Sedimentary Rock Coquina

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Leslie Hale, B.S.

Leslie Hale at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (California, USA) during a conference of museum collections managers

Photo by Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Mineral Sciences

Leslie Hale, the Smithsonian’s rock and ore collections manager at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, tells people that she is a “rock librarian.” While growing up in Bowie, Md., not far from the Smithsonian, Hale collected rocks and took a summer class on lapidary art (making jewelry out of stone). Her career choice was greatly influenced by her attendance at a magnet high school for science and mathematics and taking geology as a senior-year elective. Hale joined the Smithsonian staff shortly after finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland in 1989. Today, she supervises two full-time staff members as well as several volunteers, interns, and contractors. She assists Smithsonian scientists and visiting researchers who want to use the museum’s extensive collection of rock and ore specimens. Hale also sends out rocks on loan to geologists at distant universities; she keeps track of the objects’ whereabouts and sends out requests for return or loan renewal. Finally, she gives tours of the Smithsonian’s geology research facilities, conducts inventories, answers questions from the public, and identifies rock specimens.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.
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About Biochemical Sedimentary Rocks

When snails, corals, shellfish, and marine microorganisms die, their empty exoskeletons, rich in calcium carbonate or silica, pile up at the bottom of oceans and seas. The shells break up or decay into small pieces, called bioclasts or biochemical sediments. Over long periods of time, the upper layers of debris compress the lower layers, squeezing out excess water or air trapped between the shell fragments and breaking them down even further. Eventually, silica or calcite cements the individual fragments together to form a rock. The chalk you use to draw on the sidewalk comes from the shells of microorganisms that lived millions of years ago.