Mines Students Push to Preserve Gigantic Jurassic Dinosaur Bed in Utah

Mike LeSchin from the BLM shows SD Mines students a visitor center exhibit next to an Allosaurus fossil at the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry during the class spring break trip to Utah. The students left to right are Tristan Walker, Andrew Schappert, Julie Manders, Nicole Ridgwell, and Megan Norr.

Students in the Paleontology Resource Management class at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are leading a push to preserve and protect the largest known concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones in the world. The site includes dinosaurs like the Allosaurus, an older carnivorous cousin of the more famous T. rex, and the Stegosaurus, the plant-eating dinosaur with a spiked tail and bony finned back.

Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in central Utah is on federal Bureau of Land Management land.  But the widespread array of Jurassic dinosaur fossils at the quarry are protected only by aging metal buildings, almost open to the elements. Without careful preservation, the resources on the site could be lost to erosion, or even theft and vandalism.

“This class gives real-world experience to Mines students to build up the skills they need in working with or for federal, tribal, state and local government agencies when it comes to identifying and preserving rare paleontological resources for future generations,” said Sally Shelton, associate director of the SD Mines Museum of Geology.

Paleontology students traveled to Utah and visited the site over their spring break. They also sought input from leaders in the field, including experts from the Mammoth Site in South Dakota, the Dinosaur National Monument (National Park Service) in Colorado and Utah, the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park (Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and University of Nebraska), Toadstool Geological Park (U.S. Forest Service), and Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center (USFS) in Nebraska. Students are using sites like these as models for how to preserve and showcase large concentrations of fossils in the places where they are found.

Shelton says the scientific significance of these beds cannot be overstated. The Cleveland Lloyd site could be most simply described as a pile of dinosaur bones. There are no fully articulated skeletons at the quarry; rather the site contains a high concentration of the fossilized bones, mainly of Allosaurus specimens, all scattered across a large area. How these animals died and how their bones became concentrated in this place are intriguing scientific mysteries in need of further study.

 The students presented a document that includes 10 main points for federal land managers and the public to consider in the future decision-making process as to how best to care for and preserve these vital paleontological resources.

Last edited 6/8/2017 10:13:34 AM

Leave a comment