Getting a picture of life for people around this region 100 years ago is diffcult, given the advancements in so many facets of life since then. Imagining the landscape around Chautauqua Lake millions of years ago is, without question, even more challenging.
Glenn Wahl will discuss what Chautauqua Lake’s region and surrounding areas looked like over time during his Bird, Tree & Garden Club Lake Walk at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20, at the lakeside porch of the Youth Activities Center. Wahl will take attendees from billions of years ago, to thousands of years ago, up into the present.
Wahl started out his college education as a biology major with plans to be a wildlife biologist, but switched majors to avoid having to inflict suffering on invertebrates and vertebrates in lab research.
“To quote Simon & Garfunkel, ‘A rock feels no pain,’” Wahl said. “Basically, I’m passionate about nature and, at the time, I was eager to study any aspect of it. And I grew to love geology, too.”
Millions of years ago, Wahl said, Chautauqua County was hundreds of feet under water as part of a large inland sea that swallowed numerous states. Wahl said he hopes to discuss some of the life that inhabited this sea, including 15-foot long crustaceans, and the sediments that formed the local rocks present today.
“Fast forward 12,000 years ago or so, and we were covered by a thick ice sheet that both scoured the landscape but also deposited some rocks that we can find today if we know what to look for.”
–Glenn Wahl, Geology instructor, Jamestown Community College
The geological foundation provided agricultural success for peoples, past and present, while glacial gravel deposits provided material for concrete and roadways, Wahl said.
“The sedimentary-derived soil, with its varying ratios of clay, silt and sand, dictate drainage and which crops will do well or poorly, and also affects which native plants and trees are dominant,” Wahl said.
Predicting the future of Chautauqua County’s landscape is hard, Wahl said. One likely theory, he said, will be the further erosion of existing hills, presenting a much flatter area.
“As for the lake, we should be good for several thousands of years at least,” Wahl said.
Wahl rst visited the Institution in 1972 on a date with his future wife, seeing “Lost Horizon” at the Chautauqua Cinema. He said he has continued to attend events and musicals ever since, with his wife and son both teaching courses on the grounds this season.
“Strangely enough, a few weeks ago, I also modeled for the School of Art, something I do regularly at Jamestown Community College in addition to teaching geology there,” Wahl said.
Beginning billions of years ago with pit stops in eras and periods, Wahl said he guarantees attendees will learn something and that geological history helps in gaining perspective of humanity’s relatively short lifespans.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled to be even a tiny part of Chautauqua’s summer program and to be on the giving side of the program rather than on the receiving side, as I usually am,” Wahl said. “And, hopefully, the walk attendees will find me more interesting than the art students likely did.”