All posts by Bucky Gates

Based at North Carolina State University, I study the influence of ancient ecological selection on evolutionary trajectories of dinosaurs and sharks. I also study the ways that different geologic conditions contributed to the fossil record we use to inform our understanding of evolution. Teaching is also an important part of my career. I focus my teaching efforts on helping undergraduate students gain a scientific mindset and understand the extravagant ways that the world is interconnected across all scales.

The quarry that won’t quit

Fortunate Son’s luck has not run out!

After digging through nearly a meter of nothing, Haviv came across a long bone that we think may be the tibia, or lower leg bone.

Then as we were clearing out the space next to said possible tibia, guess who decided to join the holotype party…the quadrate!!

Now the skull of this new critter is even more complete.  If Fortunate Son can squeeze a few more sweet rolls from the diçe hopefully we can get more of the pretty beast.

Haviv, an undergraduate at Appalachian State University holds a plaster jacket with newly excavated bones from our new plant eating dinosaur species.

Cretaceous Cold Cases #3: Duck(bill) Amuck

Read Bucky’s new blogpost

Cretaceous Cold Cases #3: Duck(bill) Amuck


Taken from the blogpost:

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.


Celestial ghost

Tonight I started driving back to NC.  2000 miles alone in my truck.

Luckily, the world is full of any number of wonderful things to keep me occupied.

For instance,  tonight as I passed through Vail, Colorado I saw what might be the most beautiful moon rise of my life.  Without pictures I will try to use words.

The Rocky Mountains are amazing at anytime of the year, but especially while the leaves are changing.  Indeed, as I came up over the small summit at Vail, the mountain sides were draped in a soft fleece of aspens so golden that Jason would have traveled the world to steal this peak. Rising above all other rocks was a sheer wall of rock reflecting the pink glow of the setting sun.  And just above the grand sentinel were puffy cumulous clouds flirting me with rain, each colored the bright pink of the sun on top and dark purple below.  As with every sunset the lower light dimmed the sharpness of the world, leaving a drowsy impressionist hue to this majestic landscape.  Yet behind the clouds, an astronomical razor blade had cut a perfect circle in the dreamscape.  With edges as sharp as laser cut glass the moon cast its ghostly light.  All of the grey freckles were perfectly seen on the pure white lunar plains.  As I drove the Earth became jealous of the moon and wafted the mounting cotton candy clouds across the celestial ghost. 

Nephrtiti rock

We split the team today, me, Ryan, and his wife Tara going to prospect north of Green River.  Here the two are showing their excitement for finding fossils beneath Nephrtiti Rock.


The rocks we were in were deposited in ocean environments except for a small section.   Luckily in this small section we found a coal that contained a volcanic ash we will attempt to date the Neslen Formation.  Dating of these rocks has never been done so this date is really important.


Eventhough we did not really find fossils, we did find lots of cool homes and trails made by sea creatures such as shrimp.   Here is one example of the ancient homes.


Finally we finished the day with a beautiful sunset.


Personality test

Lindsay and I want to introduce everyone to a game we like to play here in the field.   “What’s that lichen?”

So below is a picture of some lichen that grows on rocks in the Utah desert.  Your job is to leave a comment about what you think it looks like.

Ready, set, go!!!