Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I would like to start off by saying that this was the best field trip I have ever been on in my life! Hands down, by far! I wouldn't trade my experience for anything, and I am seriously considering doing it again next year. So, for all you thinking of going, DO!! We spent two nights and three days roughing it in the wilderness with Dr. Alan Titus, the paleontologist for the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument and his assistant Scott Richardson. Not only was this trip fun, but I cannot begin to describe all that I learned on this trip. So I have chosen a topic I enjoyed, and I'll do my best.

We spent the second day up there digging for bones! A couple of hours in, Tauni and I were assigned to move a mass of rock on the bottom right section of the quarry. We were given hammers and chisels and told to go layer by layer. I was so excited!! We worked, and worked, and worked....and worked. nothing!! I was feeling pretty down. You see, the movies never show how much work goes into digging out a dinosaur, I felt like I had been tricked ;).

All of the sudden Tauni gasped. My heart sputtered to a stop and I leaned over to see her discovery. "OH MY GOSH! LOOK WHAT YOU FOUND!!" I yelled (I've been known to be a little dramatic). I was so happy all our work was not in vain. Everyone stopped working and ran to see what had been uncovered. There, in her cute little hand was a........GASTROPOD!!! I was so thrilled. Unfortunately, Scott an Alan were less enthusiastic with her great feat. "Just a snail." Scott said and he put it back on the ground. Gosh darn it, no it wasn't 'just a snail'. This was a true, honest to goodness fossil! Millions of years old! And it had just come out of the ground I was digging in! We found half a dozen more similar gastropods, varying in size, in this same layer. It was great.

So, after my excitement subsided, I got to thinking. 'What on earth were snails doing by our Hadrosaur?!' Needless to say, I asked. Not to my dismay I got a fabulous answer. I simply needed to remember the environment of deposition. During the the Cretaceous when the Kaiparowits was being deposited, Utah was a lush, green, tropical place! So what had happened all those millions of years ago was simple. Of coarse there were other animals alive at the same time this Hadrosaur died. Its bones were deposited in a small lake on a floodplain of a river. In this small pond or lake there were snails. So the snail shells were buried in the mud after they died along with the dinosaurs and fossil plants. Our own 'claim to fame', finding gastropods on a Geology trip!


1 comment:

Tauni said...

Bahahaha, you're so funny Jessica! I loved reading yours, made me smile remembering how excited we were at finally finding something and everyone else but us were completely unexcited at what we found. But still, I think that we found the first fossils out of all the students, even if they were just small shells =)