Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why do Geologist Love Beer?

Just in case you missed this article from, a report from AGU on beer consumption. I am sure those of us who also attend GSA and/or SVP can relate.

Thanks to Pete and Stephanie for the link!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Season's Greetings

Season's Greetings!!

Check out this video of an ice skating sauropod via the Denver Museum of Nature and Science!

Thanks to Jerry Harris for the heads up!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Last minute Christmas gift?

Are you still looking for the last minute Christmas gift for the paleontologist you love - or even something to suggest for yourself? Think Geek saves the day again with Evolvems! They have Coelacanth-Ichthyostega, Dimetrodon-Cynognathus, Pakicetus-Squalodon and my favorite Yinlong-Styracosaurus! How much fun would it be to open one of these on Christmas day and be able to unzip and flip the creatures inside out over and over and over again!

I hope everyone has a very wonderful Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Clash of the Dinosaurs: Another dino disaster strikes a tv near you

The disaster that is the Dinosaur "Documentary" has struck again, this time in the form of Clash of the Dinosaurs. Last year it was Jurassic Fight Club, which there are very very very few good things that can be said for it. This years CotD, which premiered a few weeks ago (of which I have only see two episodes of), is not so impressive. Quite of bit of arm waving is once again presented as fact, and while a few good pieces of information made it though (Tom Holtz is wonderful as always, and his high energy and enthusiasm drips from the screen. Kudos Tom!), over all it has been graphics that are obnoxiously repeated over and over, with talking heads who have poorly labeled affiliations and even misspelled names (so I am nit-picky, shoot me). Maybe I am a traditionalist, but I miss the former documentaries that showed more of the process, and paleontologist actually working, not just appearing as talking heads. I am all for science based learning and documentaries to help convey the ideas to a wider audience, but not at the cost of science for entertainment.

But the most horrendous fault (currently) is the way fellow paleoblogger Matt Wedel's interview regarding the thought that sacral enlargements are "second brains." He has well documented this in post Here and Here which I strongly encourage you to read. Matt's original answer to this question was cut down to:

"One of the curious things about Sauropods is that they did have a swelling in the spinal cord, in the neighborhood of their pelvis. This was sort of like a second brain to help control the back half of the body."

Yaaaaaaaaaaaa..... that is not what he originally said. It was cut down the the above statement, which is a far cry from his original statement of [from here]:

"Ok one of the curious things about saurapods is that they did have a swelling in the spinal chord in the neighbourhood of their pelvis. And for a while it was thought that may be this was sort of like a second brain to help control the back half of the body. Erm there are a couple of misconceptions there. One is that most animals control large part of their body with their spinal chord. If you’re going through day to day operations like just walking down the street and your minds on something else your brain isn’t even involved in very much controlling your body. A lot of that is a reflex arc that’s controlled by your spinal chord.

[From Matt] Quick aside: the technical term I was groping for here is not “reflex arc” but “central pattern generator”.

So its not just dinosaurs that are controlling their body with their spinal chord its all animals. Now the other thing about this swelling at the base of the tail is we find the same thing in birds and its called the glycogen body. It’s a big swelling in the spinal chord that has glycogen which is this very energy rich compound that animals use to store energy. Problem is we don’t even know what birds are doing with their glycogen bodies. Er the function is mysterious – we don’t know if the glycogen is supporting their nervous system – if its there to be mobilised help dry [should be 'drive' -ed.] their hind limbs or the back half of their body and until we find out what birds are doing with theirs we have very little hope of knowing what dinosaurs were doing with their glycogen bodies."

So basically they took his words, and completely misquote him and then do not apologize in follow up communication.

This is bullshit. These producers who are making these so-called documentaries need to do their job and convey truth and facts, not arm waving and pretty looking assumptions. These documentaries should be based on science, not pretty graphics and brief moments of facts presented. So, how can you help Matt in his quest to clear his name? He ask the following:

"You, reading this post: you are the audience. If you disagree with the idea that Dangerous Ltd has to subvert the truth to hold your attention, or if you’d like to support my request that they fix the show by removing the dishonestly edited portion, please contact them here. I shouldn’t have to say it, but this is the net, so: if you do contact them about this, please be brief, stick to the facts, and don’t be abusive, threatening or profane.

I’ve already e-mailed all of the top officers of Dangerous Ltd and this non-apology ... is the closest to an official response that I’ve gotten or expect to get. It might also be worthwhile to contact Zodiak Entertainment, the parent company of Dangerous Ltd, and make sure that they are aware of how their subsidiary is representing them. You may do so here; the previous plea for brevity and moderation applies.

Finally, outfits like Dangerous Ltd will only be able to pull this kind of crap for as long as Discovery Communications lets them get away with it. The most relevant thing I’ve been able to find for them is the Viewer Relations contact page for, which is here. Please let them know how you feel–briefly and politely, as always."

[update: while writing this post Matt posted the following - "Great news! I just got off the phone with someone at the Discovery Channel. He asked not to be named, but he has responsibility for Clash of the Dinosaurs and the authority to do what he promised, which is to fix the “second brain” segment exactly as I asked in the previous post! He said that the program would not be broadcast again until that segment was fixed, and that the fixed version would be in the DVD/Blu-ray release." Read his entire post here.]

Feel free to read other views on the subject:

The Medium & The Message (Prerogative of Harlots)
CotD: The Saga Continues (DinoGoss)
Dangerous Ltd. is Either Very Stupid or Dishonest, or Both (When Pigs Fly Returns)
I Swear I Didn't Say That! Having someone else put your foot in your mouth for you (Chinleana)
The media, again. This time distorting dinosaurs up front. (David Hone's Archosaur Musings)
A scientist is QUOTE MINED on a Discovery dinosaur documentary (Tetrapod Zoology)

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Save The UBC Dinosaur Track Quarry, West Paterson, NJ

Some Early Jurassic (Passaic Formation) dinosaur and reptile tracks are in danger of being destroyed in New Jersey so that condos can be built on the location. This is a petition to help gain attention to their importance and and have them included in the existing Rifle Camp Park. Please feel free to read the petition text below. A link to the petition can be found at the bottom of this post. Please feel free to sign it and pass it on. ~ ReBecca

"The UBC Quarry in West Paterson, NJ has been a unique fossil locality for scientific research and spectacular fossils from the Passaic formation in the Early Jurassic period of NJ since the 1960's. Many discoveries over the years have yielded a great deal of knowledge to the scientific community in the area of trace fossils (ichnology) during this unique time period.

Large museums and universities have done research projects and collected at the quarry to add to their collections and preserve these fossils. Ironically most of the fossils from this quarry are in private hands and not in a museum for folks to enjoy. The quarry was once an active quarry for many years but now has been sold to a developer to create high end condos that overlook NYC.

The remaining fossils in the quarry will be forever lost if the developers are allowed to demolish the remaining section of the quarry to complete their development. No more fossils from this period will ever be able to be collected again as this is the only place in NJ that has fossils from this time period. Once this section is gone there will be no more science or fossils to be gained. There is one section of the quarry left next to Rifle Camp Park that is of scientific significance that is threatened to be lost forever due to the development of these condos.

Some of the best preserved dinosaur and reptile footprints have been found in this quarry which do not compare to any other locality from New Jersey. Dinosaur tracks and fossil trace fossils have been a very unique, rare, and are an important piece of our fossil history and deserves to be protected. The state of New Jersey has done very little to protect fossil localities compared to other states in the USA and that is why we need your help. Trace fossils are a very important part of the state of New Jersey's history just like Hadrosaurus foulki and deserve to be protected, preserved and enjoyed by future generations. Let's not make this just a memory like other fossil sites in Northern NJ.

Let's make it a preserved site forever. Time is running out and only a few months left till it is gone forever. Thanks."

Online petition - Save The UBC Dinosaur Track Quarry, West Paterson, NJ

Thanks to Rissa for the heads up on this!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Team Dromaeosauridae

It does not get more awesome. This is probably the only way I would watch this movie.

Thanks to JK for sending me the image and to Frank for the tag line ;)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Happy thanksgiving everyone!
I saw these feathered dino-ancestors at my grandparents house in Oklahoma last year.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Friday, November 13, 2009

Matt Bonnan discusses Aardonyx

This video is a short clip of Dr. Matt Bonnan of Wester Illinois University discussing Aardonyx, his research interest, and how he became involved with the project, which was funded by the National Geographic Society. One of Dr. Bonnan's research interest involves the morphology and mechanics of sauropod dinosaur forelimbs. He explains how Aardonyx had the adaptation of interlocking forearm bones that would reinforce the forelimb and prevent the weight-bearing hand from twisting. Since the earliest dinosaurs were bipeds (walking on their hindlimbs), it is interesting to Dr. Bonnan (and others) that even during the early Jurassic sauropods were reversing this trend, and becoming quadrupeds (walking on all fours) to better distribute their weight. This is why the interlocking forearm is very important.

You can read more about Dr. Bonnan's work on this project here. Thanks to Ville of Dots in Deep Time for the heads up on this video.

I also found this short video with Dr. Adam Yates (of the blog Dracovenator), who is the first author on the paper*, discussing Aardonyx.

*Yates, A. M., Bonnan, M. F., Neveling, J., Chinsamy, A. and Blackbeard, M. G. 2009. A new transitional sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa and the evolution of sauropod feeding and quadrupedalism. Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.1440

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Post: Michigan State University to close Geological Sciences Department

An update on the Michigan State University plan to close the Geological Sciences Department, by guest blogger Dr. Chris Noto:

On November 11, the Provost acted on the Dean's recommendation to close the Department of Geological Sciences by forwarding his recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The Board sent it to academic governance, which is mainly procedural. The Board, sometime in the future, perhaps as early as Dec. 11, will vote on the closing.

After consulting with alumni and others a plan was presented to the Dean in which the alumni would endow two chairs, and that with potential retirements and other opportunities, the Department could be revitalized into a successful program. This proposal was roundly rejected. The Dean countered by stating that the whole department would have to run on endowments of no less that 50 million dollars.

Another factor is that the University has a long-term history in not investing in Geology, so there is no initial or continuing investment in laboratories or equipment. This, of course, has a negative effect on the recruitment of faculty who can get grants. This is in striking contrast to the University's investments in facilities for Chemistry, Physics and Biological Sciences to which they are regularly compared. The school just spent $40 million remodeling the Chemistry building, however has done little for Geology's facilities in the past. This long-term disinvestment has hurt the department's abilities to recruit and keep faculty and obtain large grants.

The decision to close Geological Sciences at MSU reflects a long-term disinterest, at times hostile, attitude towards the geosciences by the administration. The school is punishing the department for decisions the admin itself put into motion long ago. The inability to cite specific reasons for the closure as well as the claim that only $50 million could save the department shows where the priorities of the administration lay. Sadly, this story has been seen before and will likely occur again.

Christopher R. Noto, Ph.D

The author is a Visiting Professor in the Biomedical Sciences Department at Grand Valley State University. The views expressed here are his alone and do not represent those of his employer. He can be reached at Please feel free to use these points when contacting MSU administration and help spread the word.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rock star of the week: Vanessa Bateman

*(Please read my previous post if you have not yet)*

As I am sure many of you have, I have watched the video of the rockslide on U.S. Highway 64 in Tennessee over and over. It is just awesome to watch. I was super excited when I found this link that has a video (different from the one below) telling more details on the slide and how a geologist saved the day!! How awesome is that! A Geologist!! Rock on! And I was even more excited to find out it was not just a geologist, but a chick geologist - Vanessa Bateman! Ms. (Dr.?) Bateman is the Manager of the Geotechnical Section for the Tennessee Department of Transportation's (TDOT) Nashville Office (link, pictured right). She noticed that the slope (reported in the news video to be granite) along the Ocoee Gorge was going to break away (and not surprising, did you see that outcrop!), and was able to warn others to vacate the area. Less than an hours earlier reporters and construction workers with heavy equipment were in the spot where the second slide would occur. It must have been so cool to see (and probably somewhat freaky and scary!). I should add that I am really glad no one was hurt!

So, way to go Vanessa!! Awesome to save lives while also playing with rocks (and showing that there are some awesome chick geologist out there doing cool things)!

And it reminds me of this (sort of, in coolness factor):


What is your favorite mass wasting event? Someone needs to start a blog of things like this.

(PS - I hate for this post to bump the post below, so please read it if you have not yet!)

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster; picture from the Highway Geology Symposium

Guest Post: Why it is wrong for Michigan State University to close Geological Sciences

There is a situation currently happening that I feel everyone needs to know about: Michigan State University closing their Geological Sciences program. And rather than writing it from second (or third) hand knowledge, I thought it would be better to go directly to a source that actually knows what is going on. I have asked my friend, and fellow paleontologist, Chris Noto to fill us in. Below are his words and thoughts on the situation. ~ ReBecca

Around the nation, many geoscience departments have been closed or threatened with closure. Furthermore, there exists a chronic shortage of trained geoscientists. This shortfall goes back over 20 years, following the collapse of oil and gas prices in the early 1980’s. But now, more than ever before, do we need the expertise of highly-trained professional geoscientists to help tackle wide-ranging global problems from climate change to the development of alternative energy resources.

In light of this, one can imagine my shock when I was told that the administration of Michigan State University (MSU) is proposing to close the Department of Geological Sciences. All graduate and undergraduate programs in Earth Science, Environmental Geosciences, Geological Sciences, and Geophysics will be discontinued, effectively erasing the geosciences curricula from MSU. Currently the process has yet to be passed on to academic governance (Step 2b; for steps in the process see this, p. 7), which may happen as early as Dec. 11th. A final decision is not likely to be reached by the Board of Trustees until mid-spring, although there is no set timeline for the process. It is worth noting that the department was caught completely unawares by this decision. No preludes or evidence of disapproval had been made by the administration before this point.

The immediate impact of closing the department would affect the lives of 12 faculty, 50 graduate students, and many more undergraduates. The process of dismantling the department will take at least a few years to compete. Students would have up to three years to finish their degrees, but no new students will be accepted. There is no word on what will be done with non-tenured faculty, perhaps dismissed, and tenured faculty will be shuffled into other departments. Whether they would decide to stay after this time is an open question. Since the various programs administered by Geological Sciences will be discontinued, what classes would be available for the faculty to teach?

One wonders how MSU could justify purging a science considered a key element of its core mission as a premier public land-grant university in the United States. The following vague reasons have been given (based on this [p. 5] and this), each of which will be addressed below:

1. Other geoscience programs are available in Michigan--Undergrads usually do not choose a major until they are enrolled at an institution. Michigan state education standards lead to little exposure to the earth sciences, meaning fewer students entering college are interested in geosciences. It is unrealistic to expect students to choose a geology program before going to college. Instead of transferring, they simply won’t decide to major in it. This will only further decrease the number of students entering the field. Furthermore, there exist only 3 other PhD-granting programs in Michigan and a small number of Masters programs and those specializing in K-12 earth science education, leaving fewer options for students in the state. As a public land-grant school, MSU is obligated to offer classes in geological sciences as part of its curriculum.

2. Low student demand--This is one of the worst measurements of department performance, because students will go where they think there are jobs (think doctors). This attitude turns a major research university into little more than a vocational school catering to currently popular professions, not providing the liberal education it promises. In fact research by AGI shows that there will be a severe shortage of trained geoscientists in the next 10-20 years, meaning job opportunities and demand will go up, which should lead to an increase in student demand. In the future MSU could therefore lose students over time as they choose schools that still maintain geoscience programs.

3. Lack of research productivity, stature, and teaching--Geology at MSU is both nationally and internationally known for excellence in research. Faculty continue to publish high-impact articles across the spectrum of the discipline. Much of this research takes part through collaborations with colleagues in other departments and institutions. The pace of geoscience research does not match other sciences, taking years in some cases to collect necessary data, thus making it a poor measure of performance. This should not decrease the importance of the research nor diminish the stature of the faculty. Two faculty were recently elected fellows of the Geological Society of America, a sign of their long and distinguished contributions to the field. Many faculty have won both campus and external teaching awards.

4. Low extramural grant support--The faculty of Geology regularly obtain external funding, a total of 44 grants since 2004, from such prestigious places as NSF, NOAA, NASA, the National Geographic Society, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Students are regularly awarded grants and awards as well. The move to close Geology will likely cost MSU future grant revenues through loss of prestige and inability to capitalize on emerging funding opportunities.

5. Outreach--Members of Geology help organize and participate in Darwin Day festivities each year. This is an event that I have personally participated in and can attest to its impact on science outreach for the community. I have observed both faculty and students enthusiastically interacting with hundreds of children, students, and adults, raising their awareness of science and its importance to their life. Members of the department also participate in a summer Fossil Camp that reaches many young children, educating them about earth sciences. Will these programs survive at MSU in the absence of Geology?

6. Cost savings--Faculty pay tends to make up the bulk of many departmental budgets. The number of full-time faculty in Geology is relatively small. Since a large proportion of the faculty are tenured they will be moved to other departments and continue to draw a salary (assuming they all decide to stay). Even if all these faculty lines were eliminated the cost savings would be peanuts to the university’s budget. Therefore, this move will not save much money, despite the claim that drastic measures need to be taken in the short-term to reduce operating costs without raising tuition.

The attitude that Geological Sciences needs to close appears strong among administrators, so it seems unlikely that even in a best-case scenario the department will survive unscathed. As such, those of us concerned about the future of the department should urge the MSU administration to explore less extreme alternatives which do not completely strip geosciences from the school. One alternative could be to merge the department with an overlapping discipline, such as Geography, to form a new, composite department. This is already being proposed for other departments at MSU, why not Geology? This would reduce administrative costs, and if coupled with a hiring freeze, perhaps save as much if the department was simply closed. Obviously there is no simple answer, but the department deserves a chance to reorganize and reimagine itself to come in line with the university’s needs before the final decision is made to close it.

In the end, the actions of MSU administration appear to represent a cynical decision at odds with its own educational and research missions. There is no argument that financial problems at MSU and in the state are at an all-time high, however moving to close Geological Sciences as an answer to this problem would be like cutting off a good leg because of a bad toe. It’s only going to slow you down in the future, even if it felt right at the time. This move could cripple the capacity for Michigan State University to remain at the forefront of emerging sciences and in tackling large, interdisciplinary problems such as climate change and renewable energy. But there is still time: if we act now, we may be able to prevent this travesty.

As a final note, if this decision goes through, let this serve as a warning to all geoscience programs in US schools: MSU is one of the largest schools in the nation and if they think they can do without a geology program, other schools may follow suit. A dangerous precedent is being set, which could have devastating consequences to American science in the long-term. As geoscientists we must fight to increase our profile both within and outside of our universities and build political ties to prevent such cynical and dismissive attitudes towards the importance of our science in both education and to society.

Want to get involved? Please pass along word to people you know, especially those in high-profile and influential positions. An online petition has been set up here and there is a Facebook group with more information here (see the discussion board), including contact information for university administrators. Writing letters to the dean, provost, president and board of trustees are all encouraged.

Christopher R. Noto, Ph.D

The author is a Visiting Professor in the Biomedical Sciences Department at Grand Valley State University. The views expressed here are his alone and do not represent those of his employer. He can be reached at Please feel free to use these points when contacting MSU administration and help spread the word.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dark Matter

On a recent movie rental I saw a trailer for a movie I had never hear of (this does not happen all that often to me). The movie was called Dark Matter and has Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn staring in it. One would expect a movie with bigger named "movie stars" would have gotten some press - so how did I miss this one? I am still not sure, but I wonder if it perhaps has to do with the subject mater - Science. The big, scary, "S" word that so much of middle america does not relate to (or so I hear). The plot for the movie revolves around a Chinese Ph.D. candidate working in the US for a well known professor in a cosmology program. This student navigates his way around a new culture and the in's and out's of working with this professor while trying validating his own theories, which may contradict or alter that of his advisors. A far flung concept? Not at all! Something I know more than one of you out there can relate to.

The Netflix synopsis is:

"Liu Xing (Ye Liu) is an ambitious cosmology student who comes to America under the wing of university patron Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep) and begins working with cosmologist Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn) -- yet he is oblivious to the politics of academia. Liu becomes obsessed with his own theories of the universe, a fixation that threatens Reiser's professional future. Director Shi-Zheng Chen's debut won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival."

While the last 20 minutes or so were a bit slow and clunky, the movie over all was interesting and reminded me of some of the stress of being a grad student. The ending of the movie was quite a surprised to me, I can honestly say I did not see it coming.

Has anyone else seen this movie?

Oh, and Happy Halloween everyone!!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster, photo from

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pachycephalosaurus-Stygimoloch-Dracorex debate now in print (sort of)

At the 2007 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting Jack Horner presented a talk on Pachycephalosaurus, Stygimoloch and Dracorex, basically saying that Stygimoloch and Dracorex are growth stages of Pachycephalosaurus. This talk has been being debated pretty much every day since it was given by someone (see an example of past blog post discussion here). Now people can finally read the findings of Horner and Goodwin in PLoS ONE (here). As I have not even had a chance to read it yet I will leave the analyzing and debating to the numerous other blog post that I am sure will start to trickle in today and throughout the rest of the week. Enjoy!

Dracorex (top left) and Stygimoloch (top right), as growth stages of Pachycephalosaurus (bottom). Art by Holly Woodward from the November 23rd, 2007 issue of Science.

Citation: Horner JR, Goodwin MB (2009) Extreme Cranial Ontogeny in the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7626. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007626 (link)

Horner JR, Goodwin MB, Woodward H (2007) Synonymy consequences of dinosaur cranial ontogeny. J Vert Paleont 27: 92A

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hot off the truck!

Well, actually it is cold (temperature wise), but you get the point. UPS just dropped of my copy of Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life by Scott Sampson. Since I did not make it to SVP this year I missed out on my book buying and having a chance to see all the new material out. So I am very excited to have my copy of this book and I am looking forward to reading it. And added bonus for me is that if you flip to page 148 you will find a photo I took of the Kaiparowits Formation in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The publisher, University of California Press, book description:
"This captivating book, laced with evocative anecdotes from the field, gives the first holistic, up-to-date overview of dinosaurs and their world for a wide audience of readers. Situating these fascinating animals in a broad ecological and evolutionary context, leading dinosaur expert Scott D. Sampson fills us in on the exhilarating discoveries of the past twenty-five years, the most active period in the history of dinosaur paleontology, during which more "new" species were named than in all prior history. With these discoveries--and the most recent controversies--in mind, Sampson reconstructs the odyssey of the dinosaurs from their humble origins on the supercontinent Pangaea, to their reign as the largest animals the planet has ever known, and finally to their abrupt demise. Much more than the story of who ate whom way back when, Dinosaur Odyssey places dinosaurs in an expansive web of relationships with other organisms and demonstrates how they provide a powerful lens through which to observe the entire natural world. Addressing topics such as extinction, global warming, and energy flow, Dinosaur Odyssey finds that the dinosaurs' story is, in fact, a major chapter in our own story."

You can take a look inside the book here, and buy your own copy for under $20 here!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Geoblogosphere Survey needs your help!!

Hi all,

I am delurking for a moment to put our a quick reminder - if you have not had a chance to participate in the Geoblogosphere Survey 2009 please take a quick moment to do so. Lutz, Robert, and Callan would really appreciate it, I am sure. The survey will be closing on November 1.

I hope to get back to posting something (anything?) soon. Sorry for the long absence.


© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Monday, October 5, 2009

All Dinosaurs Go to Heaven

Awesome!! I ordered one (from Threadless Tees).

Thanks to Lockwood for the heads up!

Also check out "Picket"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Only 88 days left

The Paleo Paper Challenge is on!! And there are (currently) only 88 days, 5 hours, and 11 minutes left! So, just to add to the pressure and help keep me motivated, I have installed a countdown clock on my blog (see right). I have decided to really push and try to get a paper written with my husband on the taphonomy of the Mygatt-Moore quarry. This is a quarry that numerous people have worked since it was discovered in Western Colorado in 1981. John has worked the quarry since 2001 and I have worked there since 2007. We have been tossing this paper idea around since 2007 and have not done much more than present a poster on it at GSA that fall. So, we are finally going to bite the bullet and just do it.

There is quite a bit to be done! John and I have carved up the outline for our paper, each taking sections to write and parts that we will write together. John currently is working on two other writing projects, but hopefully we will be able to get this one done. Keep your fingers crossed for us and I will post updates here as we progress.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Monday, September 28, 2009

Primordial Soup With Julia Child

Thanks to Talia for the heads up!
© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who is up for a good challenge?

For those of us that do research (or try to do research), you are probably familiar with having a few projects sitting around unfinished for a variety of reasons. I know I currently only have one actual manuscript in the works, with words on paper. And I have to give credit for all of that happening to my co-author who is quite a bit more motivated and on top of things than I have been this past summer. I have two other projects that are languishing in the data acquisition stage, and have been for quite some time. If you, like me, need some motivation, I suggest you take up the challenge put forth by Andy of the Open Source Paleontologist and Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings - the Paleo Paper Challenge (or Palaeo Paper Challenge). You can read more about it here and here, but what it boils down too is this:
  1. Sign up to participate over at the Open Source Paleontologist
  2. Get that paper finished by January 1, 2010.
It is that easy (or hard)! I am going to jump on board. Hope to see a few of you there! I am looking forward to both the motivation, support and friendly competition.

Two Assistant Professor Geology jobs

Two new geology jobs from my alma mater:

The Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville invites applications for a 9-month appointment as a tenure-track assistant professor with an anticipated start date of August, 2010. We are seeking an outstanding individual with expertise in broad areas of sedimentology/stratigraphy and basin analysis. The specific research focus has some flexibility, depending upon strengths of the applicant. Applicants must demonstrate ability and commitment to develop an independent, externally funded research program as well as the potential for collaboration and synergism with ongoing research in the Department of Geosciences. The successful applicant will be an integrated scholar capable of meeting departmental goals in independent research, advising graduate-research, and teaching--and will have a strong commitment to teaching at all levels, including possible participation in our required summer field course in Montana.

Assistant Professor - structural geology and tectonics

The Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville invites applications for a 9-month appointment as a tenure-track assistant professor with an anticipated start date of August 2010. We are seeking an outstanding individual with expertise in broad areas of structural geology and tectonics.

Monday, September 14, 2009

No Creation in the US?

For those of us who have been patiently waiting for the US release of the new movie, Creation, it looks like we may be waiting for it to come out on DVD. While this movie is about Charles Darwin, it appears that the film will focus on Darwin's loss of faith after the death of his 10 year old daughter, not so much on his work On The Origin of Species. Unfortunately, for those of us who live in the US where the general population largely does not believe in evolution (only 39% of Americans do), it appears that we will not get to see the film until it is available on DVD since it has not found an US distributor. However, if you are traveling to Bristol for SVP or have other European travel plans, you can see the film, as it opens this Sunday in the UK. The film is also opening at the Toronto Film Festival. It appears that if you are in any country other than the US you will have a chance to see this film! Sadly, the it appears that the untra-conservatives once again have Hollywood scared:

  • ", an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated." [link]

Give me a break. To bad Darwin can't sue them for slander.

  • "Early reviews have raved about the film. The Hollywood Reporter said: "It would be a great shame if those with religious convictions spurned the film out of hand as they will find it even-handed and wise." [link]

It is sad to see the US is still living in the dark ages when it comes to free thinking (which it appears is being controlled by conservatives/religious leaders and thier "power" over Hollywood)- in this case of making Darwin's story (or this chapter of his story) accessible to the general US population. I guess that is to risky to the conservative agenda. However, last year a distributor for the creationist film Expelled was found and the film was largely circulated around the US! How can we circulate a film like that and not make the other side of the coin available also!?!

Why not just release it and let the people of the US make up their own mind. Those who do not want to go do not have to go. Who would have guessed that just the name Darwin could invoke such fear!

Hopefully a US distributor who is not a big chicken will be found and we will all have a chance to see his movie that is already getting great reviews!

Thanks to Denver for the heads up on this!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster, poster © BBC Films and the UK Film Council

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Job Posting

Here is a job posting I was asked to pass on. Always glad to see a new paleo job opening up!

POSITION: Paleontologist (Accredited)

LOCATION: Fort Yates, ND

SALARY: Negotiable

OPENING DATE: September 2009

The incumbent will be responsible for the management and development of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s paleontology resources, coordinating and leading field excavations, and teaching applicable geology and paleontology courses.

The Paleontologist will work under the direct supervision of the Select Committee on Paleontology.


1. Supervise paleontology consultants, contractors, employees and volunteers.
2. Create goals and objectives for the Paleontology Department.
3. Develop Tribe’s paleontological resources.
4. Direct and organize field excavations on the Reservation.
5. Identify and catalog the Tribe’s paleontology collections.
6. Write and submit appropriate grants for the enhancement and sustainability of the Paleontology Department.
7. Locate, evaluate, and protect paleontological resources within the boundaries of the Reservation.
8. Facilitate the appropriate scientific, educational and development uses of the Tribe’s paleontological resources.
9. Ensure that proposes land uses do not inadvertently damage or destroy important paleontological resources.
10. Establish relationships with tribal colleges, universities, schools, national and international paleontology programs to foster public awareness and appreciation of Tribal resources and write MOUs/MOAs, when needed.
11. Establish rules and regulations regarding collection of permits, research collection, loans of specimens, publications, field notes, and the annual field camp.
12. Report monthly to the Judicial Committee.
13. Develop goals and objectives for a tribal museum.
14. Research appropriate grants for the establishment of a museum.
15. Prepare and catalog fossil specimens found on the Reservation.
16. Create and maintain a secure digital database along with physical inventory of all fossils collected on the reservation.
17. Ensure all specimens collected from the Reservation are excavated properly, catalogued, stored and prepared for display and casted, if warranted.
18. Work with the Paleontology Coordinator regarding the paleontology field school, necessary permits, and the operating budget.
19. Prepare presentations regarding the Paleontology Department.
20. Prepare necessary teaching materials for geology and paleontology courses.
21. Teach geology and paleontology courses.
22. Present appropriate amendments and revisions of Title XXXVIII (Paleontology) to the Tribe’s Legal Department.
23. Possess ability to develop effective working relationships with appropriate individuals.
24. Must be able to provide both oral and written reports.

1. Masters Degree from an accredited institution in paleontology, geology, anthropology, biology, botany, or zoology with a major emphasis in paleontology. A Ph.D in Paleontology is preferred.
2. Must have two (2) years experience teaching paleontology and geology courses at a college level.
3. Must have three (3) or more years of documented experience excavating, collecting, analyzing, cataloging, and preparing fossils or specimens.
4. Must have experience in planning, equipping, staffing, organizing, and supervising crews performing paleontological surface collections, excavations, and preparations.
5. Must have documented grant writing experience.
6. Must possess documented experience and skills in fossil preparation, molding, casting, collection management, identification and cataloging of fossil specimens, record keeping, and documentation.
7. Possess knowledge of anatomy, taxonomy, sedimentology, and stratigraphy.
8. Must pass a trust position background clearance.
9. Must possess a valid driver’s license and liability insurance and be able to travel on and off the Reservation.
10. Must have computer skills in word processing, spreadsheets, database management, GPS, GIS and internet research.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

10 days

Dear Readers,

I realize it has been 10 days since I wrote a new post. Probably a month or more since I wrote anything significant. Sorry for the lack of post recently. I just figure it would be better to write good post, rather than some random dribble that you could read anywhere or find on the internet for yourself. Why waste your time, right? For now, feel free to keep up with those items I find online and other interesting blog post here.

Thank you for your patience and for reading this blog!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Fossil Paradise

I admit, I am a bit of a Charles D. Walcott junkie. I have read the two long books written by the great Ellis Yochelson (here and here) about Walcotts life, and I highly reccomend them. I was super excited to find out he had worked in Glacier. To celebrate the 100th anniversery of his discovery of the Burgess Shale John and I were happy to be able to attend the International Conference on the Cambrian Explosion in Banff, Alberta. The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is hosting and exhibit in conjunction with the meething entitled "A Fossil Paradise: The Discovery of the Burgess Shale by Charles D. Walcott" Last night we went to a talk at the museum by Sarah Staurderman entitled "The Panorama Photographs of Charles D. Walcott." It was really interesting to hear about the photos Walcott took and about thier conservation at the Smithsonian. You can find more information on this great collection here.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Come chill in the Prep Lounge

This is a blog I am glad to see has finally arrived in the PaleoBlogoSphere - the Prep Lounge! Written by my friend Matt Brown, this is a blog that will be talking about working in a paleontology prep lab, and all of the fun things associated with that (and probably guns, trucks, and weather, but not politics). Check out some of his recent post on his new digs at the University of Texas at Austin/Texas Memorial Museum.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Threadless Thursday

I have been keeping up with the Threadcakes competition, and this design from the t-shirt store was recently submitted. I thought it was pretty awesome, so I had to share it...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty at the Maryland Science Center

I was contacted recently by the Maryland Science Center and asked to share with you all the news that they are hosting the traveling exhibit "Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty" at the Maryland Science Center. I saw this exhibit at the Field Museum a few summers ago.

Below is a press release about the display. Hope some of you have a chance to visit!

"This summer, the Maryland Science Center brings parents an exhibition of “pre-historic proportions.” Tens of millions of years in the making, Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty, the largest touring exhibition of authentic Chinese dinosaur fossils in the world is open daily through Monday, September 7 in the Legg Mason Gallery of the Maryland Science Center.

Visitors to Chinasaurs will encounter an exotic assortment of more than 20 full-size prehistoric fossils including mammoth herbivores and ferocious meat-eaters like the Dilophosaurus, and the huge 27-foot Szechuanosaurus (picture to left, at the Field Museum exhibit) that would have given the Tyrannosaurus Rex a run for his money. Just as rare and equally as impressive are the massive fossils of the 70 foot long planet-eater Mamenchasaurus, and exotic dinosaurs like a feathered flying, 40-foot Pteradon.

Chinasaurs is unlike other dinosaur exhibitions with the introduction of seven animatronic dinosaurs. The Maryland Science Center echoes with the grunts, growls and roars that scientists theorize shook the Asian continent millions of years before man could have quivered in terror.

Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty is open through Monday, September 7, 2009. The Maryland Science Center is located at 601 Light Street at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For information and tickets, visit or call the 24-Hour Information Line at 410-685-5225."

And an entertaining video that informs us that Mamenchisaurus may have been one of the stupidest dinosaurs(!) - lol.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Time to vote!

The Casper Star-Tribune has an online poll today to vote for either a full time, part time or closed Geological Museum. My friend Thomas brought this to my attention today and we all need to show the administration at the University of Wyoming what we think of their recent decisions. So head on over to the Casper Star-Tribune website and scroll half-way down the page and vote!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shut up and leave us alone!


By now you may have heard that the administration at the University of Wyoming has decided to reopen the Geological Museum, part time, using private funds. The museum will reopen on August 24 for public visitation under the supervision of the security guard. That’s right - a security guard.

Now, I don't know about you, but I do not go to a bank and expect the security guard to complete my transaction. I do not go to the mall and expect the security guard to check me out when I purchase something. I do not go to a baseball game and expect the security guard to play all the positions in the game.

It is not their job to do so.

So how exactly is a security guard going to answer questions asked by museum visitors? How will they ring up and purchases, should someone decided they would like a Big Al t-shirt? How will they clean and maintain the exhibits? How will they train volunteers? How will they make sure the information present in exhibits is up to date? You get the idea................

So this is the way I see this whole thing playing out in UW President Tom Buchanan's mind (and remember, this is all just in my imagination - I have NO idea what is going though this mans head): he is inundated with letters, emails, calls, and investigations into the closing of the museum. People start to bring up his inflated salary. Question his reasoning behind the decisions. Question his devotion to science education. He is getting alot of bad press and the Board of Trusties (who are also feeling the pressure) tells him to "fix" the situation. His solution - reopen the museum, with private money, but only on a shoe string budget, and without the staff the museum deserves. Why? Because, frankly, he just does not care (once again, just my opinion and view - he is welcome to correct me). He does not understand why the museum is important to anyone other than little kids. He does not understand that science is important. He does not understand how a museum operates and what sort of staff it needs to do so. So he decided to do all of this and (at least this is how I see it) is telling us all to "Shut up and leave us alone already!"

The flaw in all of this is that they are still missing the point. I am sitting here at my computer and frankly saying "WTF - do they not get it!" It is not just about having the museum open. It is about caring of the collections! It is about doing good science and fulfilling the universities core missions of teaching, research, and outreach (all things the museum has done for years under the guidance of their curator!). I am sure the president of the university does not appreciate my concern and probably is thinking that nothing he does will make any of us happy. But I really do not feel like they have any interest in ever letting the museum have a curator again. They do not seem to understand the importance of having an individual in this position. They so not understand what they do and why it is important. It is simply infuriating! Basically it makes as much sense as this does:

I guess we just have to keep on them [UW Administration] and let them know why it IS important to have a curator!


New links:
University of Wyoming Press Release
Laramie Boomerang
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Billings Gazette (thanks for the heads up MDR)

Blog links:

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster, "Jesus and Dinosaurs" from the internet, no idea who created it (not me!). Just google "Jesus Dinosaur." Paul Blart: Mall Cop is © Columbia Pictures and I urge them to consider making the sequel about a museum security guard - oh, wait, is that idea already taken (Night at the something-er-other) because I think the scenario taking place at the University of Wyoming will be MUCH MORE funny (and disastrous!)!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fieldwork Friday #11

Continuing my post from last week on work we were doing down in the Moab area (where we got chased off by alot of rain the entire week), I thought I would post about the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail (also managed by the BLM). This is a trail similar to what we have in Rabbit Valley here in Colorado - The Trail Through Time – an in situ displays with interpretative panels. Pictures are below:

It is a nice trail, short and ways to walk. Unfortunately bone has been stolen from the trail over the years and ATV/dirtbike/mountain bike/motorcycle riders cut down the fence and/or ride around the gate in an area where they are not allowed and generally tear the area up.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster. Please see the "
Field Work Friday Rules" about the work I do and collection practices.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

1/12th Scale Apatosaurus Model

An awesome wedding gift we got from some friends is a 1/12th scale Apatosaurus skeleton model. John has been working on putting this together for a few months now and we are happy to now have it displayed in our house. This thing is so cool - the finished skeleton is 6’ 11” long, 16” high! It was sculpted by Phil Platt and I have heard stories about the original making appearances at SVP over the years (pictures from 2001 below).

Below are some pictures from our building process and the final results.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Concretionary fun

There was a recent article in the Colorado Springs Gazette about fellow paleoblogger Anthony and his adventures in concretion land. As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of identifying fossils for the public we all know for every real fossil someone brings in you usually get a barrel full of concretions that people also brought in. I have found that having separate concretion and fossil examples that you can show to the public helps them to understand what they have and why it is not a dinosaur egg/heart/eye, fish, plesiosaur paddle, turtle, ect......sometimes it is an easy mistake to make, especially when you do not see fossils on a daily basis. Some of these concretions can be pretty cool looking and are interesting rocks/minerals on their own (without needing to pretend to be a fossil). And there are usually some pretty interesting storied that accompany most concretions.

I thought I would share some of the fun items we have in our lab that have been brought in and donated over the years:

Not sure what someone thought this one could be.

A variety of "eggs and/or turtles"

"Its a ceratopsian horn!" - No, its not. Sadly.

And this one is not a concretion, but I threw it in to see if anyone is paying attention. Any guesses on what it is (and there are at least two people out there who better know this):

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fieldwork Friday #10

A few weeks ago we were working down in the Moab area, most unsuccessfully due to daily rainstorms, which made digging a bit difficult. So we had to bail on the quarry work for the most part and stuck to prospecting and checking out a few track sites in the area.

We prospected a section of Chinle Formation, where we found some wood (picture below) and isolated, indeterminate bone. Nothing to spectacular, unfortunately. And we, inevitably, got chased off by rain. A while down the road the rain blew out and we stopped to prospect a Paleozoic outcrop (I can’t remember the age, Penn. maybe). We found quite a few brachiopods, some crinoids and bryozoans - your typical invertebrate fun (I forgot to take pictures!).

We checked out quite a few track sites while we were over in the area, including the Poison Spider Mesa and Copper Ridge track sites (both in the Jurassic age Entrada Sandstone) that are managed by the BLM.

The tracks at Poison Spider Mesa are interesting because not only are they awesome tracks but also mudcracks, ripple marks and a ton of petroglyphs! These petroglyphs are from the Fremont culture. Some are really great and weird, and many of them have been vandalized by others who feel the need to leave their mark right next to these marks or some even modifying and marking over the petroglyphs. So sad and illegal!

Pictures from the Poison Spider Mesa Track Site:

Pictures from the Copper Ridge Track Site:

So, even though this is more of a paleosite visit trip than fieldwork, I thought I would include it in the series. Hope you enjoy it and have a chance to visit these sites some day!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster. Please see the
"Field Work Friday Rules" about the work I do and collection practices.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A message from the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum

A statement from the Friends of the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum:

Statement from the Friends
On Tuesday, June 30 at 5:00 p.m. the University of Wyoming Geological Museum closed its doors. It was a sad moment for all of us who care about the museum. The museum was closed as a result of budget cuts announced by UW President Tom Buchanan on June 4, 2009 that included the museum’s small operating budget and the salary of the long-time director Brent Breithaupt and his part-time office assistant Jennifer Durer.

The outpouring of support for the museum from both the paleontological community and the general public has been overwhelming. Through on-line and paper petitions, Facebook and MySpace groups, blogs and emails, and newspaper articles and letter writing efforts, the President and Provost of the University of Wyoming as well as the Board of Trustees and the Governor are now very aware of the importance of the museum to the people and its role in research and in the education of everyone from children to college students to seniors.

Although the UW administration has not reversed the decision to close the museum, the overwhelming support shown for the museum has allowed the Department of Geology and Geophysics to begin to work with the administration to move towards new ideas for the permanent funding of the museum. These ideas include the establishment of an endowment that would fund the museum operations, including the salary of a director/curator. Obviously setting up and funding an endowment will take time and of course money, but we are hopeful that through these efforts the museum will re-open as a stronger and even more vital part of the Wyoming community.

We want to thank everyone for their support and hard work in helping us reach this point – it could not have been done without you! We will be continuing to gather support through this citizens group, the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum. There are links to the other on-line support activities on this blog, and we will keep it updated with the latest news about our efforts.

Now is the time to keep our efforts visible – we don’t want to lose this great momentum we’ve gained. If you signed the petition, now write a letter. If you’ve written letters, write more. And keep letting people know about our situation and how important the museum has been to you!

Again, thanks so much for all your support!