Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. James C. Hower

Second Advisor

Dr. Cortland F. Eble


Microbes, including fungi and bacteria, and insects are responsible for the consumption and subsequent degradation of plant materials into humus. These microbes directly and indirectly affect the physical and chemical characteristics of coal macerals. Efforts to understand and determine the origins of inertinite macerals are largely misrepresented in the literature, conforming to a single origin of fire. This study focuses on the variability of physical and inferred chemical differences observed petrographically between the different inertinite macerals and discusses the multiple pathways plant material may take to form and or degrade these macerals.

Petrographic results show that fungal activity plays a fundamental role in the formation of inertinite macerals, specifically macrinite and non-fire derived semifusinite. Fungal activity chemically removes the structural framework of woody plant tissues, forming less structured to unstructured macerals. Insect activity within a mire also greatly influences the inertinite maceral composition. Wood-consuming insects directly degrade wood tissue leading to the formation of less structured inertinites, as well as producing large conglomerates of inert fecal pellets chemically similar to the original plant tissue that may be represented in the inertinite maceral composition.

Included in

Geology Commons