Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Irony raises it froggy head: Late-Jurassic frog fossils from Dinosaur National Monument

An article on the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation frog, Rhadinosteus parvus, from Rainbow Park, Dinosaur National Monument, that was described in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1998*. Pretty cool little fossils! You can also read more about Jurassic frogs (even Rhadinosteus) in the book Jurassic West (pages 135-137).

From the Vernal Express:

"Two slabs of late-Jurassic frog fossils have returned to Dinosaur National Monument after more than a decade at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Penn.

These two rock slabs contain the fossilized skeletons of several small frogs, each about the size of a modern-day tree frog. Well-preserved frog skeletons such as these seldom occur in the fossil record because frogs are small, their skeletons are delicate, and they have cartilage in the skeleton, which does not fossilize well.

Although monument paleontologists have found many individual frog fossil bones, these entire skeletons tell a more complete story.

Amy Henrici, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, was studying the slabs. She determined that they are a previously unknown genus of frog.

The frogs share characteristics with a group of living frogs that burrow in mud, but lack the specific adaptations for burrowing. The fossilized frogs on the slab died when they were metamorphosing from a larval stage and consequently do not show all of their adult skeletal features. Therefore, it is possible that the fossilized specimens died before burrowing adaptation in their skeleton developed......"

Read the entire story here.

Now, I can't help but wonder, hmm....who could it have been that found and prepared those cute little frog fossils? not the same person whose job Dinosaur National Monument is trying to do away with. Surly not. Not the same person the paper reported in its previous edition was being eliminated because they don't need him and his job. And, geee....I wonder who arranged the loan to the Carnegie in the first place, and will curate this fossil and make sure that it is put in the collections and properly cared for??? Hmmmmm.... that would not happen to be the other person who fills the other job Dinosaur National Monument is planning on doing away with (the curator). And then there is this quote:

"Although monument paleontologists have found many individual frog fossil bones..."

Now there is an "s" at the end of the word "paleontologist" which, usually, implies that there is more than one paleontologist at the park. This is funny, since Ms. Risser said the park only had one of those. What did they call those other people in an earlier article....

"Both jobs, a geologist and a curator, have supported the monument's paleontology program for the past seven years. But the most essential part of the program, a full-time paleontologist with a doctorate degree in paleontology, remains intact." [Link]

Oh, thats right, a geologist and a curator. So, is the geologist a paleontologist, a preparator, or a geologist? Because the paper says paleontologist, the other article says geologist.....this is all very confusing. If they are not cutting any paleontology positions at Dinosaur National Park is that the reason we are calling him a geologist, just to make it easier? Or is he actually a geologist? Or is he both? I think his title is just making it easier for the park to say they are not cutting any paleontology positions, when, in reality, he is a paleontologist. Plain and simple.

Or is the park saying that the only paleontologist is the one with the Ph.D., because, come one, we all know you can't be a paleontologist unless you have a Ph.D. The current park paleontologist did not have a Ph.D. for the entire time he has worked at the park (nearly 20 years without a Ph.D while working there, from what I have been told, but then again, I could be wrong, I am sometimes)...what did they call him then? Not that it is his fault. Maybe the park paleontologist has the parks figurative gun to his head and just has to go along with what they say to ensure they do not cut his job as well. I am not trying to be overly hard on him, please do not get me wrong. It was his job on the cutting block last time too. [edit: it was not his job per se, just that they were not going to replace him when he retired....details]. I am sure (just assuming here) he did not write the plan to cut these jobs. Its not his fault.

Interestingly enough, the same issue of the paper happens to have a very good editorial...

"Dear Editor,

Reading the headline, “Monument paleo program remains intact despite cuts,” I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or get mad. I’m leaning toward the latter, and I hope other people who care about Dinosaur National Monument will feel the same, and say so.

The article describes the elimination of two positions from Dinosaur’s paleontology program. Since the entire paleontology staff was three positions, it’s hard to grasp how the program can be considered “intact” after a two-thirds reduction. The superintendent assures us, however, that the full-time Ph.D. paleontologist position is “the most essential part of the program” and that the jobs being cut have merely “supported” it “for the past seven years.” That makes it seem these two jobs are just recent, unimportant additions whose loss is no big deal....

As the quarry exhibit neared completion in the late 1980s, these positions evolved to encompass broader responsibilities. Their incumbents – who do have paleontology degrees just not Ph.D.s, and now more than 20 years’ experience themselves – have been key to expansion of the paleo program outside the quarry (and the program’s ongoing viability even while the quarry is closed).

They have already worked extensively with outside organizations to obtain grants, tools, and interns to help carry out fossil excavation, preparation, and related studies. They have updated and digitized museum records, not just on fossils but on all the monument’s collections. They have recruited, trained, and supervised a dedicated volunteer corps – whose thousands of hours of free service have arguably made Dinosaur’s paleo program extremely cost-effective....

As the headline did, the statement that paleontology “has lost its appeal with the closure of the [quarry] visitor center” left me incredulous. Park management is not to blame for closing a structurally unsound building, but the unavoidable effect is that many prospective visitors – for whom paleontology has not lost its “appeal” – just one of its best exhibits in the whole world – have abandoned Dinosaur. This is what is most alarming about the timing of the present job cuts. Several years ago, a proposal to eliminate two paleontology positions quietly faded away after public protest. Reviving that idea again now sounds suspiciously like, “Maybe we can get away with it this time, while nobody’s looking.”

Linda West

Read her entire letter here.

* Henrici, Amy C. 1998. A new pipoid anuran from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 18(2):321–332.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Diceratops becomes Diceratus

In the newest issue of the Journal of Paleontology* Octavio Mateus clears up the preoccupation of the ceratopsians names Diceratops (Lull, 1905; right) and Microceratops (Bohlin, 1953).

the ceratopsian (Lull, 1905) is preoccupied by the Hymenoptera insects (one of the larger orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasp, bees and ants; Foerster, 1868). He changes the genus of the ceratopsian Diceratops to Diceratus (Greek di  ‘‘two,’’ Greek ceratos ‘‘horned’’).

Microceratops the ceratopsian (Bohlin, 1953) is the junior homonym of the ichneumon wasp from Madagascar (Seyrig, 1952). This genus has been renamed Microceratus (Greek micro  ‘‘small,’’ Greek ceratos ‘‘horned’’).

Be sure to check out Octavio's entire paper!

* Mateus, Octavio. 2008. Two ornithischian dinosaurs renamed: Microceratops Bohlin 1953 and Diceratops Lull 1905. Journal of Paleontology 82(2): 423.


Bohlin, B. 1953. Fossil reptiles from Mongolia and Kansu. In Sino-Swedish Expedition Publications, 37:1–113.

Foerster, A. 1868. Synopsis der Familien und Gattungen der Ichneumonen. Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereins der Preussischen Rheinlande und Westfalens, 25:135–221.

Lull, R. 1905. Restoration of the horned dinosaur Diceratops. American Journal of Science, 20:420–422.

Seyrig, A. 1952. Les Ichneumonides de Madagascar. IV Ichneumonidae Cryptinae. Me´moires de l’Acade´mie Malgache, 19:1–213.

Shame on you Mr. Silberling, shame on you!

The other day I wrote that I probably did not need to comment on Norman Silberling's letter. I was wrong. His words are poison, derogatory to younger scientist, and entirely uncalled for. So, Mr. Silberling, in response to your words:

You, Mr. Silberling, have done more to hurt the process of getting down to the bottom of what has really happened than you have helped. You should be ashamed of yourself for degrading younger members of our profession because they may not yet be as gainfully employed as you are! I am offended by your remarks and I think you own a public apology to all the young professionals in both geology and paleontology for your cruel words! I am sure you probably think I am just another young "doe" with a grudge against Dr. Lucas and company. You would be wrong and quick to notice that I have no personal interest invested in this case, Dr. Lucas, his associates on the New Mexico side, or Mr. Martz, Mr. Parker, or their associates. I am just another young paleontologist who is quickly becoming jaded from attitudes like yours towards the younger crowd.

I only want what is right. To quote Dr. Jason Anderson, who has said it best, I want "an open, transparent, and impartial process to review the allegations." I have never pointed the finger in either direction and declared anyone's innocence or guilt. I just want to see the truth come out and to make sure that this sort of issue would 1) never be an issue again and 2) that a young professional would never have to watch their back in fear of retaliation for speaking up or for fear of loosing their research! I do not believe that is too much to ask.

If there is not another review done that is impartial, I for one an not going to be surprised when, come March 3, we find out that the review panel has exonerated Dr. Lucas of all wrong doing. Whether it is true or not. Mr. Silberling already exonerated him in his letter. It would not be a huge surprise when this is the official result.

If you like the shirts, you can find them here. All shirts are sold at cost, and I am not making a single dime off of them. Only trying to make a point.

Don't forget to watch "The Four-Winged Dinosaur" tonight on NOVA and Bucky Gates on the O'Reilly Factor tonight at 6pm on Fox News (Did dinosaurs die because of Global Warming?)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Four-Winged Dinosaur

Tomorrow evening (at least here, check your local listings), NOVA debuts a new show all about Microraptor and its ability to use its wings. I am looking forward to this show! Last week they had a great episode about Ape communication (Ape Genius) that just blew me away. If you get a chance, be sure to check out that episode as well.

From the NOVA press release:
"In 2002, the discovery of a beautiful and bizarre fossil astonished scientists and reignited the debate over the origin of flight. With four wings and superbly preserved feathers, the creature was like nothing paleontologists had ever seen before. Now, NOVA travels to the Chinese stone quarry where the fossil was discovered—a famed dinosaur treasure-trove—and teams up with the world’s leading figures in paleontology, biomechanics, aerodynamics, animation, and scientific reconstruction to perform an unorthodox experiment: a wind tunnel flight test of a scientific replica of the ancient oddity. Find out whether this 130 million-year-old relic takes flight on The Four-Winged Dinosaur, premiering Tuesday, February 26 (tomorrow) at 8pm ET/PT on PBS (check local listings)."

Here is a short clip you can watch for a "Behind the Scenes" glimpse. Looks like they made some pretty cool puppets!

"How many scientists does it take to make a flying dinosaur? Go behind the scenes of NOVA's "The Four-Winged Dinosaur" and see how scientific reconstructors created a model Microraptor--an exotic feathered dinosaur."

Also keep an eye out for "Bone Diggers" on Tuesday, March 25 (8pm). I have not yet seen this episode, but it appears that it is all about Australian cave paleontology! "NOVA takes viewers to the stark Australian outback in search of the elusive bones of one of the world's most bizarre prehistoric creatures—a giant predatory marsupial called Thylacoleo. Australia's leading paleontologists endure extreme weather, treacherous drops into a deep cavern, and the threat of fossil poachers as they launch a daring expedition to find the rare megabeast." Giant predatory marsupials! Count me in!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Burpee Museum's 10th annual PaleoFest

And now for some happy, more light hearted news:

If you are not planning to already, and you are in the area, you should come to the 10th annual PaleoFest at the Burpee Museum of Natural History this coming weekend (March 1st and 2nd) in Rockford, Illinois!

The exciting talks include this cute guy above, Homer, from the first ever described
Triceratops bonebed (far more interesting and cuter than the museums other attraction, Jane)! Found in 2005, Homer and two others are preserved at this site and are proving to be an interesting taphonomic puzzle. This is the subject of Josh Matthews masters thesis and he will be discussing it on Sunday at 5:30. Homers skull will be revealed to the world Saturday night (6-8 pm) at the CSI Dinner and Lecture by Dr. Jim Kirkland.

Another interesting talk will be given by this cute guy to your right (the far right, not the one in green, the one in the black vest). Thats right, none other than my wonderful fiancé, Dr. John Foster, will be speaking on the Mygatt-Moore Bonebed Sunday at 11:30 am. Mygatt-Moore is the Morrison Formation (Jurassic aged) quarry I spent all summer working this past summer in Rabbit Valley of western Colorado. This site was discovered in 1981 and has been worked every summer since 1984. It has yielded the first Jurassic ankylosaurian dinosaur found in North America, Mymoorapelta. Other dinosaurs known from the site include Allosaurus, Camarasaurus, Apatosaurus, and Diplodocus. John will be talking about the taphonomy of the site, a project we started working on this past summer and preliminarily reported on at GSA this past year. I will leave the details to John, so I hope you can come and hear his talk (be sure to find me and say hello also!)!

Other talks include:

Saturday, 10:00 am • Theropods from Southern China
Phillip Currie PhD., University of Alberta

Saturday, 11:30 am • Fossil Plants and Spores of the Dinosaur Park Formation
Eva Koppelhus, PhD., University of Alberta

Saturday, 1:00 pm • Building a BIGGER Bronto
Matthew Bonnan, PhD., Western Illinios University

Saturday, 2:30 pm • Raptors: Fangs, Feathers and Footprints
Peter Makovicky, PhD., Field Museum - Chicago

Saturday, 4:00 pm • The Burgess Shale Revisited
Jean-Bernard Caron, PhD., Royal Ontario Museum

Sunday, 10:00 am • Assessing Dinosaur Diversity
John "Jack" Horner. PhD., Museum of the Rockies

Sunday, 11:30 am • The Mygatt-Moore Quarry, a bonebed from western Colorado
John Foster, PhD., Museum of Western Colorado

Sunday, 1:00 pm • Reptiles and Amphibians from a unique early Permian site
Robert Reisz, Ph.D. University of Toronto

Sunday, 2:30 pm • Giant Carchaodontosaurids of Argentina
Phillip Currie, PhD., University of Alberta

Sunday, 4:00 pm • Dragons of the Air
Chris Bennett, PhD., Fort Hayes State University

Sunday, 5:30 pm • Homer and the Gang
Josh Matthews, Northern Illinois University
Sunday, 5:30 pm • Burpee's Summer Vacation
Scott Williams , Burpee Museum Collections/Exhibits Manager

Please visit the PaleoFest website for all of the details! Hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

the latest in the world of Paleo Controversey

Rather than making two separate post, I'll just include both here. Aetogate and DINO are in the news again today. Its sad when there are two controversies taking place at the same time. Sometimes the results and responses (or lack there of!) are even more depressing.

The Albuquerque Journal reports "Ethics Panelist Calls Museum Flap Baseless" (you have to watch a short commercial to read the article) after the State Cultural Affairs chief Stuart Ashman called for a review of the charges brought against Lucas and company. However, the invited two "outside guest experts" to help with the new inquiry were not impartial. Norman Silberling and New Mexico geologist Orin Anderson were asked to aid in the inquiry. However, "A scholarly library index lists Anderson and Lucas as coauthors of 65 research papers. Silberling and Lucas coauthored five papers. Lucas has dedicated books to both Silberling and Anderson, and, in his Feb. 18 letter (open access .PDF), Silberling described himself as "a professional friend and admirer of Lucas." I have to ask, why did Siberling write a letter three days before the review panel's meeting to state officials declaring Lucas' innocence when he was asked to help with the review? Does that not show his partiality?? Not to mention that the entire tone of his letter is rude, accusatory, and derogatory to young paleontologist and very unprofessional*. I only hope that Stuart Ashman and other state officials will realize the blunder that including these two partial parties has caused and will conduct a open, and impartial review on the matter.

"It’s difficult to believe that Parker and/or Martz or their associates didn’t prime Naish to initiate his accusatory blog site knowing that all sorts of slanderous, unsubstantiated bile would result. From this, it’s apparent that an interconnected group of mainly young, un or under -employed workers (including both Parker and Martz) has for whatever reasons a strong grudge against Lucas and the NMMNH&S. But that’s just the way it is."

My thoughts on the comment in bold above probably does not need words.

**Update** Check out the other latest responses to this story:
Aetogate, continued: Norman Silberling shoots his mouth off
Political cartoon by John Trever for
from the Albuquerque Journal (not sure how I missed this):
Adventures in Ethics and Science -How committed are paleontologists to objectivity (in questions of ethical conduct)?
Tetrapod Zoology - an interesting post on traumatic anal intercourse with a pig (just a curious post, it has nothing to do with Aetogate, he assures me).


David Nimkin, The Southwest Director for the National Parks Connservation Association seems to have joined the "pro-job-cuts" bandwagon for DINO. Kurt Repanshek for National Parks Traveler recently contacted the NPCA for a comment regarding these changes in the park and was startled at what he was hearing from Nimkin: “I really am of the opinion that they’re doing a fine job in the face of real significant financial constraints," he said. "I’ve gotten messages saying she (Superintendent Risser) ought to be fired, change the leadership there. On the contrary, I really want to complement their staff for really finding ways to serve all the needs they have, and that’s not always a popular thing.” I know that I am not personally calling for Ms. Risser to be fired or done away with. Quite the contrary. I know these problem go higher than her, reaching into the regional directors office, as the CORE operations changes are is his mission. I only ask her to stand up and do what is right and say 'no' to these changes. I also ask for the park service director to investigate these changes and, if needed, find the additional funds to keep these jobs in place. They are jobs that are very needed.

Mr. Repanshek then contacted park paleontologist Dan Chure for his opinion, which, if you have been keeping up with this story, is not surprising. Dan supports the changes. Odd, since he did not support them in 2002/3. In the end it appears the Mr. Repanshek has been swayed to their side: "Is this a perfect solution? Probably not in the eyes of those who believe the Park Service has a responsibility to conduct a robust, in-house science mission. But when it comes to today's fiscal realities, this just might be the best the agency can do."

Read the entire article here.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Geotimes: Paleontology in the parks

Take a look at this Geotimes article I found today (excerpts below):

".....park administrators announced that they would be cutting one preparator position, now held by paleontologist Scott Madsen, over the next year. Additionally, they changed the role of the chief paleontology position, now held by Dan Chure, from a research-oriented position to more of a management position. At such time as Chure decides to leave, his position will become a “physical resources program specialist” — a broader position Dinosaur will fill with a vertebrate paleontologist. About a year before, another paleontological preparator, Ann Elder, became a curator for all collections at Dinosaur. Bottom line: where there once were three paleontology positions, there soon will be only one."

“In the end, there won’t be anyone who is focusing on the main resource for which the park was established,” Chure says. When... announced the new management plan to the park’s staff, Chure recalls, someone asked him directly whether these changes meant there would no longer be a paleontological program at the park. “And his direct answer was, ‘That’s right. There won’t be.’”......

"David Shaver, chief of the Geologic Resources Division for the National Park Service, says that since 1996, when his division was created, the Service has been pushing to bring more science into decision making. The news coming out of Dinosaur is troubling, he says. “We ought to be moving toward more emphasis on science in resource management and not less. If we have to cut, we shouldn’t cut from science.”

But, Shaver says, finding adequate financial resources is a serious challenge. All involved agree on the multi-faceted role paleontologists ought to play in the Park Service in facilitating scientific research, but opinions differ on how best to accomplish that goal on a limited budget. If nothing else, he says, the situation at Dinosaur “has raised the issue with upper management of the Park Service’s role related to research.” Shaver is hopeful that discussions currently underway will effect positive change."..........

Oddly enough this article was written in 2003! From the wording you would think it could have been written this week! However, this article was written in response to the last time park management tried to do away with the paleontology positions. All of it other than the bolded comment from Dan Chure (see above), who currently supports the changes. It is not his job on the line either.

Battle of the letters to the editor

Aetogate is back in the news. Letters to the editor are flying in both directions. Laurence H. Lattman (on the New Mexico Museum Board's executive committee) and Robert Sullivan (friend of Lucas, curator in PA State Museum, and reviewer on the paper in question) say Lucas is wrongly accused, Kevin Padian points out the odd point of view that Sullivan takes in his letter, and Taylor points out "If Lattman wants to persuade anyone, he will have to show that he is correct in the face of all the evidence, not just assert it." Check them out here on Mike Taylors page.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Clinton, McCain, Obama Answer Questions on National Parks

Where do the top three presidential candidates stand on the National Park Centennial Challenge? If omission is any indication, only one supports it.

Only Republican John McCain mentioned the challenge by name in answer to a question the National Parks Conservation Association posed to the candidates on park funding. The two Democrats in the contest, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, replied that they believe the National Park Service needs better funding, but didn't specifically refer to the Centennial Challenge as a way to get there.

Should we be surprised or disappointed? Probably not. After all, would you really expect two Democrats to endorse a Republican initiative during the heat of a presidential campaign? But in answering three questions posed by NPCA, the candidates at least cracked the door a bit on their thoughts about the national park system.

Read their answers...


As I have been keeping tabs on the Dinosaur National Monument job cuts I was reminded that this is not the first time paleontology jobs have been on the DINO cutting block. The main difference was in 2002 it was Dr. Dan Chure's job that was to be cut [edit: after he retired, the job would not be replaced from what I am told]. Dr. Chure currently supports the paleontology job cuts at DINO, which is odd, since it was his job [in general, the person who would hypothetically follow him] on the line last time. Reason would say he would stand up for these jobs. But, I guess reason is out the window here. Feel free to read this article posted by the folks over at PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) detailing the 2002 proposed cuts (Google is a beautiful thing, when it comes to looking for old information):

DINOSAUR MONUMENT ELIMINATES FOSSIL PROGRAM — Scientists Lambast Bonehead Move by New Superintendent

Hopefully PEER will also help to end this most recent try to outsource paleontology at DINO.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Switching Gears w/ Junior

I just wanted to let everyone know that John is going to have his own radio show on the local public radio station in Grand Junction! His first show is tonight (Wednesday night, February 20) at 9-12pm Mountain time. The show is called 'Switching Gears w/ Junior'
You can check it out (streaming) on their website at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How can I stand up to misbehavior in my field?

This is a serious question that is addressed over on the Adventures in Ethics and Science blog. "what's a junior person to do about the misconduct of senior people in the field when the other senior people seem more inclined to circle the wagons than to do anything about the people who are misbehaving?" Go take a look....

2 Dinosaur National Monument paleo jobs go extinct

Finally, a word from the Dinosaur National Monument park superintendent, Mary Risser. I do not agree with everything she has to say, but read it for yourself. If you are unfamiliar with this controversy please read my other blog postings on this subject. If you disagree or agree with Ms. Risser, write her (and the Director) and say so*! She thinks she is only hearing a small portion of the people who are opposed to the cutbacks (see her remark below in bold) - a narrow vision by outsiders. She should remember that outsiders are the visitors to her park and what we have to say does matter and she should listen to us!!

I am sorry if she thinks Dinosaur National Monument is not all about paleontology, but I bet if you ask any person who comes to the park about what they are there to see 9 or every 10 would say something about seeing fossils/dinosaurs!

From the Uintah Basin Standard:

Dinosaur National Monument administrators decided to eliminate two key positions last week.

Both jobs, a geologist and a curator, have supported the monument's paleontology program for the past seven years. But the most essential part of the program, a full-time paleontologist with a doctorate degree in paleontology, remains intact.

We're not getting rid of the paleontologist and we're not getting rid of the paleontology program, Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Mary Risser said in a phone interview last week.

The cuts are another step toward curtailing labor costs at the monument, according to Risser.

This is the first time we've reached into [the paleontology] work unit to make changes, she said.

Risser explained one of her first actions to cut workforce costs was to eliminate the superintendent's secretary and the half-time concessions positions, taking those responsibilities on herself.

And over the past four years, the pattern has continued.

A full-time chief ranger primarily responsible for law enforcement and a full-time administrative officer responsible for budgets, purchasing, procurement, personnel, information technology and other areas were combined into one position.

The chief of research and resource management was combined with the head of the cultural resource program. The human resources specialist and purchasing agent were combined into a single administrative technician. And the chief maintenance officer was asked to do the job of a foreman, whose position was eliminated.

Since 2004 the practice of combining job duties has allowed the monument to cut more than $700,000.

In general, when the National Parks Service cuts a position, the individual filling the position is reassigned within the parks system. Risser said the public scrutiny over cuts in the paleontology program is due to a narrow vision of the monument by outsiders.

We have a bigger responsibility than just paleontology, she explained.

She pointed out that Dinosaur National Monument oversees more than 210,000 acres of public land and is responsible for fire response on a half million more acres outside the monument largely in the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management.

When the monument was created in 1915, it included just 80,000 acres.

In addition, the monument oversees 90 miles of river along the Green and Yampa rivers, a resource that Risser said monument staff is taking a closer look at.

And the monument is also home to some 280 bird species, 66 mammal species, 33 fish species, six amphibian species and 18 reptile species each requiring management, with some appearing on endangered species lists.

Several cultural resources from signs of early pioneers, ranchers and trappers to prehistoric archeological finds also require management.

And on top of that, the monument's primary attraction, paleontology, has lost its appeal with the closure of the visitor center and quarry face in 2006 due to structural problems.

It's a group of very passionate people, Risser said of the monument staff. We have a bigger responsibility than just paleontology.

She added that there have been several innovative solutions to keep programs running on lower budgets. Rather than performing its own research, the monument takes advantage of third parties, such as universities. And a wildlife biologist leveraged $20,000 from fee collections into a big horn sheep study costing more than $100,000.

Risser said the need to reduce payroll costs is due to what she called the eroding power of the budget.

Several factors play into the monuments ability to cover its costs on its $3 million budget. The monument has seen the same increases in costs of materials for maintenance and construction as other private-sector operations.

But one of the bigger factors, Risser said, is a 20-year-old change in the federal retirement system. She explained that changes under the Reagan administration have resulted in a more attractive retirement package, but at a budgetary cost to the monument.

And the monument has also seen its share of unfunded mandates each taking its bite out of a already stretched budget.

Risser noted that the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and BLM are each seeing similar strain on their budgets.

Everyone is experiencing budget cuts. We're actually doing better than our sister agencies, she said.

Risser added that this year's budget had called for a base increase and the monument had hoped to increase the number of field positions. Neither of those things are likely to happen though.

But there is good news. Risser said the monument is reaching the final stages of the National Environmental Policy Act procedures before work begins to reopen the quarry and visitor center. She said the preferred alternative is to rehabilitate the quarry face and move visitor areas to more stable soils.

*Ms. Mary Risser, Superintendent
Dinosaur National Monument
4545 Highway 40
Dinosaur, CO 81610
Phone: 970-374-3001
Fax: 970-374-3003

Mr. Mike Snyder
Intermountain Regional Director
National Park Service
P.O. Box 25287
Lakewood, CO 80225-0287
Phone: 303-969-2503
Fax: 303-969-2785

Ms. Mary A. Bomar
National Park Service
1849 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20240
Phone: 202-208-4621
Phone: 202-208-6843

Mr. Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20240
Phone: 202-208-3100

My ring!!

John came for a visit this past weekend and gave me a big surprise - my engagement ring! I hate to brag, but I wanted to share it with everyone. Its beautiful! He did a great job of picking it out! The stone is a Montana Sapphire, and could not be more perfect in color! I love it (and him)!!! I just wanted to share some of the happy news!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on America's National Parks?

I do not usually dabble in politics, but I found this article from National Park Traveler interesting enough that I wanted to share it here with those of you who might be interested. I know our country already has a pretty full plate of issues that need dealt with, but if we do not start investing more in our National Parks, we may eventually not have anything left! Feel free to read the entire article here. Below is an excerpt.

Where do America's national parks figure in the minds of the presidential candidates? It's a good question, but one that so far hasn't elicited much more than a sound bite.

Should we be surprised? Probably not. In the overall mix of domestic and global issues -- energy independence, climate change, war and peace, the economy, health and welfare, genocide, constitutional rights -- the national parks are easily overlooked.....

.....So I turned to the League of Conservation Voters, which has a website dedicated to where the various candidates stand on environmental issues. It's somewhat illuminating in general, but not terribly specific on national park issues.

In fact, the league asked only one specific question regarding the parks, and it was a softball:

From Acadia to Yosemite, America's 390 national parks protect and interpret some of the nation's most treasured natural and cultural resources. Unfortunately, the National Park System has an annual operating deficit in excess of $800 million, a land acquisition shortfall of $1.9 billion, and a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog. The National Park Service will celebrate its centennial in 2016, less than ten years from now, and the American people are united around the idea of fully addressing the needs of the National Park System in time to celebrate the Centennial.

Do you support reinvesting in our national parks through a sustained effort over the next ten years to establish reliable sources of funding and eliminate the National Park Service funding shortfall?

And here's how they responded:

Senator Clinton: "Our National Parks are an incredible treasure, visited by millions every year. I have supported increased funding for our National Parks in the Senate and will continue to do so as President. As First Lady, I served as Honorary Chair of Save America’s Treasures, which worked to preserve America’s historic sites in partnership with the National Park Service."

Senator Obama: "Yes."

Senator McCain: "Yes. I have established a strong and consistent record in the senate for fully funding our national parks. I was the lead sponsor for the National Parks Centennial Act, which would have eliminated the annual operating deficit for the parks. Recently, the Administration, House and Senate passed budget proposing to increase park budgets by $200 million each year to address operating deficits. I support these objectives, but fully protecting, restoring and enjoying our national parks requires more than just additional funding. We need to give the park service the guiding policies that will ensure their protection and the enjoyment of the visiting public. As president, I will continue to champion laws and initiatives that improve air quality, reduce climate change impacts, enhance wildlife populations, and improve education in the parks. By the park system's centennial, and as I expect to be completing my second term as president, we will have a park system that showcases the best educational, environmental and civic engagement programs in the world. We should expect and accept nothing less for our national parks."

Welcome Beelzebufo!

Now this is a pretty cool find! Beelzebufo - the devil frog!

From the NSF Press release (08-025):

Scientists Discover "Giant Fossil Frog from Hell"

Evidence Suggests Late Cretaceous Period South America-Madagascar Link

February 18, 2008

A team of researchers, led by Stony Brook University paleontologist David Krause, has discovered the remains in Madagascar of what may be the largest frog ever to exist.

The 16-inch, 10-pound ancient frog, scientifically named Beelzebufo, or devil frog, links a group of frogs that lived 65 to 70 million years ago with frogs living today in South America.

Discovery of the voracious predatory fossil frog - reported on-line this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) - is significant in that it may provide direct evidence of a one-time land connection between Madagascar, the largest island off Africa's southeast coast, and South America.

To identify Beelzebufo and determine its relationship to other frogs, Krause collaborated with fossil frog experts Susan Evans, lead author of the PNAS article, and Marc Jones of the University College London. The authors concluded that the new frog represents the first known occurrence of a fossil group in Madagascar with living representatives in South America.

"Beelzebufo appears to be a very close relative of a group of South American frogs known as ‘ceratophyrines,' or ‘pac-man' frogs, because of their immense mouths," said Krause, whose research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The ceratophryines are known to camouflage themselves in their surroundings, then ambush predators.

"The finding presents a real puzzle biogeographically, particularly because of the poor fossil record of frogs on southern continents," said Krause. "We're asking ourselves, ‘What's a ‘South American' frog doing half-way around the world, in Madagascar?'"

He said that because frogs "are not adept at dispersal across marine barriers, and since the few fossil frogs that are known from the Late Cretaceous in Africa are unrelated to Beelzebufo, one possibility is that there was a land connection between South America and Madagascar during that period."

Some geoscientists have suggested a lingering physical link between South America and Madagascar during the Late Cretaceous Period--a link involving Antarctica. Antarctica in the Late Cretaceous was much warmer than it is today.

"The occurrence of this frog in Madagascar and its relatives' existence in South America provides strong evidence that the supercontinent Gondwana 'disassembled' during the latest part of the Cretaceous," said Richard Lane, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.

Krause and colleagues have hypothesized this connection based on previous discoveries of sauropod and theropod dinosaurs, crocodiles and mammals in Madagascar that were very closely related to forms in South America.

Beelzebufo is one of the largest frogs on record and was perhaps the largest frog ever to exist. The size and robustness of its bones and its relatedness to the rotund South American forms indicates it was also probably the heaviest frog to exist.

The size, girth, appearance, and predatory nature of the frog prompted its discoverers to call it the "armored frog from hell." They derived the genus name from the Greek word for devil (Beelzebub) and the Latin word for toad (bufo). The species name, ampinga, means "shield."

The largest living frog today is the goliath frog of West Africa, which attains lengths of 12.5 inches and weights of 7.2 pounds. The largest frog alive on Madagascar today, at just over four inches long, "would have been a nice hors d'oeuvre for Beelzebufo," Krause said.

Since the discovery of the first bones found in northwestern Madagascar in 1993, Krause and his team have gathered some 75 fossil fragments of Beelzebufo. Through the accumulation of these fossils, the team has been able to reconstruct the frog's skeleton, including nearly the entire skull.

Not only was the frog huge, it was powerful in design, had a protective shield, an extremely wide mouth and powerful jaws. These features made Beelzebufo capable of killing lizards and other small vertebrates, perhaps even hatchling dinosaurs.

The research was also funded by the National Geographic Society.


CNN SciTech Blog Link

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Favors Law Enforcement, Maintenance, Interpretation Over Paleontology

Check out this great article by Kurt Repanshek over on National Parks Traveler; it makes many VERY good points regarding the DINO issues (see my other blog post below).

"Independent researchers long have worked in the park system, and many in collaboration with Park Service scientists. Nevertheless, when a park dismantles its science staff and outsources its curatorial responsibilities, isn't it cutting at the core of its mission?"

Be sure to check out Kurt's first article also, Dinosaur National Monument Cutting Paleontology Staff.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Paleo Valentines for your Valentine

Happy Valentines day to you all!

My sister actually found these! Thanks!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Is Dinosaur National Monument's staff going the way of its namesakes?

By Brandon Loomis
The Salt Lake Tribune

Dinosaur National Monument still has the namesake fossils, but the park in Utah and Colorado is cutting its caretaking staff to the bone.

Budget cuts led the park to announce last week that it will shave two of three paleontologists from the rolls. It's the latest blow to a program that already had to close its most popular attraction, an embankment of exposed dinosaur fossils inside a condemned building.

Budgetary times are tough, and visitation is down 30 percent. Some paleontologists worry that the cuts will erode a core mission and possibly endanger some of the world's most famous bones.
"They're cutting out the heart of the paleo program," said Margaret Imhof, a private contracting paleontologist in Vernal........

Read entire article (link)

Velafrons coahuilensis

New dinosaur from Mexico
offers insights into ancient life on West America

SALT LAKE CITY — A new species of dinosaur unearthed in Mexico is giving scientists fresh insights into the ancient history of western North America, according to an international research team led by scientists from the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

“To date, the dinosaur record from Mexico has been sparse,” said Terry Gates, a paleontologist with the Utah Museum of Natural History, Utah’s designated natural history museum.

The new creature — aptly dubbed Velafrons coahuilensis — was a massive plant-eater belonging to a group of duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs. Velafrons is a combination of Latin and Spanish meaning “sailed forehead,” in reference to the large sail-like crest that grew atop the dinosaur’s head. The second part of the name honors the state of Coahuila in north-central Mexico, where the specimen was found.

Utah Museum of Natural History paleontologists teamed up with researchers from the Utah Geological Survey; Coordinacion de Paleontologia, Secretaria de Educacion y Cultura de Coahuila the Museo del Desierto, in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico; and the Royal Tyrrell Museum, in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, to excavate and study the 72-million-year-old specimen. The species was announced in the December edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Mexico’s arid climate poses challenges for dinosaur hunters, Gates explained. With little rainfall, there is minimal erosion, which means fewer fossils ever see daylight. Yet the fossils emerging from Coahuila turn out to be a vital part of the North American story for the latter part of the Age of Dinosaurs. .....

Read more here (Press Release)
More pictures here

The Crew:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Additional Facts about the changes at Dinosaur National Monument

From: Dale Gray
Date: Feb 10, 2008 11:02 PM
Subject: Additional Facts about the changes at Dinosaur National Monument

Here are some accomplishments of the two positions being eliminated at Dinosaur NM since the 2002 attempt to eliminate their positions. These are actions related to partnerships, outside funding, researchers, etc. This was done in conjunction with performing normally assigned responsibilities.

  • Found external funding sources for 7 GIP interns.
  • Hired 4 seasonal employes through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) program.
  • Recruited numerous volunteers that have contributed 10,733 hours of work.
  • Brought on one international preparation intern, for 5 months, with funding from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
  • Brought in outside professionals to do work at Dinosaur National Monument. These have been Doug Sprinkle (Utah Geologic Survey), Jim Kirkland (Utah Geologic Survey), and Greg Ludvigson (Iowa Geological Survey). (Attempts to bring in two other researchers were stopped by management)
  • Arranged for State Radiological experts to evaluate radiation and radon issues with specimen storage.
  • Received a $7,000 grant from the Colorado Plateau - Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit for dating the Cedar Mountain Formation using pollen.
  • Obtained hundreds of dollars worth of equipment from outside organizations and private individuals.
  • Obtained thousands of dollars worth of in-kind work from the Utah Geological Survey and Iowa Geological Survey.
  • Actively participated in the design of the proposed Curatorial Facility.


  • Secured over $900,000 in Park Service funds for the all collections of Dinosaur NM. not just Paleo. Some of the funds are for future needs of the proposed Curatorial Facility.
  • Actively participated in the design of the proposed Curatorial Facility.
  • Utilized contract help to work on the curation backlog.
If Dinosaur NM. is looking for someone to attract funding, researchers, partnerships, contracts, volunteers and interns to meet the needs of changing program projects, these people have demonstrated their interest, skills and abilities to do that. What Dinosaur should do is get out of the way and let them continue getting it done.

Dale Gray
President, Uinta Basin Chapter UFOP
435 789 5585

Friday, February 8, 2008

Help save Paleontology at Dinosaur National Monument!!

The following is a letter I have received from my friend Margaret Imhof (shared with her permission). Even the thought of "streamlining" the parks "geology, paleontology, and museum programs" make me sick. It is just another example of needless outsourcing to cut corners. Please read the letter below, and if you feel inspired, stand up and contact the people listed and remind them that Dinosaur National Monument (DINO) is 1) a public park, that your tax dollars fund and 2) that the main mission of Dinosaur National Monument is PALEONTOLOGY, which is what they want to cut back (they should be building up or at least stabilizing the program).

My other beefs with DINO's current (and past) management (along with the Intermountain Region office): First they let their main attraction, the visitors center, degrade to such a state that it had to be condemned(!), and now they want to cut out the very heart of the park. This is a park that is there due to its spectacular geology and paleontological resources. It should be the highlight of the park, not its hidden secret side.

On October 4, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation (No. 1313) that official created Dinosaur National Monument. This is one of only 14 parks that have fossils specifically mentioned in their enacting legislation (and those parks are doing far better than paleo parks in the Intermountain Region)! It states:

"Whereas, in section twenty-six, township four south, range twenty-three east of the Salt Lake meridian, Utah, there is located an extraordinary deposit of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains of the Jurassic* period, which are of great scientific interest and value, and it appears that the public interest would be promoted by reserving these deposits as a National Monument, together with as much land as may be needed for the protection thereof.....

Warning is hereby expressly given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, excavate, injure or destroy any of the fossil remains contained within the deposits hereby reserved and declared to be a National Monument or to locate or settle upon any of the lands reserved and made a part of this monument by this proclamation...." Text
from pages 32-33 can be found here

(*Jurassic was spelled Juratrias in the report; **southeast was written woutheast in the report)

So, stand up for Paleo and let them know that this is not right and we will not stand by and let them make these horrible choices that impact not only the park personnel mentioned, but the very heart and soul of the paleontology program at DINO.

ReBecca (once again, these are MY opinions, an only mine. Sorry if you don't like them!)

Hello fellow paleontologists,

Once again, the management at DINO are angling to cut the heart out of the paleo program, this time by eliminating Scott Madsen's (preparator/lab manager) and Ann Elder's (collection management) positions. This issue transcends the people whose jobs are currently at
stake: this is about maintaining those positions for future generations of qualified personnel to take over.

In the current announcement (see below, as posted on the list last night), the Park Superintendent cites a recent review of the core operations of the park as justification to "streamline the geology, paleontology, and museum programs to eliminate duplicate or overlapping responsibilities." In other words, to _cut_ positions!

Dr. Dan Chure is a qualified researcher but lacks the expertise of a preparator or collections manager; there is clearly no overlap of skills! It takes a team of multiple skills to make any paleo program work. The core review process is designed to identify the primary focus/mission of the park and the positions mandatory to support that mission. Not surprisingly, for Dinosaur National Monument, _paleontology_ was indentified as the core mission and should therefore
bolster the entire paleo program, not eliminate its heart!

The announcement also states "work will be accomplished through avenues other than full-time permanent National Park Service positions, such as partnerships with universities and museums, contractors, volunteers, etc." In other words, management plans on "outsourcing" research, preparation, and collections management, a plan they have been increasingly implementing since 2002 (the last attempt at cutting the entire program). Unfortunately, DINO is not alone in having multiple examples of the potential misfalls from this approach.

DINO has maintained an active, vibrant field and preparation program for decades incorporating, literally, years worth of work by volunteers and interns. In the process, this program has served to education tens of thousands of park visitors about what paleontology is all about as well as produce extremely significant scientific discoveries. Contributions of this nature happen when people dedicated to those missions work _at_ the park. That dynamic is what attracts volunteers and others.

Pressure from paleontologists around the world is a major reason why the paleo program at DINO continued since 2002. If the program is to continue, we need to have that same level of pressure, particularly on the higher levels of government.

I am sure this message will generate discussion among the paleo community. I see this process as one of our profession's strengths. As in other recent discussions on this list, I encourage you to come to your own conclusions about the role and action to take. If you would like more details, please contact myself or Dale Grey, President of the Uinta Basin Chapter of Utah Friends of Paleontology (

If you do have an opinion on a future of Dinosaur National Monument without any new dinosaurs (or microfossils!), then make sure to share it with the park/government officials (contact info below). Point out the CORE mission of the park is paleo and this mission can only be supported
by keeping the in-house program active.

Margaret Imhof


Ms. Mary Risser, Superintendent
Dinosaur National Monument
4545 Highway 40
Dinosaur, CO 81610

Mr. Mike Snyder
Intermountain Regional Director
National Park Service
P.O. Box 25287
Lakewood, CO 80225-0287

Ms. Mary A. Bomar
National Park Service
1849 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20240

Mr. Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20240

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Here is a nice little video on Eotriceratops* put out by the Royal Tyrrell Museum:

(old news, but here is the Press release)
*Wu, X-C., Brinkman, D.B., Eberth, D.A., and Braman, D.R. (2007). "A new ceratopsid dinosaur (Ornithischia) from the uppermost Horseshoe Canyon Formation (upper Maastrichtian), Alberta, Canada." Canadian Journal of Earth Science, 44(9): 1243-1265.


Yesterday's just a memory, tomorrow is never what it's supposed to be. - Bob Dylan

Yesterdays are over my shoulder, So I can't look back for too long. There's just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know that I just can't go wrong... - Jimmy Buffett

Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. -the Dalai Lama

Try to realize it's all within yourself no one else can make you change, and to see you're only very small and life flows on within you and without you. - George Harrison

Monday, February 4, 2008

United makes yet another mistake

United Airlines has decided to start charging $25 for more than one checked bag (unless you fly 25,000 a year). These airlines forget that they are not the only ones. I really truly dislike flying United. Every flight I have had with them over the past two years has had at least one leg that is always a disaster. It has been nothing but trouble. With gas prices like they are I guess they feel like they can pressure us into these decisions. They have lost me as a customer. I'll take another airline or drive (or just not go). Thanks for encouraging me to find other alternatives United Airlines!


Sunday, February 3, 2008


I'll find a picture for it later

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A personal letter to Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil, I really dislike you right now. Is it to much to ask that you stop being a chicken and just let Spring come early, for once! Thanks Phil. Thanks for ruining my day.

Phil Says Six More Weeks of Winter!

Phil's official forecast as read 2/2/08 at sunrise at Gobbler's Knob:

Here Ye! Here Ye! Here Ye!

On Gobbler's Knob on this fabolous Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2008
Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators, Rose to the call of President Bill Cooper and greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.

After casting a weathered eye toward thousands of his faithful followers,
Phil consulted with President Cooper and directed him to the appropriate scroll, which proclaimed:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"

Punxsutawney Phil official site.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Asking for answers in New Mexico

The buzz around the Nature article (see my last post) appears to still be going strong. Andy makes some good points surrounding the issues of open access dissertations and how we need to be more aware of what is taking place in our community. Julia also brings up points that one would think would be common practice when visiting other collections, but obviously are not used by all. Christopher Taylor points out the ICZN guidelines surrounding the ethics that are in question. Janet D. Stemwedel dissects a particularly disturbing email that was posted on the vert paleo list. There are many other good post included in Mike Taylors list of Blogs to visit that also make good points. You might take the time to read a few of them.

I would also like to point out that while I know all of the people involved (with the exception of the Polish folks), I am 1) not accusing or pointing fingers at anyone, only trying to point out an interesting ethics question that would have needed address eventually regardless, and 2) just promote better communication between people in our field. We need to be able to trust our colleagues and not promote a community of fear, especially for the safety of your research and/or career. If wrong doing has occurred, I hope the proper action will be taken, and not just swept under the carpet with a slap on the wrist. If it is found that no wrong was done, I hope we can all be more cautious and aware that these things *could* possibly happen.