Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spring 2009 Field Excursion to the Grand Staircase National Monument

Dr. Alan Titus, Paleontologist Grand Staircase National Monument invited us back again this year to help out in the field.  Our trip began at the Monument Headquarters in Kanab with an excellent overview of the geology and paleontology of the park.  This was followed by a tour of the prep lab to see turtles, hadrosaurs, crocodiles (dinochampsa?) etc.   

Then it was off to the field.   This year we worked in the Wahweap Formation in the southeastern part of the park.   We stopped to see the relatively new museum near Big Water.  Wish I had a picture of this from the air - it is shaped like an 
ammonoid!    The
diorama inside showed all the creatures that have been found in the park including the hadrosaur we would soon work on.  Our journey into the monument included a stop in the Tropic Shale where we heard tales of plesiosaurs but only saw clams, snails and an ammonoid.   In the Straight Cliffs formation we saw fossil wood that had borings of ship worms!

Day two we headed out to the sites - one Hadrosaur, one Tyranosaur.  We split into teams and worked hard all day to find more of the already exposed tibias.   Team 1 - Alan, Jake, KayeLinda, Renee, and Tyson found lots of plants - water lilies, redwoods, etc, but no more bone.   We did jacket the tibia and carry it out.   Team 2 - Tania, Brad and Scott jacketed their tyranosaurid bone and found its jaw as well.  

What an incredible and unforgettable experience for all of us!  Thanks to Alan Titus and Scott Richardson for including us in your field work.   Snow College is so fortunate to have this opportunity.     We'll be back if you'll have us.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Day 2—I thought I would find diamonds!

We started the day like the reptiles do—slowly and sleepily—trying to get warmed up and fed. Once our blood was warmed and the sun gave us its’ brilliant rays that shined majestically into the Wahweap formation, we packed up the gear (poor Jake) and headed out to the field site.

We hiked into nowhere and it seemed to me for a time that Allen was just pulling our leg, for it appeared that we were  going out to the middle of nowhere (which we were). Along the way we had fun looking for fossils. We were definatly in what was once marine. Our first stop was at the Hadrosaur (aka the cow of the Cretaceous). The two fossil sights that we saw are both Hadrosaurs; in fact, both sites might be just one Hadrosaur. A theory about how it got so scattered is that it might have been drug by a predator after it was killed. Also, this Hadrosaur might have been a bloat-and-float because it was found in a mud layer around aqueous organic matter. The layer in the Wahweap where it was found is estimated to be around 81 million years old. This could mean that this is a new species of Hadrosaur.

The next sight that we looked at was an imprint of a palm leaf. It looks surprisingly well preserved. IMG_1630We were going to carry it out, but it was too big as you can see in the picture. We walked along the edge of the mountain and found fossils poking out, including a turtle; it looked really cool sticking out there.

We returned back to the second dig sight—the one with the tibia—where we went to work looking for more bones to the Hadrosaur. We did not find any; in fact, we almost lost one. After we lost one I thought that Allen would have kicked us all off his dig sight, but he was really cool about it; plus we found it again. We took turns digging and taking down the rocks to the base of the mountain. One time we thought that we found one, but then Allen determined that it was something else. The dig was not fruitless because we found a lot of plants. (Such as the ones shown.) It was very cool how we kept on finding these brilliant plants within the layers of prehistoric mud. Not to mention a very friendly lizard.DSCF2003 DSCF2010

After we found no bones we decided to get the Tibia back to the camp. To do this we used burlap sacks and plaster of Paris to encase the bone in a sort of cast. We put one more layer on the top and then we did the bottom. 

After we, somewhat DSCF2020carefully, carried the bone back to the truck using a tarp and rotation method; we packed up and got ready to head back. Meanwhile, the other group was searching for bones to a new type of Tyrannosaur. They found a jaw bone to the Tyrannosaur and many other bones; they too carried back a bone.

After we got back from all of the excitement, we went to a Mexican restaurant ate to the end of a full day of paleontology.