The Denver Post website contains some tragic and spectacular photos of the wildfires blazing in the foothills west of Colorado Springs. Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated as whole neighborhoods are going up in flame, The wildfire doubled in size overnight and is now nearing Garden of the Gods. The park has closed until further notice.
Courtesy Photo by Heather Rousseau ©Denver Museum of Nature and ScienceThe last talk I attended at the Geological Society of America (GSA) convention this past week was one of my favorites. It was an update of the Snowmastodon Project given by Kirk Johnson, chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS). Just one year ago, a construction worker bulldozing for a dam-building project at the Zeigler Reservoir near Snowmass Village in Colorado unearthed a mammoth tusk. Paleontologists and archaeologists from the Denver museum were called in, and excavation of a small portion of the drained reservoir bottom soon got underway. The museum crew worked for just one month, until November 14, 2010, when snowfall halted the project. Then last spring scientists returned to the site and were allowed just 51 days to excavate the fossil deposits before the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District resumed their expansion work on the reservoir.
This time more research experts from the US, Canada, and England joined the dig along with a slew of interns and volunteers, totaling some 233 people working on the project. Over the next seven weeks excavation at the Zeigler Reservoir site progressed at a frantic pace. According to Johnson, anywhere from 15 to 90 diggers were on site each day digging out fossils from the ancient peat and mud deposits, from what once were the shores of a small glacial lake. Despite the short window of opportunity, the sheer number and diversity of fossils from the dig site has been truly remarkable.
Courtesy Dantheman9758 at en.wikipediaOf the nearly 5000 bones and skulls exhumed from the Snowmass fossil site, more than 60 percent were of mastodons (Mammut americanum) representing at least 30 individuals in various stages of life. The other 40 percent of the fauna included mammoths (Mammuthus columbi), camels, horses, giant bison (Bison latifrons) and ground sloths (Megalonyx jeffersonii), otters, muskrats, minks, bats voles, chipmunks, beavers, bats, rabbits, mice, salamanders, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds, and iridescent beetles. No large carnivore remains were found in the deposits, and human remains were absent as well, although archaeological techniques were used during the dig just in case any were uncovered.
Flora from the prehistoric tundra environment included pollen, green leaves and cones, and tree logs, some with their bark still intact.
So far, age estimates for the deposits range between 43, 000 to 130,000 years old although further dating tests should narrow that down.
The talk included several photos of what Johnson termed “Flintstone moments”, i.e. shots of field workers posing with massive mammoth or mastodon femurs or tibia. And Johnson marveled at the incredible state of preservation of many of the fossils displayed. Some of the bones, he said, still emitted a very strong funk.
In terms of sheer number of bones and ecological data, Snowmastodon ranks up there as probably one of the best high altitude Ice Age ecology sites in the world, and certainly the best mastodon fossil site. A team of researchers at the DMNS lab will spend the next year and a half cleaning, cataloging, and analyzing all the fossils found at the Snowmass dig site, water was to be reintroduced into the reservoir on Oct. 13. Despite the loss of the site, the field crew did a tremendous job in the time they were given to excavate the fossil-rich site. And Kirk Johnson didn’t hide his excitement. In closing his talk, he said “It was one hell of a year!”
Courtesy Mark RyanToday marks the birthday of Arthur Lakes (1844-1917), a geologist, artist, and teacher who discovered some of the first dinosaur remains in the western United States. During the spring of 1877, Lakes was out measuring rock formations above Morrison, Colorado when he and companion John Beckwith stumbled upon the huge fossilized bones of dinosaurs. When Lakes sent samples to Yale paleontologist Othniel Marsh, it started the great western bone rush that would soon escalate into the infamous Bone Wars between Marsh and his arch-rival Edward Drinker Cope. While in Marsh's employ, Lakes created several iconic watercolor paintings of the diggings that occurred in Morrison, and later at Como Bluff in Wyoming. You can read more about Lakes in a post I made last year on his birthday.
Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsGone are the heady days of the devil-may-care Raindrop Kid, and the infamous Morning Dew Gang. (Not to be confused with the morning dugong, which I believe is just an early-rising manitee-like creature.)
Yessir, the iron fisted rule of the rain barons is over, and the good people of Colorado can now legally gather rainwater.
Colorado is thirsty country, and they’ve got some serious laws regarding water rights. The folks who own flowing and standing water have wanted to make sure that no one tapped into their supply—precipitation in this case—and so it has been illegal to, say, put a bucket under your gutters and water your garden with it.
A 2007 study, however, showed that something like 97 percent of falling water in the Denver area never made it anywhere near a stream (it all either evaporated, or was quickly absorbed my plants), and so whoever owned water rights to a stream didn’t have much to complain about.
Taking this into consideration alongside the growing population of the region, and shrinking water supplies, state government decided to allow people to gather and use the water falling on their homes—so long as they have a permit. So if you’re dead set on maintaining that outlaw freedom, I suppose you could always just use a rain barrel without a permit. Yee-haw.
There have been several confirmed sightings of an African lion on the loose in the rural areas about 30 miles outside of Colorado Springs. A local "big cat" sanctuary reports all of its lions are present and accounted for. This link can take to you links with photos that people have snapped of the Colorado interloper.
Courtesy pbo31The meteorologists are prepping us Minnesotans for our coldest blast of the winter season in the coming days.
But things are heating up in court for two towns that want to be know as the “Ice Box of the Nation.”
I’ve always thought International Falls as being the place of that distinctive honor as our meteorologists have been hammered us with those words of decades. Officially, International Falls has made that claim since 1948.
Now along comes Fraser, Colorado, which has been using the same slogan since 1956. It slapped a lawsuit on International Falls for using the same terminology. International Falls did the good old American thing when faced with such a situation, found a lawyer and filed a counter-suit against Fraser.
And this isn’t the first time the communities have squared off in court. Fraser settled a suit with International Falls in 1986 by dropping its claim to “Ice Box of the Nation” in exchange for $2,000. But International Falls forgot to renew its trademark privileges in 1996 and Fraser seized that opportunity to get the trademarked slogan.
Now it’s back to court for the communities.
But why do lawyers and judges have to get involved? Can’t science prove this once and for all? Can’t the thermometers of International Falls and Fraser prove without a doubt which site is colder? Whichever one comes up a little bit warmer could be dubbed the “Thermos of the Nation.”