Dinosaur National Monument Paleontologist Receives Department of the Interior Superior Service Award
Contact: Dan Johnson, (435) 781-7702
Dinosaur, CO - Superintendent Mary Risser presented Dr. Daniel Chure with a Superior Service Award from Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels.
"This Superior Service Award recognizes outstanding contributions Paleontologist Dan Chure has made to Dinosaur National Monument during the last five years," stated Risser. "Dr. Chure has made huge strides in restoring science and research to Dinosaur's paleontology program. Over the last decade, the paleontology program's emphasis shifted from excavation of the Carnegie Quarry to a broader effort directed at understanding and protecting fossil resources Monument-wide."
In 2007 Dinosaur National Monument reorganized the paleontology program; Dr. Chure has made that reorganization a resounding success. We now have greater flexibility and efficiency to target funds, personnel, and resources to specific scientific projects. Dr. Chure leveraged $35,000 from base funding in each of the last four years into a well developed, aggressive, and comprehensive research program. The University of Nebraska, Utah State University, Brigham Young University, Harvard University, University of Utah, and the American Museum of Natural History plus seven doctoral candidates currently work in the Monument. Ten presentations based on this work have been made at national and international scientific conferences; each include a published abstract coauthored by Dr. Chure.
Dr. Chure and paleontologists from Brigham Young University and the University of Michigan announced the discovery of a new dinosaur, Abydosaurus mcintoshi, found in Dinosaur National Monument. In addition of being a newly identified species, it includes the only complete sauropod skull from the Western Hemisphere from the last 80 million years. Dr. Chure and the University of Nebraska paleontologist discovered sites that contain rare or unique fossils, including hundreds of small tracks. Most of the 190 million year-old tracks are about the size of a dime; some are even smaller. A few are so well preserved that individual toe impressions can be seen. This remarkable deposit provides an important record of the animal diversity living in the Early Jurassic desert of North America and provides insight into social behavior and biology of these primitive mammals.
Dr. Chure participated in planning sessions and reviewed specifications and construction drawings for the new visitor center and exhibit hall. Throughout the construction process, Dr. Chure served as the paleontology subject matter expert for all aspects of the project. The old building had served as a prototype for showcasing fossils at other locations throughout the world. This was the first time that a building that protected fossils was demolished over fossils, so the project was of great interest to the scientific community. Dr. Chure wrote a blog that tracked the construction's progress for the scientific community. One of the project's most critical components was the protection of the fossils during demolition and construction. Dr. Chure helped design a structure over the fossil wall that included a scaffold and truss system to serve as a skeleton to hold numerous layers of protective material to prevent damage to the fossils. He spent an inordinate amount of time working on new exhibits; he was involved in the design development, identification of themes, and development of the text and graphics.
"The Superior Service Award is the first level of recognition under the Department of the Interior's honor awards system," explained Risser. "Superior Service awards are granted for significant acts, services, or achievements that materially aid or affect the successful accomplishment of the Department's mission. They recognized the accomplishment of a particularly difficult or important mission, operation, or assignment in a manner that reflects credit on the individual and development of a new procedure or process that results in substantially increased productivity, efficiency, or economy of operation. It is really an honor to present Dan with the Superior Service Award."