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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
I’ve been a part of the CNCC paleo crew for about 4 years. My interest in paleontology started well.. when I was born, I’ve always loved dinosaurs! I got the opportunity to work on some amazing sites with some great people through the Museum of the Rockies in Montana when I was 18 and had an amazing time! Continued to meet others in the field until I stumbled on this wonderful crew of people through CNCC working on our project Dinosaur named Walter, who have all become best friends to me. I am currently enrolled in Aviation training in Portland, Oregon to become a commercial helicopter pilot, which I hope to one day also be able to evolve in field work with the removal of fossils from hard to reach locations!
Like every other paleontologist I grew up loving dinosaurs and never lost the interest has I aged. I remember being two when I first saw Disney’s Dinosaur for the first time. I believe that this movie is what inspired me to learn more about dinosaurs and animals in general. This passion has pushed me to CNCC we’re I volunteered to work in the field coming up on three summers now. Being able to enjoy camping and working dinosaurs with a bunch of people with same interest is best thing I could ever wish for. I can’t wait for many more summers ahead of me to join my crew/friends in the Colorado wilderness working in and finding dinosaurs.
I've always loved dinosaurs, but dreamed of being a paleontologist ever since I was five years old. Got distracted by video games, learned to program so I could make my own, but wound up going into database and back-end development so I actually could find a job. Serendipity showed me that childhood dreams can still come true, so I've been part of CNCC's volunteer paleo field crew every summer since 2015. I still can't believe I've actually excavated not only dinosaur bone, but other things like skin impression, ossified tendons and a theropod tooth as well as prospected for new fossil sites. Whenever asked why I work so hard on Paleo field work, I exclaim, "Because! It's a dinosaur!". Seems only my tribe of fellow dinosaur lovers truly understand the calling.
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