The Paleontology Section of the Mapping Program maintains and publishes records of Utah’s fossil resources and provides paleontological and archaeological recovery services to state and local governments. The UGS’ paleontology services are often requested by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and/or the U.S. Forest Service.


  • Oversee Paleontology Research in Utah – Preserve, protect, and police (monitor) important fossil sites, advise on paleontological issues in Utah, and report on significant paleontological discoveries.
  • Public and Private EducationPromote and educate Utah’s outstanding paleontological record, issue paleontology permits for Utah State Land and its subdivisions, and serve as the Supervisor of Utah Friends of Paleontology (UFOP).
  • Data Collection – Maintain a database of paleontological sites in Utah.

Outside Funding Sources

  • Bureau of Land Management
  • National Park Service
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Forest Service


  • Excavation, preparation, curation of hundreds of Utahraptor bones from a “megablock”
  • Permanent management plan for Dalton Wells quarry site that was previously vandalized
  • Finalization of a complete study of the Morrison Formation paleontology and stratigraphy in the western Blanding basin, in association with the BLM
  • Updating and maintaining a Utah Paleontological Database, in association with the BLM
  • Paleontological study of the Morrison and Cedar Mountain Formations at the north end of Capitol Reef, in association with the NPS
  • Cedar Mountain Formation research

Recent Discoveries

The two genera of Morrison Ankylosaur are readily distinguished species. 2019 In Review
The Morrison Formation is much less diachronous (closer in age) across Utah than previously reported. 2018 In Review
The dinosaur Cifelliodon has ties to North Africa. 2018 Nature
A new stem mammal Cifellidon is the most basal synapsid in the Cretaceous of North America. 2018 Nature
USC News
The dinosaur Mierasaurus apparently island-hopped across the North Atlantic. 2018  Nature Scientific Reports
Survey Notes
The most primitive North American sauropod (long-necked) dinosaur is newly described. Called Mierasaurus bobyoungi, from Grand Co., Paradox Basin. 2017 Nature Scientific Reports
The two oldest Cretaceous dinosaur faunas in North America were restricted to the Paradox Basin. 2017 Geology of the Intermountain West
Survey Notes
UGS-excavated Utahraptor “block” represents first documented dinosaur mass mortality by quicksand. 2016 Palaios
Survey Notes

Paleontology Staff

Senior Scientist

Grant Willis

Phone: (801) 537-3355
Email: grantwillis@utah.gov

Grant Willis has worked for the Utah Geological Survey’s Geologic Mapping Program his entire career which encompasses 12 years as a field geologist and 27 years as Program Manager. He has been a part of the Mapping Program from its formation in 1983, and has led it through many changes, including the transition from building maps using mylar, rapidograph drafting pens, scribe coat, and bluelines, to digital photogrammetry and GIS databases. He has overseen the review, production, and publication of hundreds of geologic maps, and has been lead or co-author on over 40 maps. He developed field safety policies and manuals for the UGS and served on the Department of Natural Resources Vehicle Accident Safety Committee and the state Geographic Names Committee for 15 years. He has also served in many roles in the professional community, including as president of the Utah Geological Association (UGA) and as chair of the UGA Earthquake Safety Committee, where he wrote and created a website devoted to the earthquake dangers of unreinforced masonry buildings. He recently stepped down as Program Manager to spend his last couple of years with the UGS as a field mapper.

State Paleontologist

James Kirkland

Phone: (801) 537-3307
Email: jameskirkland@utah.gov

Dr. James I. Kirkland received a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado and spent two years teaching at the University of Nebraska and nine years as paleontologist with the Dinamation International Society before joining the Utah Geological Survey. He has spent the last 18 years as the Utah State Paleontologist. He issues permits for paleontological research on Utah state lands, keeps tabs on paleontological research and issues across the state, and promotes Utah’s paleontological resources for the public good. http://ugs.academia.edu/JamesKirkland

An expert on the Mesozoic, he has spent forty years excavating fossils across the southwestern United States and Mexico and has authored or co-authored more than 80 professional papers. Some of his interests include the reconstruction of ancient marine and terrestrial environments, biostratigraphy, paleobiogeography, paleoecology, and mass extinctions. He has discovered and described numerous new dinosaurs including several new armored dinosaurs, bipedal plant-eaters, the oldest truly horned dinosaur, North America’s first sickle-clawed therizinosaurid, and the giant dromaeosaur [raptor] Utahraptor. His research of the middle Cretaceous of Utah indicates North America separated from Europe about 115 million years ago, followed by a period of isolation, and the origins of Alaska with the first great Asian-North American faunal interchange occurred about 100 million years ago, which his numerous trips to Europe, China, and Mongolia have substantiated.


Don DeBlieux

Phone: (801) 537-3328
Email: dondeblieux@utah.gov

Don DeBlieux is a Geologist with the Utah Geological Survey’s Geologic Mapping Program. He joined the UGS in 2001 and serves as the Utah Assistant State Paleontologist. Don oversees the UGS field paleontology program and fossil preparation lab. He has authored or co-authored over 20 professional papers and helped to discover and name six new dinosaurs and two new fossil mammals from Utah. Over the past 30 years, he has helped lead dozens of field expeditions searching for vertebrate fossils in the western United States, Egypt, Madagascar, Namibia, and Tanzania.

Paleontology Assistant

Martha Hayden

Phone: (801) 537-3311
Email: marthahayden@utah.gov

Martha Hayden is a Paleontology Assistant with the Geologic Mapping and Paleontology Program at the Utah Geological Survey. She started working for Utah’s first State Paleontologist, James Madsen, in 1979 shortly after graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in anthropology. The Paleontology Program was then a part of the office of the State Archaeologist at the Utah Division of State History but was transferred to the Utah Geological Survey in 1995. Her duties include management of a statewide paleontological database and coordination of the Utah Friends of Paleontology, a volunteer organization that promotes the preservation of Utah’s fossil resources through public education and outreach programs.