Series: Park Paleontology News - Vol. 12, No. 2, Fall 2020

All across the park system, scientists, rangers, and interpreters are engaged in the important work of studying, protecting, and sharing our rich fossil heritage. Park Paleontology news provides a close up look at the important work of caring for these irreplaceable resources.

  • Colonial National Historical Park

    Article 1: Counting Fossils in Colonial Virginia During COVID-19

    a large assortment of shells spread on a wood plank

    The first paleontological inventory of Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia, began in 2020. This historically notable area also hosts exposures of fossil-bearing rocks, and the fossils here have been collected since at least the 17th century. The execution of this project has had to face additional challenges imposed by the emergence of COVID-19. Read more

  • Article 2: Prehistoric Road Trip Helps Expose Deep Histories of some National Parks in New PBS Series

    two people standing next to a rock outcrop

    The PBS series Prehistoric Road Trip features visits to several National Park Service units of the Great Plains. Among them are: Badlands National Park, featuring the story of a fossil skull discovered by a young visitor; Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, home of fossils including ancient beaver burrows known as "Daemonelix", the “Devil’s Corkscrew”; and the former Fossil Cycad National Monument, abolished after the surface was stripped of the namesake plant fossils. Read more

  • Mammoth Cave National Park

    Article 3: The Ghosts of Ancient Sharks at Mammoth Cave National Park

    a paleo artist's painting of an ancient shark dead on the seafloor

    2019–2020 investigations at Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, have revealed an unprecedented assemblage of Paleozoic (Late Mississippian) shark fossils preserved in the passages of the cave system. Not only teeth and spines are present, but there are examples of rare cartilaginous skeletal remains, and the fossils include previously unknown species. Read more

  • Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

    Article 4: A Monumental Task: A Vision for the Future of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

    fossil mammoth tusk exposed in the ground

    Derek Carter is the new Superintendent of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, a rich Pleistocene fossil site northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. Management of this site, which is both recently established and adjacent to a growing metro area, has numerous challenges and opportunities. Superintendent Carter looks to address visitor experience, scientific research, and resource management. Read more

  • Channel Islands National Park

    Article 5: Paleontology of Channel Islands National Park

    rolling hills covered in grass

    Channel Islands National Park has one of the best fossil records in the National Park Service. The marine rocks of the islands have yielded significant microfossils, shellfish and other invertebrates, and marine vertebrates such as sea cows. Younger sedimentary deposits blanketing the islands include fossils of birds, other small vertebrates, snails, plant roots, and the famous pygmy mammoths. Read more

  • John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

    Article 6: Jennifer Cavin, Fossil Preparator at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

    a person in a lab coat working on a fossil

    Jennifer Cavin has been the fossil preparator at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon, since 2008. Her work involves exposing collected fossils from the surrounding rock, repairing damage to specimens, and other tasks that are intended to preserve and protect fossils for future study and display. Read more

  • Death Valley National Park

    Article 7: Ancient Springs Reveal a Pleistocene Vertebrate Fauna and a 100,000 Year Record of Paleoclimate in Death Valley National Park

    fossils and rocks on the ground with two people and a mountain in the distance

    Recent investigation of the Rogers beds of Death Valley National Park, California, have uncovered abundant bones of late Pleistocene animals. Study of the beds themselves show that they are ancient spring-fed wetlands deposits, like those seen elsewhere in the Southwest, and tie into the Mojave Desert record of regional climate cycles. Read more