Monday, September 15, 2014

Crew Profile: Jelle Wiersma

Jelle Wiersma is a graduate student at the University of Utah. He specializes in paleobiogeographic dispersal patterns, phylogenetics, sedimentology, and sequence stratigraphy. Below are his thoughts about working at the quarry:

"I felt honored when I was invited by John Foster and my advisor, Randy Irmis, to work on this historic site. It is truly inspiring to be part of an excavation that started in 1859, and work in the same locality where John Newberry stumbled upon this “old petrified monster”. Climbing up some of the cliffs and using some of the same foot holes, carved in the rock and used by Newberry and his crew, as well as being able to look around and think that John Macomb and his expedition members camped in the nearby area and saw pretty much the same geologic features that we are seeing today is truly something to experience.

Dystrophaeus was located in the hard sandstone deposits of the Tidwell Member in the Morrison Formation and excavating can be challenging at times and days in the quarry are often long and under less than favorable conditions, especially the rapid changing weather. Transporting heavy jackets down steep cliffs on stretcher boards and belaying them down with climbing gear provide another challenge. But knowing that we expand the knowledge that we have on Dystrophaeus with every additional bone that we bring back to the museum makes it all so worth it! I am looking forward to come back."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In the news...

The Dystrophaeus Project has been featured in several recent news articles.

Skeleton of dinosaur first unearthed 155 years ago now being excavated by Mark Green and Ashton Goodell, Fox13

Crews excavate oldest known sauropod dinosaur by Eric Trenbeath Moab Sun News

Dinosaur discovered 155 years ago in Utah to be excavated by Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

in the Moab Times-Independent 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dystrophaeus Project just beginning

Well, we expected the work to be difficult and we hoped to find more of skeleton, but the density of bone in the deposit has made getting things out tricky. In fact, it sometimes seems we could jacket every block of sandstone and bring it out and there would be something in all of it. But it sometimes takes a crew of five three hours to get a single jacket down the hill, so excavation and removal have been slow. Overall, however, we've been pleased with the amount of material we have found. Much to get out yet today. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Museum of Moab leads excavation of geologically oldest Sauropod in North America on 155th anniversary of its discovery


Media Contacts:
Lola Bird: BLM (801)-539-4033
Christy Williams Dunton: 435-259-8824

Dystrophaeus "...still remains to reward some future geologist who shall visit this interesting locality, with more time at his command and more adequate implements for rock excavation than we possessed." - J. S. Newberry 1859 

August 25th, 2014 Moab, Utah:

This week marks the 155th anniversary of the discovery of Dystrophaeus by John Strong Newberry. In San Juan County Utah, August of 1859, J. S. Newberry collected several elements of the first dinosaur ever found in Utah, a sauropod Paleontologist E. D. Cope later named Dystrophaeus.

Newberry's dream of future scientific advance in this discovery has coincided with a grant to excavate the rare specimen provided by a Discover Pool Grant from the Canyonlands Natural History Association. Photo opportunities, interviews are available with prominent paleontologists at the excavation site on the 28th of August, the actual 155th anniversary of the original discovery.

John Foster, Executive Director of the Museum of Moab is available for interviews and accompaniment with press visitation to the site for media coverage of the historic excavation as the Dystrophaeus specimen will be maneuvered down the canyon wall for transport.

The specimen is critical to understanding the origins and evolution of sauropod dinosaurs in North America. This week's significant excavation has scientists collecting more of the specimen in order to find diagnostic elements that can help further identify exactly what kind of sauropod Dystrophaeus is.

The History 
In 1859, Captain J. N. Macomb led a U.S. Army engineering survey from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. Along the way, the group camped in what is now south of Moab, in August. During their stay, expedition geologist J. S. Newberry discovered several bones of a sauropod in the rocks above the Entrada Sandstone cliffs on the north side of the canyon near the camp. He admitted in his report that they were ill equipped to excavate these bones, although they removed several . He also mentioned that there were bones still in the ground that they were unable to remove upon their departure.

The Smithsonian Institute houses Material from that excavation, a forelimb of Dystrophaeus', a cast of which is on display at the Museum of Moab. The excavation site is being considered for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

Why it's news today
This one excavation and project has the potential to add significantly to our understanding of sauropod dinosaur evolution in North America and elsewhere in the world.

Press and photo opportunities to visit the historic site with leading scientists in the active excavation can be arranged for Thursday, August 28th. See Media Contacts for scheduling site visits, photo ops, interviews with project lead and Moab Museum Director John Foster.

 RSVP for media coverage at excavation site on the 28th of August via Media Contacts:
Lola Bird: BLM (801)-539-4033
Christy Williams Dunton: 435-259-8824

Friday, August 15, 2014

Countdown Begins

Field work on Dystrophaeus starts in less than a week so the preparations have begun. We've purchased a bit of new field equipment, and are working on more. Loading up next week. In the meantime we prepare for an initial site visit this weekend on the 155th anniversary of the discovery of the site. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dystrophaeus "...still remains to reward some future geologist who shall visit this interesting locality, with more time at his command and more adequate implements for rock excavation than we possessed." - J. S. Newberry