Museum of Natural History unveils traveling exhibit at Zions Bank

Byron Dalton uncovered something unexpected Tuesday at Zions Bank.


Cool Science Radio – December 19, 2013 (Featuring Utah State Paleontologist, Jim Kirkland)

Hear now, hear now!

Jim Kirkland, our Utah State Paleontologist, is interviewed on the KPCW Park City NPR radio science show, Cool Science Radio. Check it out! His interview begins in the second half of the interview at 27 minutes, but give the whole thing a listen. Enjoy!


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Grand Staircase book details monument's paleontological wonders

A 656-page book chronicling the paleontological discoveries and success evidenced so far at Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has been published, even as new discoveries continue to unfold on a near daily basis.
“I am here to emphasize that we are just getting started at the Grand Staircase,” said Alan Titus, the monument’s paleontologist. “We have a great big sandbox to play in.”




Utah paleontologists probing for signs of dinosaurs’ rise

For paleontologists Randall Irmis and Andrew Milner, the tiny stuff matters, especially when you’re exploring the dawn of big reptiles. Microscopic fossilized pollen, two-inch fishes, even the color of the rock that bones are embedded in say a lot about the landscapes dinosaurs roamed, the climate, what they ate and what their prey ate.


High school student finds bumpy-headed baby dino

A dinosaur skeleton discovered by an eagle-eyed high-school student turns out to be the smallest, youngest and most complete duck-billed dinosaur of its kind ever found. This Cretaceous-era herbivore, Parasaurolophus, walked the Earth some 75 million years ago. The dinosaurs in this genus are best known for their impressive tube-shaped head crests, which may have been used for display or perhaps to amplify the animals’ calls. The little specimen, dubbed “Joe,” was so young that its crest was a mere bump on its head.


UGS paleontology work at Stike’s Quarry September 2013

The UGS paleontology field program, Jim Kirkland, Don DeBlieux, and Scott Madsen, recently complete 2 weeks of field work at our Stike’s Quarry dinosaur site in eastern Utah.  This spectacular site has been the subject of news reports earlier this summer and is the site where a episode of the Discovery Channel television show Dirty Jobs was filmed in 2011.  This site contains the well-preserved remains of numerous dinosaurs, including adult and juvenile Utahraptor skeletons.  We have had difficulty removing the bones from this site because there are so many clustered together.  Because they are packed so closely together, we have had to use plaster and burlap to jacket a large block with the hope of one day using a large cargo helicopter to fly the block – now on the order of 5 tons – off of the large mesa on which it is located.   The large number of bones at this site, along with the nature of the sediments that they are preserved in, leads us to hypothesize that the animals were trapped in a dewatering feature (something similar to quicksand).   Our work this September focused on further excavating, isolating, and pedestaling the main block.  Work was initially hampered by several days of rain which pinned our team in camp unable to work or leave because the ground and roads became muddy and impassible.

As the weather cleared,

we were able to make good progress with an electric powered jack-hammer and pneumatic chisels to remove rock from around and under the block.  This was not the fine-detail, dental pick, and paint brush paleontology that many picture – but back breaking manual labor more akin to highway construction!

Many tons of rock where removed by hand and a tunnel was completed under the jacket leaving it on two large pedestals.

The exposed rock around the bone was covered in plaster to protect it from the elements.  Our final task to ready the block for transport, is to construct a wooden timber frame and box around the jacket to reinforce and stabilize it.  We hope to complete this work in the Spring of 2014.  We were assisted in the field by several volunteers from the Utah Friends of Paleontology.  The excavation was conducted under a permit from the State of Utah.  The BLM allowed us access to the site.

Discoveries emerging from fossils found at Southern Parkway Project excavation sites

Four new paleontological sites were discovered during the Southern Parkway project in Washington County, and 10 previously known localities were surveyed for additional paleontological resources. Paleontologist Andrew Milner shares his findings, some of which may be entirely new discoveries to science.



POTD August 27, 2013: Dinosaur Tracks near Moab, Grand County, Utah

Near Moab, Grand County, Utah
Photographer: Carole McCalla

During Jurassic time, a sauropod walked across mud, sinking deeply into it. The footprints can be seen preserved in the rock near Moab in Grand County. BLM interpretive site.

POTD August 26, 2013: Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, Wayne County, Utah

Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, Wayne County, Utah
Photographer: James I. Kirkland

Not a logjam, but a “legjam” of dinosaur bones left in a channel of Jurassic-aged river is being excavated at the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry in Wayne County. BLM interpretive site.

Dinosaurs on Mars

I’ve never been to Mars, but I’ve been close. From my Salt Lake City home, the journey takes a relatively scant four and a half hours – through the smoggy sprawl of the valley and over lonely highways pocked here and there by small Utah farming towns before reaching the tourist-dependent outpost of Hanksville. I wonder how many people speed along the main drag, on their way to see the imposing geology of Capitol Reef National Park or make the spirit of Edward Abbey cringe by boating over Lake Powell, without ever realizing what lies up a unremarkable dirt road just a few miles outside of town.