Saturday, August 12, 2006

August 12, 2006

A lot has happened since I was last able to check in. Apologies to those on the edge of your respective seats….

First, my promise to type about the Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association – then an update.

The YBRA is a fantastic place. Perched on the flank of Mount Maurice, overlooking Red Lodge and the start of the Beartooth Highway (Charles Kurault’s “most beautiful highway in America”), it has been home to countless geologists and students for 70 years. Begun by Princeton and a consortium of other schools, including the University of Cincinnati, geology majors have repeatedly been plunked here in the midst of spectacular scenery (both aesthetic and geologic) for exposure to basic field geology and techniques. Many YBRA students have gone on to become geologists themselves, frequently professors returning to camp to teach the next generation. Thus, a strong sentimental regard exists for the place among generations of geologists (I myself first came here as a graduate student in 1983).

It has long been my desire to prevent my crew and dino school participants from learning much about the faculty cabin that I have worked my way up to over the years. Starting in a student dorm where these folks now stay – I now find myself with an embarrassment of luxuries. It can’t be helped, however, they inevitably learn of my private cabin complete with shower and bathroom facilities and mini-fridge – also the best view in town. The downside is that no matter how long I stay here, I still find myself out of breath after each short climb to the high-rent district. In any case, no one has yet suggested that I am not entitled. After all, it’s hard work out here for a month straight and would be much more fun, I’m sure to attend field school than to lead it – leadership weighing heavily, etc.

No matter. I’m off to Mother’s Day camp tomorrow after today’s paperwork catch-up and an afternoon at the Bearcreek Centennial celebrations. Camping has it’s own pleasure’s, as you’ve already learned. And who wants to be left out of the shenanigans as detailed by Mason?

This week has been an eventful one. Alex and Jen chaperoned our student band of Jason, Tiffany, Kwaame, Davide, Samantha, Jonah, Teresa, and Lamont (apologies for any mis-spellings) out into the wilds of Montana. I honestly believe that most were happy to attend and truly gained from the experience. They certainly interacted well with our co-guests of the Franklin & Marshall alumni college, not to mention my crew (and me, I think!). They’re off home today, however, terrorist threat complications aside.

On the bone front – we collectively discovered and collected (or are now in th eprocess of doing so, a nice humerus and associated epipodial (forearm) element(s), caudal vertebrae, ribs, scapula of a small animal, foot bones, and others. The best find appears to be a jugal (facial) bone from the skull of a young individual. This year may have been the best ever for skull elements, 2002’s small braincase (cranium) notwithstanding. We also found some more skin impressions adding to our total of soft tissue preservation. These clues, along with many others, lead us to suspect a drought initiated mass-mortality, followed by debris flow mobilization of the bone bed (more on this to follow in the scientific literature in a paper by my former student Scott Myers and me).

Wildlife report adds more golden eagles, turkeys, moose, fence lizards, squirrels and chipmunks, marmots, scorpions, yellow jackets (but no more casualties!), mule deer, field mice, grasshoppers, ants, prairie chicken, pelicans(!!!), etc., and your usual lot of domesticated range fare like horses, sheep, cows, bison, llamas, and even some ole’ time cowboys complete with spurs!

In the small world department, Bob Bakker is apparently working the Cloverly exposures near Edgar as someone matching his description accosted Sam and Mac at the local filling station – “Are you with Glenn? Say hi! I’m Bob. He’ll know where to find me!” (I’m paraphrasing here). My gang is so young, however, they don’t recognize any of the old timers (save me) – even iconoclasts like Bob, so we’re only putting 2 and 2 together here (hope they don’t equal anything other than 4!).

On yesterday’s standard hike into Petroglyph Canyon, I was incensed to find that in the intervening days between now and last Saturday, some bozos had carved their names into one of the west wall art panels! The aboriginal artwork had sat largely undisturbed (OK, with a few bullet holes, perhaps) for approximately 800 years until “ANDY06” and RR06” saw fit to deface them. If you [expletive deleted]s are out there reading this, I hope you get your come-uppance in the very near future. I will see to it that the BLM learns of your (illegal, mind you) transgressions ASAP. Sad to say, they remedy for this kind of boorish, unthinking vandalism may be to restrict access to the canyon altogether. We’ll see.

My primary efforts this week have been aimed at organizing the removal of the “Dodson” block. This is a major effort that now seems to be shaping up. I have searched out a local company (wishing to remain anonymous) that is in possession of a front-end loader capable of lifting up to six tons. After stirring up a hornet’s nest (interesting corollary to the MDS camp!) with my request, the suits with law degrees have agreed to let the local guys do the job for me. Funny how lawyers and can make a whole lot of something out of what used to be accomplished on a kind word and a handshake. In any event, the locals have been very cooperative and interested from Day 1 and I very much appreciate everything that they have done and will do for us. Onwards! As we push back the frontiers of science!

Also on the Big Dig Diplodocus, we have been in need of a trailer to haul the block back to the Museum. I drove the entire northern end of the Bighorn basin over several days checking out leads and comparison shopping. The best I saw was in a small private lot in Cowley, WY. Although twice as expensive as anything else (sorry about that, you know who you are), I want to err on the side of safety as this aluminum trailer, while rated for the same gross weight, is itself lighter that steel and will thus handle a heavier payload. It also has brakes on each axle – surely important when being chased by a dinosaur on the interstates.

OK, so the trailer looked great. Getting hold of the owner/seller proved more difficult. He never seemed to be home, so I checked at the local Post Office for his contact info. Got it and called his house – left a message – no reply. Back to the PO only to learn that his mail had not been picked up for several days. Asked his wife’s name and where she worked. Toddled on over to confirm that they were on vacation, BUT returning today. Left a note at their house. Long story short, I’m meeting up with him today to get the trailer and we have a confirmed appointment with the front-end loader for Monday. Wish us luck!

As I’m camping tomorrow, you’ll have no word of our success (or dare I say it, failure) until I hit the road and the motel scene next week with dino in tow. I’ll report back as soon as I can. Mason will remain at Mother’s Day for a little longer to finish up operations there for the season. Hopefully, she will be able to “blog-on” at least once more. For my part, I’ll try to get some more pictures up too.



chicka said...

cool and post on mine its lame but its something

Anonymous said...

I was part of the Franklin and Marshall crew that Glenn mentions in his latest blog. He shows an outstanding number of skills--from paleontologist to marketer to master pursuader (when it comes to finding resources to support the museum's project.) Watching the students at the dinosaur dig was a true joy! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

CMC youth had a great time! We can't wait to work in the paleo lab.