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Faunal diversity in the Mesozoic formations of Northwestern Colorado

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About This Project

Northwestern Colorado is rich in understudied fossil bearing strata. We have been working on an undescribed hadrosaur from the Mesa Verde Formation, but have the potential to expand our purview to an area that exhibits a remarkable display of continuous Mesozoic deposits. Our previous discoveries display unusually well-preserved soft tissue and further specimens are needed to create a complete picture of the diversity and taphonomy of the local Mesozoic fauna.

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What is the context of this research?

Five years ago, we began the excavation of an undescribed hadrosaur in Northwestern Colorado. The site proved to contain large amounts of dinosaur skin, which have been vital in understanding the taphonomy of the site. That fossil excavation site is closing this year, but new specimens and data are required to further understand the broad context of this fossil. How did the skin preserve? How did this dinosaur interact with its environment? Previous prospecting for fossils in the area has located several other fossil-bearing sites. Our work exploring the diversity of fauna in our local formations, and the taphonomy, will compliment other studies, such as original protein preservation and the exceptionally rare Jurassic-aged skin impressions already known.

What is the significance of this project?

Montana, Utah and New Mexico all have well-defined locations where a large sample size of fossil material has allowed a detailed exploration into the local paleobiology. Northwestern Colorado is home to Dinosaur National Monument, but few active sites outside of those boundaries. We have a unique opportunity to survey and analyze continuous layers of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits. Prospecting in the summer of 2018 has already revealed 8 locations that are currently in the BLM permit approval process. These locations are exclusively from the Brushy Basin member of the Morrison Formation. We hope to prospect more thoroughly in the Triassic and Cretaceous sediments this summer. With further exploration, we may be able to create a comprehensive local library of Mesozoic fauna.

What are the goals of the project?

We aim to explore the local Mesozoic formations, with an intense focus on the Morrison, to find more fossil material to reconstruct a picture of what Northwestern Colorado looked like millions of years ago. Our field season starts the middle of May and continues to the end of June. July is reserved for any field work not completed during the normal session. We will spend up to six days each week excavating our sites in Locations 1 and 2. The sites are all projected to produce more material than was found during the initial assessment, but if a site is finished early, we will devote any extra time to either moving on to the next site or prospecting the area for future sites. Stratigraphic columns will be created for each site and the sites will be mapped in three dimensions.


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The paleontology repository at Colorado Northwestern Community College is still new and any funding is used judiciously. Field work for the repository is expensive and there are numerous other projects that also require attention - such as shelving, ventilation and public displays. New specimens for the institution and research done on them are necessary for growth but often hard to justify when there are so many other pressing needs. The budget above would allow for a full month field season to collect new specimens and also allow the repository infrastructure to continue growing.

Endorsed by

The CNCC Paleontology group has been a great addition to the college campus and the community as a whole. I highly recommend supporting their efforts to continue field work in Colorado. They have been very successful in the last few years giving students a once in a lifetime opportunity to do hands on work. The specimens they have collected are available for the public to see and educational opportunities for all ages have surrounded this project. I am fully confident that money donated to this project would be put to the best possible use.

Flag iconProject Timeline

Field season begins in May and lasts until the end of June. Each week we work for six days, camping near the field sites. We have one town day to shower, buy food and plan for the next week. Given that once a week we will have internet, we will provide a weekly update for our backers at this interval that do not conflict with our permitting requirements. Each week will talk about what we found as well as the more unpredictable events of field work (ex. snakes in tents, flash floods, etc.).

Mar 08, 2019

Project Launched

May 15, 2019

Arrive and begin work at Location 1 (Theropod and sauropod material from the Morrison)

May 29, 2019

Arrive and begin work at Location 2 (Sauropod and possible ornithiscian material from the Morrison)

Jun 30, 2019

Complete excavation of 3 sites at Location 1 and 5 sites at Location 2

Meet the Team

Tyler Bridges
Tyler Bridges


Colorado Northwester Community College
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Alvaro Garza
Alvaro Garza


Colorado Northwestern Community College
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Tyler Bridges

Like many paleontologists, I have wanted to be one since as long as I can remember. I went to undergrad at Montana State University where I found my passion for taphonomy - both bench work and field work. I pursued that into my Masters at North Carolina State University where I studied beta-keratin preservation in extant archosaurs and attempted to extrapolate that data to the fossil record. I currently run the paleontology field expeditions for Colorado Northwestern Community College and love every minute of our crazy, hard and absolutely awesome field seasons.

Alvaro Garza

Paleontology student; very passionate about my work and field of study. Currently studying at Colorado Northwestern Community College and I do a lot of volunteer work for the paleontology program including fieldwork, lab work, outreach programs and research. I'm always trying to learn something new and try to stay up to date with new research as it is publicly published.

Project Backers

  • 15Backers
  • 59%Funded
  • $600Total Donations
  • $40.00Average Donation
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