CO – GSA125, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument


November 1, 2013 by Dr. G

Sitting and splitting paper shale, looking for fossils, at Florissant Fossil Quarry

Sitting and splitting paper shale, looking for fossils, at Florissant Fossil Quarry

Every year, the GSA conference offers fieldtrips for exploration and professional development before and after the conference.  As I am on sabbatical and did not have to rush back to campus to teach this time, I decided to to sign up for one of the post-meeting fieldtrips: History of Paleontology at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.  The description is below:

The late Eocene Florissant fossil beds are world-renowned for their delicate plant and insect fossils and huge petrified redwood stumps. This field trip to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument will provide an overview of the monument’s history, from the early geologists and paleontologists to the homesteaders who collected the first fossils for science, through the decades of commercial operation of two rival “petrified forest” concessions, to the establishment and operation of the national monument. The prolific scientific history of the site’s study extends back 140 years, beginning with the Hayden Survey. Less known—yet recently revealed in the new book Saved in Time—is the history of the lively legal battle to establish the national monument in 1969, which set new precedents during the infancy of environmental law. We will also discuss the scientific significance of Florissant’s geology and paleontology, emphasizing ongoing research as a focal point of the monument’s mission. Highlights of the trip will include a tour of the new paleontology lab and exhibit hall in the facility that opened in 2013, a one-mile walk through the historic Petrified Forest area, and fossil collecting at a privately owned fossil quarry.

I met with the fieldtrip group (~25 of us from at least 5 different countries) at the Convention Center early Thursday morning for our 2.5 hour drive down to the town of Florissant (and I learned the name came from the French term for “flowering”).  I won’t detail all that can be viewed at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – the geologic history is detailed online, and it is difficult to put in to words the size and scale of the petrified redwood stumps along the trails, and the very informative educational display with insect fossils in the visitor center.  As this fieldtrip was part of GSA’s 125-year anniversary meeting, the fieldtrip emphasized the history of what it took for this piece of land to become established as a national monument.  This was an incredibly fascinating history!  The history section of the NPS website does not do the story justice.  Florissant Fossil Bed’s journey to becoming a national monument was one of the nation’s first environmental cases that was a conflict between land developers and passionate citizens (including a group of women dressed in high heels and pearls that were ready to stand in front of a bulldozer to stop the construction from taking place!).  I picked up a copy of the book Saved in Time: The Fight to Establish Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado, and I look forward to reading the full history, including the connection to Disneyland.

After our time in the park, we headed to the Florissant Fossil Quarry, located outside of the park boundary.  This private property was determined to be located too close to the downtown of Florissant to be included when the park lines were drawn back in 1969.  The family that owns this property allows groups to come and dig through their beautiful outcrop of the lower shale unit of the Eocene-aged Florissant Formation.  We had just under an hour to spend going through the piles of paper shale to see what we could uncover.  I found some cool leaf fossils and plant fragments – now we’ll see if these delicate samples can survive the plane ride home!

It was a great day outdoors in the field with a great group of people.  Learning the history of one part of our public lands was really informative, and I can already see where I can bring my time today at Florissant to my classes.  I think I need to do GSA fieldtrips more often!

That's me, standing in front of Big Stump

That’s me, standing in front of Big Stump – not the biggest “stump” in the park, but still 38 feet in circumference!

One thought on “CO – GSA125, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

  1. […] participating in a NASA Social (and let’s not forget the shark tagging trip in Florida and fossil collecting trip in Colorado!) – I’m so pleased I took advantage of the opportunity to spend some time focusing on […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Follow me on Instagram

Wrapping up my @scienceathon week by wrapping up in my favorite blanket and drinking hot chocolate out of my favorite mug from @earthandstate. It's been a great week of communicating some of who I am, what I do, and the great community I am a part of. I hope I have been able to help others learn more about me - an #actuallivingscientist, a part of #womeninstem, always looking for ways to connect Earth science to the non-science community, whether it be through #sciart or #EarthScienceWeek or documentary screenings on campus like #thehumanelementmovie. ************************************ #dayofscience #weekofscience #earthsciencewomensnetwork #ESWN #octopus #hotchocolate ************************************** If you enjoyed following my week, please consider donating to my crowdrise page for the @scienceathon, where donations benefit the amazing organization ESWN (Earth Science Women's Network).
Yes, the @scienceathon is officially over - but I'm not finished yet! Today is a big day for me, as this is the second year the @psubrandywine Sustainovation Club (@sustainpsubw) students are leading an educational outreach activity at the @tylerarboretum Pumpkin Days Fall Festival. This year, the students decided to focus on teaching kids about conserving energy at home, showcase various renewable energy sources (such as wind power), emphasized the benefits of planting native plants and going outside, then helping kids create their own pinwheels. The last table at our station asked visitors to state how they will go home and make better efforts to conserve energy. This year's Sustainability Research Station was a great combination of education and hands-on fun! I'm so proud of the 19 students that came out today to make a difference in the community. #sustainovation #weare #wearepennstate #nittanylion #mascot #education #outreach #dayofscience #weekofscience #actuallivingscientist #womeninstem
Big event today! We unveiled winners of our 1st-ever @PSUBrandywine #EarthScienceWeek photo contest! See how the #EarthAsInspiration theme was used with @adobe products. Thanks Matt Bodek & @psulibs #VairoLibrary 4organizing w/me! @scienceathon #dayofscience #weekofscience @vairolibrarypsu #photocontest
Piling up the boxes and bins this morning outside of my office this morning for an early pick from the campus maintenance department. I'm so lucky to have such supportive services across the campus that come together as a team for our outreach events. Maintenance will be bring all of this stuff (minus the fire extinguisher!) and some folding tables over to one of our community partners, @tylerarboretum, so we can participate in their Pumpkin Days Fall Festival on Saturday! (and yes, I'm sporting last year's @scienceathon t-shirt!) #dayofscience #weekofscience #actuallivingscientist #womeninstem #logisticslogisticslogistics #whatfacultydo
Lunch at 3PM, because my marathon day of teaching/meetings doesn’t take a break during the @scienceathon! #dayofscience #weekofscience #whitepizza @pennstatebwcampusliving
%d bloggers like this: