Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's been a long time

Oh, boy. I just remembered that I haven't posted anything in three years! Part of the reason for that is because of a mastodon stampede. In 2010 the Denver Museum of Nature & Science started excavating a remarkable fossil site in Snowmass, Colorado. It was muddy, rainy, sunny, hot, cold and exciting! Research in other areas, including Corral Bluffs, came to a screeching halt! I had the opportunity to participate in this dig. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Also, Ultra Petroleum purchased Banning-Lewis Ranch and we lost our permission to access that property.

The mastodons have all been bathed and put to bed up at DMNS and now life goes on. We will schedule some field time in July with the DMNS paleontologists. And if Ultra sells the property since no profitable oil could be found, we may have access again to BLR. I'm excited to continue our work!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Research Plan 2010

My research plan for 2010 consists of collecting samples from all fossil trees that can be shown to be in place. From these samples I will take 3 cuts from different directions: radial, cross section and tangential. From those cuts I will make thin section slides. In the field I'll also take measurements of tree length and diameter, and record the environment of deposition (or the conditions upon which the tree was deposited). When I am done collecting all of the samples and data, under the direction of Ian Miller and Kirk Johnson at DMNS, we should be able to determine genus of trees at Corral Bluffs, as well as noting how the trees changed over time.

I've collected 3 samples so far, but haven't been able to get back to the DMNS lab because of time and weather constraints. Spring weather has not been conducive to field work or the drive to Denver.

In the meantime I have rebuild and updated my website. My paper on Red Rock Canyon was published in the winter edition of the Mountain Geologist journal, and I have coauthored a book called Geologic Folio of Red Rock Canyon Open Space, under lead author Ken Weissenburger. It's been a busy winter, but I'm very ready for summer break and field season!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring 2010

Unlike last year, it's been a long winter with few opportunities to go out into the field. I've spend the winter straightening out my records and preparing the required information for DMNS to report my Corral Bluffs fossil localities to the state. I have dozens of localities including fossils of trees, leaves, turtles, crocodiles, gar fish and even a couple of champsosaurs. We did document one mammal jaw in 2009. It was found by the preparator up at DMNS while working on the skull of a baby crocodile collected from the bluffs last summer. It turns out the crocodile skull is in pretty poor shape, but the mammal jaw in quite nice. It still has several teeth intact. I'm not sure of the identification yet, beyond that it is a condylarth.

After a year and a half of searching, a couple of weeks ago I found my first mammal jaw out in the field. It is surprisingly large. It is tentatively identified as an arctocyonid, a raccoon-like mammal. The teeth are not well preserved, so identification will probably be difficult.

My other early spring project is to learn to make thin sections so we can identify the types of fossils trees in Corral Bluffs, of which there seem to be an endless supply! It involves cutting pieces of fossil wood into incredibly smaller and smaller slices, mounting the slices onto a glass slide, and then viewing the cell structure through a microscope. From the patterns of the cells we may be able to tell what kinds of trees were growing in Colorado Springs 65 million years ago.

I'm sitting here as it is snowing on the last day of winter. I've got a snow day from school, and tomorrow begins spring break! Hopefull we'll have some decent weather during break and I'll be able to go out and see if I can find any more pieces of that arctocyonid!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Update on Corral Bluffs Survey

I've been searching the 522 acres of Corral Bluffs Open Space for several months now. It's taken me until this past few weeks to really have a plan and a strategy. I've divided the area up into 38 sections, and then I can keep track of where I've been and where I still need to go.
I've found many species of turtles and several crocodiles. I've also found a vertebra from a champsosaurus, a creature similar to a crocodile, but more like a modern gavial (or gharial).
We've found several fossil leaf sites, and Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have been down to collect leaves several times. I'm still looking for ancient mammal fossils, but so far I haven't had any luck.
The temperature out there can be brutal. My thermometer said it was 114 degrees on the outcrop at one point on Friday. But believe it or not, by dressing right and drinking plenty of water it is actually tolerable. And I've only run into one more rattlesnake. This one I heard before I saw it. It was curled up in a hole, but the shed skin it left behind proved that it was about 4 feet long. The photo I took showed it had 9 rattles.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Day in the field with the DMNS curators

Today was the first day Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science got the chance to walk the Case Property at Corral Bluffs. It seems that everywhere they looked they found new leaf localities. Kirk said that at one site every leaf they picked up was a new species. They marked 3 or 4 new localities. Two sites are near the bottom of the section and one is at the very top and may eventually correlate with the Castle Rock rainforest site. That site is one of the sites I had found and named "Dead Batteries" due to the fact that when I found the leaves I also found out that the batteries on my gps and my camera were dead.

Ken Weissenburger also found what appears to be a small crocodile skull, with various other bones. The DMNS crew may come back to take it out.

When I got home I found that I had a 6 inch hole in the seat of my old favorite field pants! I hope I was walking in back of the group most of the day...

Monday, April 27, 2009

First of fossils are in the Denver Museum

The first batch of fossils from Corral Bluffs have been accessioned into the Denver Museum of Nature & Science collections. I met with Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller today and turned in locality information along with the fossils. Darn, I miss my humerus! Now I'll just have to find the rest of the turtle to go with it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Rattlesnakes are Awake

My son Patrick and I went out for a brief tour of Corral Bluffs this afternoon. I knew it was about the right time, and my hunch was confirmed when Patrick said, "Oh, here's a snake skin or a dead snake, or, wait a minute..." I had stepped on a baby rattlesnake about 10 inches long. It looked rather squished, but after poking it with a stick we found out that it seemed to be fine. A short way away I found several fossil bones, so the new locality name is, naturally, "Squished Rattler." I don't know for sure what the bones are, but my first guess is crocodile. They don't quite look turtlish. The Bluffs are looking beautiful. Green leaves are beginning to appear. I decided I am Lewis and/or Clark, describing a new land. So I am creating names for every place. The spot I named today is Windswept Hollow. It's at the top of a bluff, with views of Pikes Peak and the Sangres and beautiful pinnacles and bowls of sandstone.