and the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, our favorite rock and mineral museum and a partner and affiliate of the Tualatin Valley Rock and Mineral Club. As all members know, our club was founded by the Rice family.

The article highlights the museum by describing a feature exhibit:

There are few more stunning sights in Oregon than the Rainbow Gallery of fluorescent minerals at the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals.

Step behind a blackout curtain to see otherwise colorless rocks explode into brilliant colors — emerald green, cobalt blue, fiery red, yellow, orange, pink, purple — when they are bathed in ultraviolet or “black” light.

Colors emerge as short-wave and long-wave fluorescence flows upon the rocks, activating impurities within them. Specimens of more than 500 types of minerals, about one in every seven, are known to fluoresce. They come from every continent and in virtually every color of the rainbow.

The Rainbow Gallery at Hillsboro’s Rice Northwest Museum displays a remarkable collection of fluorescent rocks. As they are bathed in short-wave and long-wave ultraviolet (or “black”) light, the rocks’ impurities are activated and these brilliant colors emerge.

The article includes interviews with Executive Director Julian Gray and Curator Leslie Moclock.

It also highlights the passion many in Washington County have for nature, and the museum.

Oregon’s Washington County, which embraces the Tualatin River Valley, is far from unknown to business travelers. Home to technology company Intel and numerous other high-tech firms, along with footwear and clothing giant Nike, it is a destination for visitors from around the world…My most memorable discovery was the Rice Northwest Museum, open weekends and Wednesday through Friday afternoons.

Richard and Helen Rice were passionate rock collectors beginning in the 1930s, when they became enamored of agates they gathered on the Oregon coast. “Richard had money at a time when there were incredible minerals to be bought,” Gray explained. “He got involved in lapidary and learned to cut and polish his finds. But it began as a hobby.”

The couple built a ranch-style, flagstone home in 1953 and raised three daughters there. They displayed their specimens in lighted cases. As the family grew and moved away, the collection took over the house, and when the senior Rices moved out, their home became a private museum. It was accorded nonprofit status in 1996, a year before its founders’ deaths.

The Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club often hold meetings and special events at the museum, and participate in most of the major festivals and events with many of our members volunteering and working hard to ensure these events are successful.

Remember, as part of your membership, admission to the Rice Northwest Museum is free.

Rice Northwest Museum Wins Educational Award in Tucson

The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals took top honors and award at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show for its display on “Lead materials.”

The 2015 Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is host to over a hundred thousand visitors during a week to two week period in Tucson, and exhibitors come from around the world to show off their wares and rock and mineral collections.

The Friends of Mineralogy honored the Rice Northwest Museum in Hillsboro, Oregon, as it’s “Best Educational Exhibit by an Institution.” The exhibit, put together by Curator Leslie Moclock, featured colorful examples of lead with educational material about its usage and makeup.

As part of your membership benefits with the club, member admission to the museum is free.

If you haven’t been to the museum in a while, stop in and see the changes Julian Gray and Leslie Moclock have brought to this heritage site and exceptional museum.

For the historians in our club, don’t forget that the founders of the Rice Northwest Museum, Richard and Helen Rice, founded the Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club as well.

Our 56th Annual Rock and Mineral Show

Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Show vendors row.The Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club 56th Annual Rock and Mineral Show will be at the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro, Oregon, Friday and Saturday, March 7-8, 2014.

Admission is $1 per person, children younger than 12 free when accompanied by an adult.

Hourly door prized, raffles, demonstrations, and kid’s activities will be all day and a silent auction will offer some exciting opportunities to win some previous rocks and minerals.

“There are many vendors and exhibitors at the show this year, and we are delighted to have so many who’ve been with us for a decade or more as we continue this tradition in Hillsboro,” says Club President Mitch Metcalf. “I’m so proud that we’ve been able to continue the tradition and that we have some of the best volunteers to help run the show, bringing their geology expertise and passion to the public.”

The annual rock and mineral show benefits the Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club educational activities and projects, and also go to the Rice Northwest Museum in Hillsboro, a world-class rock and mineral museum and partner and affiliate with the club.


OregonLive announced the show on March 7 in their weekend activities section.

Oldest Fossils Found in Australia

Stromatolites in Sharkbay Australia - Wiki Commons

Live Science reported that a 3.5-billion-year-old fossil microbial community has been found in Australia by scientists, revealing some of the most ancient fossil life forms ever discovered.

The new find reveals that a scant 1 billion years after Earth’s origin, complex microbial communities that clung to sediments along the windswept seashore had already begun harvesting energy from sunlight, rather than the rocks.

…A few stromatolites, or domelike like rock structures built by ancient microbial communities, have been found at the Strelley Pool formation in Australia that may date to about 3.45 billion years ago. Fossil sulfur-eating microbes from about 3.4 billion years ago have also been found there as well. Other fossils from South Africa reveal microbial communities that date to 2.9 billion years ago.

…More primitive rock-eating bacteria, called chemolithotrophs, likely evolved before the microbial mats, though no trace of Earth’s earliest pioneers has yet been found. Chemolithotrophs harvest energy by chemically modifying minerals such as iron or sulfur in the rock, and many such bacteria are still alive today.

But the newly discovered communities were anchored to the seashore close to sun and water, so they probably weren’t eating minerals found in rock. Instead, they must have harvested energy through photosynthesis, suggesting such bacteria evolved earlier than previously thought.