Earl Douglass and Dinosaur National Monument

Douglass Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument
Courtesy National Parks Service

Holly: Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

Dinosaur fever was rampant in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Andrew
Carnegie, the wealthy steel magnate, was not immune. He wanted a huge
dinosaur skeleton for the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. In 1908, Museum
Director W.J. Holland and paleontologist Earl Douglass explored the hills
along the Green River near Jensen UT. They found a 6 foot thigh bone of a
dinosaur. Douglass marked the spot and returned the following year to
explore some more.

It didn’t take Douglass very long to get what he was after– in August of
that same year, he came upon the tail section of an Apatasaurus in Morrison
Formation outcrops near Jensen, UT. Within weeks, Douglass had uncovered
an almost complete skeleton, including 64 tail vertebrae, more than twice
as many that had ever been found in this type of dinosaur. Then to his
amazement, a second Apatasaurus lay right beneath the first!

1500-1600 bones are exposed in the wall
Douglass Quarry
Dinosaur National Monument
Courtesy National Parks Service

There was plenty more to uncover. For 15 years Douglass worked what
became known as the Carnegie Quarry. He unearthed nearly 20 complete
skeletons of Jurassic dinosaurs, including Diplodocus, Dryosaurus,
Stegosaurus, Barosaurus, and Camarasaurus.

Local residents in Jensen and Vernal supported Douglass’s. They visited
him while he worked, sold him food and supplies and occasionally assisted
in excavations. Eventually they began to dream about the quarry’s
potential as a tourist attraction and the effect that would have on their
economy. And although Douglass worked for Carnegie, he shared the locals’
vision of a public exhibit of skeletons on location in northeast Utah.

Unfortunately, public education and improvement of local economies were NOT
goals of the early dinosaur industry. The Carnegie Museum shipped all
excavated material back to Philadelphia. In effect, the dinosaur quarry
was like any other mine being stripped of valuable material. Furthermore,
the Carnegie refused access to other research parties—including those of
the National Museum and the University of Utah.

In 1915, the federal government tried to break the monopolistic hold
Carnegie held on excavations by establishing Dinosaur National Monument. At
first the Monument was an 80 acre tract around the quarry. (Later it was
enlarged to encompass the spectacular canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers
in neighboring Colorado.) In 1916, Congress created the National Park
Service, which took control of National Monuments. But without funds and
political interest, visitor infrastructure in the Monument remained
undeveloped for decades.

In 1948, state funds helped establish the Utah Field House of Natural
History in nearby Vernal. Then in 1957 that a public park exhibit was
created to showcase the Carnegie quarry itself—just as Douglass and Utah
residents had desired. Nearly 2,000 bones were exposed in place forming
an entire wall of the visitor center. Sadly, the building was closed in
2006 due to the serious safety hazards caused by an inadequate foundation.

In April of this year, the Park announced the award of $13.1 million in
stimulus funds to demolish and replace condemned portions of the Quarry
Visitor Center. Construction is anticipated to take between a year and a
year and a half; the reopening the quarry exhibit and visitor center could
be as early as summer 2011. Perhaps at last the quarry in Dinosaur
National Monument will have a memorial that is worthy of its remarkable,
ancient inhabitants.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.
Credits:

Images: Courtesy National Parks Service

Text: Holly Strand, Stokes Nature Center

Additional Reading:


Harvey, Mark W.T. 1991. Utah, The National Park Service, And Dinosaur
National Monument, 1909-56, Utah Historical Quarterly, Number 3 (Summer 1991) p. 243

National Park Service, US Dept of Interior. Dinosaur National Monument.
http://www.nps.gov/dino/index.htm [ Accessed September 2009]

Utah History Encyclopedia. 1994. Dinosaur National Monument. Edited by
Allan Kent Powell, former Public History Coordinator at the Utah State
Historical Society. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/d/DINOSAUR_NATIONAL_MONUMENT.shtml [Accessed September
2009]

Tales of the Packrat The Legacy of Early Grazing on Utah’s Rangelands

Tales of the Packrat: Pack Rat Midden,  Photo Courtesy and Copyright 2009 Ken Cole - All Rights Reserved
Pack Rat Midden
Copyright © 2009 Ken Cole

One of the best storytellers in Utah’s national parks is not a ranger, but the lowly packrat. Their stories of past plant communities are written in their middens. The midden is a heap of leaves, twigs, seeds and fruits the packrat discards outside its nest. Protected in a desert cave or rock crevice and preserved by a rat’s own urine, this heap is a detailed and accurate time capsule of the past local flora.

Ken Cole with the US Geological Survey is a fluent translator of the packrat’s stories. Ken and colleagues sampled old packrat nests around Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Capitol Reef National Park. By carbon-14 dating, the nest ages are known to span the last 10,000 years. As controls, they also collected nests from mesa tops inaccessible to livestock. Ken and colleagues then carefully translated these packrats’ stories by identifying and counting the plant fragments in these fossil nests.

Reaching for a Pack Rat Midden
Copyright © 2009 Ken Cole

At both Capitol Reef and Glen Canyon, old packrat nests revealed pre-settlement plant communities that were rich in diverse grasses, wildflowers and shrubs. Then these floras changed. Beginning 150 years ago, vast herds of sheep and cattle tromped and chewed their way across the unfenced rangelands of Utah in numbers unimaginable today. We know that palatable plant species and those susceptible to trampling suffered declines, because they are absent from middens from that time period. Unpalatable shrubs multiplied. Despite curtailed grazing in subsequent decades at Capitol Reef and Glen Canyon, packrats show us that the flora still has not recovered. Like Aesop’s fables, this cautionary lesson of the packrat’s ecological tale remains clear and relevant today. We should all listen.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photos: Courtesy and Copyright Ken Cole

Text: Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Betancourt, Julio L., Thomas R. Van Devender, and Paul S. Martin, eds. Packrat Middens: The Last 40,000 Years of Biotic Change, University of Arizona Press, 1990 http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/books/BID40.htm

Pack Rat Middens, Colorado Plateau in Land Use History of North America, Ken Cole, USGS/Northern Arizona University, http://cpluhna.nau.edu/Tools/packrat_middens.htm

Introduction [to Carbon 14 Dating], Tom Higham, Radiocarbon Laboratory, University of Waikato, New Zealand http://www.c14dating.com/int.html

Aflame with Color

Canyon or Big-Toothed Maple
In a natural landscape
Acer grandidentatum
Courtesy Michael Kuhns
Extension.usu.edu

Holly: Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

The canyons and valleys of Utah will soon be awash with brilliant fall hues. Cascades of red, orange and gold will blanket the hillsides as the weather turns cooler and morning frost dusts the mountain ridges.

The Canyon Maple is one of Utah’s main sources of autumn color. Like most maple species, its leaves are carved into deep lobes. The leaves are medium-to-bright green now, but soon the entire tree will glow with spectacular color.
Canyon maple is found throughout Utah at medium elevations between 4,500 to 7,500 feet. It tends to grow on lower slopes and canyon bottoms in the mountains in association with Douglas-fir and junipers.

Its scientific name, Acer grandidentatum [AY-ser gran-dih-den-TAY-tum], means “Big Tooth”, referring to the tree’s distinctive lobed leaves with large, toothed margins. In fact, bigtooth maple is another common name for this species.

Canyon or Big-Toothed Maple
In a natural landscape
Acer grandidentatum
Courtesy Michael Kuhns
Extension.usu.edu

Some think that he canyon maple is related to the sugar maple of the northeastern and midwestern United States,” says forestry professor Mike Kuhns of Utah State University’s Department of Wildland Resources. It’s possible that long ago, the Rocky Mountains rose up and isolated a sugar maple population that eventually evolved into a unique species.

The canyon maple rivals its eastern relatives in fall color but does it produce sap suitable for tasty, syrup-covered waffles and pancakes? Back in 1970s, a group of scientists set out to determine just that. The trees were tapped and yielded plenty of sticky liquid. The color was very light, resembling light honey and the flavor was delicate and fruity, almost like pineapple. However, it was notably less sweet than the northeastern sugar maple. Of 30 panelists from Utah who participated in a taste test, 57 percent preferred eastern sugar maple syrup but the remaining 43 percent preferred canyon maple syrup.

Canyon or Big-Toothed Maple
leaves in late summer
Acer grandidentatum
Courtesy Michael Kuhns

The researchers concluded that while canyon maple sap was not practical for large-scale syrup production it might be enjoyable for individuals to try on a small scale on private land within its habitat range.

Syrup aside, the medium-sized tree thrives in Utah’s residential landscapes, parks and urban areas, as well as in the wild. Its year-round beauty, hardiness and manageable size make it a perennial favorite in the Beehive State.

Thanks to the USU College of Natural Resources for supporting research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.
Credits:

Canyon or Big-Toothed Maple
leaves in late summer & fall
Acer grandidentatum
Courtesy Michael Kuhns
Extension.usu.edu

Image: Courtesy and Copyright 2003 Michael Kuhns, Extension.usu.edu

Text: Holly Strand & Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Stokes Nature Center
Sources & Additional Reading

 

Barker, Phillip A.; Salunkhe, D. K. 1974. Maple syrup from bigtooth maple. Journal of Forestry. 72(8): 491-492. [9065] http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/saf/jof/1974/00000072/00000008/art00016

Kuhns, Michael. 2003. Canyon Maple: A Tree For the Interior West,” USU Forestry Extension, http://extension.usu.edu/forestry/HomeTown/Select_CanyonMaple.htm [2009, September 16].

Tollefson, Jennifer E. 2006. Acer grandidentatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2009, September 16]

Acer grandidentatum – Bigtooth Maple, Water-wise Plants for Utah Landscapes, http://www.waterwiseplants.utah.gov/default.asp?p=PlantInfo&Plant=17

Bugging Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwit on the shore
Photo by Lee Karney
Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In the name of curiosity and hunger, man has tracked the migrations of animals for centuries. The first record of the use of leg bands to track birds is from 1595 when one of Henry IV’s Peregrine Falcons was lost in France. It showed up 24 hours later in Malta, about 1400 miles away. John James Audubon tied silver cords to a brood of phoebes and identified two nestlings that returned the next year. In 1899, Hans Mortensen added identification numbers and his return address to the plain leg bands and modern bird banding was born.

In the United States, anyone who finds a bird band is encouraged to report it to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. Banding provides us with limited information, however. There is no data about the bird’s life between the time of banding and its recapture or death.

But recent miniaturization of satellite transmitters used to track larger animals is now proving valuable in bird research. In 2006, Bridget Olsen of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Adrian Farmer of the US Geological Survey started placing tiny satellite transmitters on the backs of Marbled Godwits, a hefty sandpiper that rests at the refuge during its migration. The Marbled Godwit is in decline throughout its range. This large shorebird was chosen by scientists from Mexico, the United States and Canada as the focus for an international shorebird conservation effort.
The solar-powered transmitters periodically record the bird’s GPS location. The transmission is picked up via satellite and returned to the researchers. Comparing two transmissions indicates travel time and speed.

Olsen and Farmer work with wildlife officers across North America to track the Marbled Godwits from their wintering grounds in Baja California, through their migration to nesting grounds in the Great Plains, Alaska and Canada.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Photo: Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service, National Digital Library

http://www.fws.gov/digitalmedia/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/natdiglib&CISOPTR=4348&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

Text: Lyle Bingham, Linda Kervin, Jim Cane, Bridgerland Audubon

Additional Reading:

Go Godwits Resources: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Resources/GoGodwits/

Frequently Asked Questions: Tracking Marbled Godwits by Satellite: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Resources/GoGodwits/faq.asp#Q1
Conservation Plan for the Marbled Godwit: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Products/Publications/pub_abstract.asp?PubID=21601

Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Migratory Bird Research, https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i2490id.html

Effects of Management Practices on Grassland Birds: Marbled Godwit, USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/literatr/grasbird/mago/mago.htm

Marbled Godwit, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Conservation Data Center,
http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/rsgis2/Search/Display.asp?FlNm=limofedo

Satellites Used to Track Bird Movement and Preserve Species, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, USGS Newsroom, June 12, 2006, http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1521

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Brigham City, UT – Research Page,
http://www.fws.gov/bearriver/research.html