Sunday Field Trip: Crossing the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Fall Zone: from the Neoproterozoic and into the Cenozoic

Sunday 8:00am-2:30pm Wissahickon Valley Park and Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park


Lily Pfeifer, Rowan University
Aaron Barth, Rowan University

Starting in the late Neoproterozoic, this course discusses the metamorphosis and deformation of the Wissahickon schist – the dominant bedrock underlying Philadelphia – during the Appalachian orogenies of the Paleozoic. We then travel across the Fall Zone into the Atlantic Coastal Plain to discuss vertebrate paleontology, sedimentation, and paleoenvironments across the K-Pg boundary and into the Cenozoic. The course covers the basics of metamorphic mineralogy, structural deformation, vertebrate paleontology, and sedimentology and stratigraphy.


  • Departure: Participants are to meet on the Temple University campus on Sunday, July 14. Shuttle will begin boarding at 7:45am, leave campus at 8:00am, and arrive at the first location in Wissahickon Valley Park at 8:30am. The field trip meeting point and dropoff location is in front of the Temple Performing Arts Center (intersection of Broad St. and Polett Walk).
  • Return: Shuttle will leave the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park at 1:30pm and arrive back at Temple University campus at 2:15pm.
  • How to prepare: Wear comfortable hot-weather clothing, hiking footwear, and a hat. Bring a daypack for lunch (provided) and water, sunscreen, a raincoat, and a camera. Wissahickon Valley Park is mostly shaded, but the fossil park has full sun exposure. Participants walk throughout the day and away from vehicles and water.
  • Approximate hiking distance and elevation: ~1.5 miles & 100-200 ft. elevation change
  • Releases: All participants will need to sign liability releases.


Wissahickon Valley Park is a 1,400 acre park located in the middle of Philadelphia and was established as the first piece of publicly-owned land in the United States to be set aside for natural preservation in 1868. Outcropping within the park is the Wissahickon schist - the dominant bedrock underlying the city and extending as far south as Maryland. Formed during the Taconian Orogeny from the metamorphosis of Precambrian sediments, the schist contains metamorphic mineral assemblages including garnet, micas, and staurolite. The strongly foliated rocks also exhibit abundant structural features representing deformation during the third phase of Appalachian mountain building.

As we cross the Delaware River into the Atlantic Coastal Plain of southern New Jersey, our second location is the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park Museum and Fossil Quarry (Mantua Township, NJ). The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary preserved here records evidence of the 5th mass extinction — The marked disappearance of dinosaurs and >75% of species on Earth! Beyond the massive reduction in biodiversity, paleoenvironmental changes reflected in the sedimentological record from the latest Mesozoic-early Cenozoic include a broadly regressive sequence (sea-level fall) and eventual sedimentary input from the Appalachian Mountains.


The first stop at Wissahickon Valley Park involves visiting outcrops that exhibit the mineralogies and structural characteristics of the Wissahickon Schist that are informative of early Paleozoic evolution of the Appalachian core. Discussion includes previously explored student activities including using mineral assemblages to determine metamorphic grade and crowdsourcing measurements (foliation, folds, joints) for structural analysis. Outcrop access may require short walks. The second stop at Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Quarry involves a discussion amongst upper Mesozoic-lower Cenozoic outcrops within the Atlantic Coastal Plain that record local sea level and paleoenvironmental change across a globally recognized boundary in Earth's history. Discussion includes previously explored student activities including measuring and describing the composition and biostratigraphy of the strata preserved here.

Tentative Itinerary

  • Assemble at the field trip meeting point and dropoff location: in front of the Temple Performing Arts Center (intersection of Broad St. and Polett Walk) at 7:45am.
  • Board shuttle by 8:00am. Shuttle will leave promptly at 8:00am.
  • Arrive at Wissahickon Valley Park at 9:00am
    • Topics covered: Metamorphic mineral assemblages, structural deformation, and mountain building events
  • Leave Wissahickon Valley Park at 11:30am
  • Arrive at Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park Museum (Stop 2) at 12:15pm
    • Topics covered: Sedimentology, stratigraphy, vertebrate paleontology
    • Lunch: Boxed lunches will be provided with seating under the awnings near the fossil quarry.
  • Leave for Temple University campus at 1:30pm
  • Arrive back at campus 2:15pm

Cost and Registration

Registration for the field trip is open to the first 30 people to sign up. Participants can sign up when completing their Rendezvous registration form. Cost is $100, and includes transportation and a box lunch.