August 10, 2010
Julie Johndreau, 605-433-5242
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Interior, S.D. — Researchers have begun a three year study that aims to answer the question, “How fast are the Badlands eroding?” For over a hundred years, the answer to that question has been about one inch per year. Park paleontologist Rachel Benton and South Dakota School of Mines professor Larry D. Stetler have devised a research project that will provide park managers and visitors with a much better answer to that question.
“Better information about the rates of erosion in the park will lead to better protection of our fossil resources,” notes Larry Stetler. Erosion is a natural process that exposes fossils and can eventually destroy them. Once the study is complete, park managers will follow a paleontological monitoring schedule based on the known erosion rates at specific fossil sites.
The study will use three methods to determine erosion rates. High resolution photos of the study sites will be analyzed. Sediment runoff will be collected and measured. And small surface changes over time will be carefully measured from a static location. The goal of the project is improved protection of fossil resources. Researchers will be collecting data beginning this fall and extending through summer 2012.