Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Field Work 2011 - Part 1

I have recently returned from 10 weeks of field work at Petrified Forest National Park (plus 2 weeks on the road with family) working with Bill Parker. Internet access was generally problematic at PEFO. Therefore, blog posts became an issue. And hey, it's hard, tiring work being in the field and most things that aren't food, sleep, or beer can get set aside. But I did take lots of notes and pictures, so I'll tell you a bit about my summer field work now:

Week 1:
Bill at the Bowman site, taking field notes.
My first day started a bit slow due to requisite air quality monitoring, but we did find a phytosaur quadrate before lunch. The rest of the week was spent learning the ropes along with two guys from Chaco Culture NHP. Chaco is known for it's archeological resources, but with recent findings in their Cretaceous bedrock, they hired a geocorps participant to do a paleontological inventory. So we had Jim (Chaco Natural Resources) and Phil (GeoCorps) out with us for a few days to learn how to do paleo field work and inventories from the best (Bill got his start doing paleo inventory work for the US Forest Service). We also had the new park superintendent join us one day. It was a pretty full truck. We spent most of our time at a location known as the Bowman Site, stratigraphically situated in the Jim Camp Wash beds of the Sonsela Member of the Chinle Formation, just above the Adamanian-Revueltian transition. We collected several vertebrae, armor plates, and other unarticulated bones. Our lovely fossil preparator, Kenny Bader, was even able to find some tiny freshwater shark teeth in the rock he cleaned from the other bones.

Week 2:
Rachel sitting next to the Yale fish.
Bill and Robin discussing the stratigraphy of the Petrified Forest Member.
My fellow intern and 2009 field season veteran, Rachel Guest, arrived. One day, we headed out to Chinde Mesa in the northern-most part of the park to visit a field crew from Yale. They had just flipped a block of aetosaur armor and found a nicely articulated fish underneath. We arrived just in time for lunch and 40+ mph winds. We also visited a group from Columbia College run by Robin Whatley who were camped out up at Pilot Rock in the northwest corner of the park. They were looking for microvertebrate sites - interested in taphonomy and early mammals. They also needed us to jump start their truck.

Week 3
Excavating a metoposaur clavical found by another ranger at the Dying Grounds.

Pilot Rock and the very colorful Owl Rock Member of the Chinle.
 There is a lot of history present in Petrified Forest. This summer marked the 90th anniversary of when Charles Camp first started working in the park and since we have his field notes, we spent much of the week following in his footsteps. In doing so, we also came across signs of Ned Colbert (old wooden steaks from an erosion study) and the Civilian Conservation Corp of the Great Depression (a partially excavated petrified stump with newspaper from the 1930s). We also ended up at many different locations throughout the park with visiting research groups, including the "Giving Site" with Yale and back up to Pilot Rock with Robin Whatley and Kay Behrensmeyer. We ended the week at a Camp's Smilosuchus adamanensis quarry, exactly 90 years to the day (it happened to be a Friday for him as well).

Standing in Charles Camp's Smilosuchus quarry.

From Charles Camp's notebook, Friday, June 17th, 1921:

"Started work on the bed of bones discovered by Misses Kellogg in the steep bank about 50 feet above the arroyo that runs thru camp. Walked in a short distance over the soft bone and uncovered the back part of the lower jaws of a phytosaur - apparently a very long jawed form. Worked here all day in teeth of a biting wind blowing gravel in our faces. We could only proceed slowly as the bones are very soft and show tendency to crack as soon as exposed to the weather."

more to come...

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