Find the Story

Percy the Utahraptor by Justin Tolman, USU Museum of Geology, Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Percy the Utahraptor
by Justin Tolman
USU Museum of Geology
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Fossil Point in the San Rafael desert near Green River, Utah, Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Fossil Point in the San Rafael desert near Green River, Utah
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

In their picture book “Everywhere, Wonder,” Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr challenge readers to find a story in places and phenomena both ordinary and extraordinary. Black ants marching in a line have a story just as interesting as red-rock canyons and a footprint on the moon. Sunlight patterns through a window are just as beautiful as Brazilian jungles and wildebeests in Kenyan savannas. They remind us to keep our eyes open and weave the stories of our noticings. As I wander among Utah’s wild wonders, it’s easy.

This spring I realized the fun of finding my wonder story as I stumbled upon the sign for Fossil Point in the San Rafael desert near Green River, Utah. The odds were pretty good, I suspected, that I could find fossils there, but I didn’t know exactly what I was hunting. My eyes are always drawn to the fact-filled stories on interpretive signage, even if I’ve read them before, but at this spot all I knew was the title. No kiosks with hint-filled maps and tips for discovery or guardrail paths making it obvious where to walk. Just a pile of boulders.

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a dino-fanatic, I have been a frequent visitor throughout my life at the Dinosaur National Monument and other Utah fossil museums as well as more dinosaur trackways and quarries not housed in buildings. I’ve read hundreds of dino readers and scanned even more dinosaur books, but here I was without many clues to what I might find. Resisting the urge to look up internet hints, I started up the Fossil Point slope. Was it trilobites the size of dimes and quarters or prehistoric swamp ferns? I will not reveal what I found at Fossil Point so that you can discover the wonder yourself, but it motivated me to catch up on Utah’s contribution to the more than one hundred characters in the dinosaur story, as depicted beautifully in the Dinosaurs of Utah tools at the Utah Geological Survey website.

So many students I’ve met have been fascinated by the T-rex and Utah state fossil Allosaurus, and they know all sorts of theories about how the Utahraptor, our state dinosaur since 2018, might have had feathers and hunted in packs. Fossils provide hints to the size and shape of prehistoric life, but they leave a lot of the colors and textures to the imagination. Tucked in the back corner of the Geology Museum at Utah State University I found another story, this one titled “Percy.” While the stories of Percy’s relatives are preserved in the nine-ton Utahraptor Megablock extracted from the area that is emerging as Utahraptor State Park, this story took sculptor Justin Tolman an astounding 350 hours to create. This incredible replica sports colors resembling my grandbabies’ Easter egg-dying hands as they toddled along the base of Fossil Point with me hunting evidence of a Mesozoic story. It is a story I’m glad I found
almost all on my own.

For Wild About Utah, I am Shannon Rhodes.


Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller,
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Wild About Utah Pieces by Shannon Rhodes,

Bureau of Land Management, Fossil Point trailhead,

Rodgers, Bethany, Governor Spencer Cox signs bill to create Utahraptor State Park near Moab. 2021. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Sidwell, Owen. University student sculpts Utahraptor for USU Geology Museum. 2018. Utah Public Radio.

Swanson, Matthew. Everywhere, Wonder. 2017. Imprint: New York.

USU Museum of Geology, Come meet Percy the Raptor,

Popular Geology: Dinosaurs and Fossils, Utah Geological Survey.,of%20millions%20of%20years%20ago.

Nature Centers

Nature Centers: Helping Hands, Courtesy Pixabay, Shameer PK, Contributor
Helping Hands
Courtesy Pixabay
Shameer PK, Contributor
With another Earth Day in the offing, my reflections travel to one of the Earthier parts of my long life, that of helping to launch several nature centers. I was first exposed to the nature center concept while residing in Michigan. My prior mindset was seeing nature through my gunsights and on the end of my fishing line. Awakening to the thoughts of nature having intrinsic value beyond sports and putting food on the table was a novelty.

A few years later, I moved to Utah with a new paradigm. Good fortune occurred when I was invited to attend a meeting to explore how a 136 acre parcel of former Defense Depot of Ogden land deeded to Ogden City might serve the greater Ogden community. I, along with other like-minded folks, posited the idea of a community nature center. Following four years of a dedicated, visionary, hard-working assemblage, we opened the gates to the Ogden Community Nature Center. two additional parcels of land have been added since then.

“Our mission is to unite people with nature and nurture appreciation and stewardship of the environment. Since it was founded in 1974 as Utah’s first nature center, the Ogden Nature Center has provided a place where people can go to enjoy and learn about the natural world.”

The 152-acre preserve is our foundation, but education is our focus. Each year the Ogden Nature Center brings more than 50,000 children, teachers, and adults together with nature through hands-on field classes.”

Many years later, I found myself in Cache Valley. Given my deep involvement with the Ogden Nature Center, I immediately began scanning the horizon for another nature center possibility. After a decade of fits and starts, a partnership was created, to resurrect an abandoned American Legion building in Logan Canyon on Forest Service land. The building was near collapsing from neglect. Used as a party place, the fireplace hearth was replaced with a lovely fire ring in the middle of the floor. The roof had been opened to the stars, which accommodated bonfire smoke.
This invited an extreme makeover. The Cache community came to the rescue with an incredible generosity of dollars, materials, and skilled labor to bring the languishing building back to life. This was followed by opening the doors in 1997 for public use and educational programs for the Cache Community. Since that time, many thousands of Cache citizens have benefited from its myriad programs and lovely setting. A satellite site is being developed in nearby Nibley.

“The Allen & Alice Stokes Nature Center is Cache Valley’s local nature center and outdoor exploration hub for people of all ages. Our mission is to provide nature education and promote outdoor exploration for the people of all ages. Our vision is for People of all ages to appreciate and become stewards of our natural world.” Get the latest nature center news at

Other nature centers are scattered around Utah, from the Tonaquint in St. George, to the newly emerging Tracy Aviary Jordan River Nature Center near Salt Lake City.

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m wild about Utah’s nature centers!

Ponderosa Pine Pictures: Courtesy Pixabay, Shameer PK, Contributor
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Ogden Nature Center,
Ogden Nature Center Articles of Incorporation, May 19, 1975,

Stokes Nature Center,
Legacy Wall:

Tonaquint Nature Center,

Tracy Aviary Jordan River Nature Center,

Shughart, Hilary. Nov 7, 2022. 25th Anniversary Nutshell History of the Founding of the Stokes Nature Center, Wild About Utah,

Stokes Nature Center History, Bridgerland Audubon Society,

EPA History: Earth Day, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),

The History of Earth Day,,

Antler Math and Memories

Courtesy & © Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Courtesy & © Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Courtesy & © Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer 7- and 8-year-olds with tape measures in their hands eagerly grasp at hard, smooth yet knobby, tined objects. These students are my 2nd-graders at USU’s Edith Bowen Laboratory School, and they are working on a measurement, addition, and estimation math lesson in small groups. This lesson isn’t a normal math lesson where students follow along in a textbook and complete standardized problem. Instead, this lesson centers around a natural artifact from the Utah wild. The students are measuring and exploring deer and elk antlers.
All three images:
Courtesy & © Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer

Growing up, I was surrounded by rural friends and family. Much of their livelihoods and lifestyles revolved around the outdoors, and it was commonplace to enter their homes or ranches to see spindly antlers laying on mantles, mounted above doors, or carefully placed in gardens to add a western feel. Over the years, I made my own personal connection to antlers such as when I found one when I was chucker partridge hunting up Blacksmith Fork Canyon with my trusty Springer Spaniel, Wyatt, who is no longer here to share such adventures. Each antler is a memory, each one makes me reminisce on an outdoor adventure that will only live on as a thought.

As a teacher, I am always pondering ways to make learning more relatable to students, and one day realized the method employed by professionals to score antlers would be a meaningful way for my students to practice measurement! So, I loaded up the truck with my collection of outdoor memories, and brought them to school.

I launched the activity and each and every eye lit up at the sight of an antler. We hadn’t even begun the activity yet and my students started sharing their own memories of times with their family that related to antlers; a rafting excursion on the Green River, an elk hunting trip with their dad and big brother, or even a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park where they saw lots of bull elk. These stories were powerful to the students, and powerful to me.

We continued with the measurement activity and each student group collaborated to measure the tines and three circumferences of each antler. Then, they would struggle, and succeed, to add all those sub-measurements together to get a total score for that antler, which we collected as data. Groups would rotate to a new, unique antler and repeat this process, collecting student-generated data which we compiled. By the end, our data consisted of multiple scores for each antler, as various groups had scored each one. We analyzed the data, looked at discrepancies in scores, posed and solved antler math problems, and even ended the activity by showing a new antler that hadn’t been scored, having all the students make a visual estimation of the total score for the antler, and then giving the antler to the student who made the closest estimation.

In the end, this activity brought together what I value in education. It connected to the place and culture in which my students live, was directly focused on academic content needed by my students, and elicited engagement and personal stories from my students. In a perfect world, all my lessons would be as powerful and relatable to students as this one was. In fact, right before leaving for Spring Break one of my students declared “We’re going to stay at an elk ranch in Southern Utah so I can try to see some antlers!”

On normal years, your family is welcome to collect antlers year-round, only needing a free gathering certificate between February 1st-April 15th ( However this year due to the harsh winter, Division of Wildlife Resources put a ban on the activity until May 1st

This is Dr. Joseph Kozlowski, and I am Wild about Utah!


Images: Courtesy & Copyright Joseph Kozlowski, Photographer, Used by Permission
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller,
Text:     Joseph Kozlowski, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University
Additional Reading Links: Joseph Kozlowski

Additional Reading:

Joseph (Joey) Kozlowski’s pieces on Wild About Utah:

Gathering shed antlers or horns, Take the Antler Gathering Ethics Course between Feb. 1
and April 15., Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of

DWR implements emergency statewide restrictions for shed antler hunting to help
protect wintering big game in Utah, Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural
Resources, State of Utah,

Earth Day Musings & Proclamation

Earth Day Musings & Proclamation: Earth as a Blue Marble Courtesy NASA
Earth as a Blue Marble
Courtesy NASA
Earth Day is an annual global Thanksgiving for Mother Earth, and a celebration of the people who advocate for legislation to protect the earth on local, state, and national levels. While encouraging individual actions and mindful living, Earth Day is a testament to the enduring need for collective action, for which water is a great example for Utah, the Great Salt Lake, and the “over 10 Million birds, represented by 338 species, [which] utilize the Great Salt Lake and its associated wetlands and uplands”.(1) We are water aware, we mind each drop of rain water, stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water, and we rely on the trees and water-efficient landscape choices to help slow, spread, and store some of that rain. Our good choices make for a good difference, so it is particularly heartening that we are celebrating Earth Day. Kudos to Cache Community Connections, the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and the City of Logan for the 2023 Earth Day Proclamation by Logan City Mayor Holly Daines, which I will now read in full:
Earth Day Proclamation

Whereas, The first Earth Day was enacted in 1970 and engaged over twenty million Americans to advocate for a cleaner environment; and

Whereas, Earth Day has now become a worldwide event and has highlighted some of the most critical environmental issues on the world stage; and

Whereas, Cache Valley hosts 323 species of birds, a wealth of trees, waterways, parks and trails; and

Whereas, The City of Logan seeks to protect the Logan River watershed with native plants, and mitigate the decline of the Great Salt Lake; and

Whereas, Logan supports projects which demonstrate and encourage energy conservation, sustainability, and the usage of renewable energy; and

Whereas in 2016 the Logan City Council unanimously adopted a resolution “SUPPORTING POLICY AND ACTIVITIES WHICH ADDRESS AIR QUALITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE”, and

Whereas, Logan challenges every resident to help in conserving and protecting the environment via green activities, such as recycling, water and energy conservation, tree planting, and active education about environmental issues; and

Whereas, This year, Earth Day will celebrate its 53rd anniversary of promoting the value of a healthy planet, which is our health, and respect for all who live on it;

Now Therefore, Holly Daines, Mayor of the City of Logan, does hereby proclaim Friday, April 21, 2023 as Earth Day in the City of Logan, and urges our Logan community to join us in efforts to help protect and preserve our environment for present and future generations.

I like that closing line – “To help protect and preserve our environment for present and future generations.” What a nice way to inspire us all to actions great and small!

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am Wild About Utah Public Radio and Wild About Utah!

Images: Courtesy NASA
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart,

Birds An avian oasis, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

Logan River Task Force to encourage restoration and long-term conservation of the Logan River,

The Logan River watershed is located in the heart of the Bear River range with headwaters near the Utah-Idaho border. The river flows southwest through Logan Canyon – a landscape dominated by formerly glaciated peaks, limestone cliffs, and the occasional sinkhole.,

Earth Day,

Resolution # 16-06 A Resolution Supporting Policy and Activities Which Address Air Quality and Climate Change, Mayor Holly Daines,