Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hunting Fossils in the Uinta Basin proves interesting

The first in a monthly series of articles celebrating 100 Years of Discovery at Dinosaur National Monument was published last week by Dinosaur National Monument Park Guide Matthew Greuel. Keep an eye out on the Vernal Express for future articles.

Hunting Fossils in the Uinta Basin proves interesting

"Earl Douglass came to the Uinta Basin not to study dinosaurs but fossil mammals. He found much more than that, both paleontologically and otherwise.

Earl Douglass’ path to the Uinta Basin is not unlike many people today: The more he studied his trade, the science of studying fossils called paleontology, the more he knew there were fantastic opportunities for his line of work. His years of researching, studying and collecting in fossil beds in Wyoming and Western Montana in the late 1800s earned him praise in the field of paleontology, but he continued to toil in relative obscurity in the eyes of the public. He focused his research on fossil mammals – camels, three-toed horses, rhinoceroses, mastodons and others. He added 17 genera and 83 species to the scientific record of fossil vertebrates before coming to the basin.

His financial prospects during most of his life were tenuous at best, like many people today. Paleontology was not a high-paying profession then, nor is it today. Douglass was working during the summer, researching and digging and building his collections, but his lack of income was a constant source of stress. He worked as a schoolteacher at various schools during the winters, saving as much money as possible. The pressures and stresses, however, never took away from the main goal: to keep studying fossils, to keep adding to the scientific record, to keep working for greater scientific understanding. Fossil hunting and the science learned were tools he used to arouse interest and fascination with nature and help further understanding of Earth. He summarized this thought when he wrote, “Science is valuable in proportion as it is taken into the consciousness of the people.” He wrote at a different time, “The view we are now getting of the past by discovery of fossil animals and plants make the present world ever new to us giving to everything a wider interest and a greater significance. Every little untouched spot of nature, every tree, every plant suggests new ideas and is a little incentive for the world of the imagination.......”

Keep reading the article here.

Photos of Earl Douglass can be found in the Special Collections department of the University of Utah, Marriott Library Earl Douglass Photography Collection.

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