We start our 2013 Utah field season off in traditional fashion- with a nice long day of driving. Tomorrow we will continue, with another nice long day of driving. We will arrive at our destination on the third day, after a short bit of driving.
The lead up to this years Utah field season has been intense! Getting the vehicles, equipment, people, funding, and most importantly permits lined up all turned into catastrophes over the past few months. It has only been through Dr. Z’s perserverance, determination and excitement that this trip is actually under way it seems.
Shalimar Ranch, near Harrison, Nebraska, has been sold. Shalimar is the place where, in the spring of 1991, I collected my first fossil vertebrate specimen – the grinning skull and lower jaws of an oreodon. Shalimar has been the setting for a fossil mammal field course led for thirty consecutive years by William R. Hammer, a paleontologist at Augustana College. A significant number of student participants, myself included, have gone on to get advanced degrees in paleontology, geology and other related fields. For the last eight years, I have accompanied the field course as an assistant, and the specimens I’ve collected on those trips have gone into the collections at the N. C. Museum of Natural Sciences.
When the ranch was sold, the field course tentatively scheduled to run this spring was cancelled. Instead, several past participants traveled to Nebraska to visit with our friends, Bordy and Mary Munson, former owners of the ranch. Our visit coincided with Bordy’s birthday, and his sons Spencer and Alex were there to celebrate with him. Despite the apparent end of our thirty-year run, it was a festive and hopeful visit.
We plan to open up a dialog with the new owners about continuing to run our field course on their property. Fingers crossed!
This is the third post in a series called “Cretaceous Cold Cases” in which the science of taphonomy, or prehistoric forensics, is explained by fascinating cases from the files of Terry “Bucky” Gates, a research scientist with a joint appointment at NC State and theNorth Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.