This year the 2008 DEAPS trip will focus on learning how to use the rock record to understand earth history. We will fly to Colorado Springs and begin our journey through the American West. Our trip will benefit from the participation of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and in particular the Vice-President, Kirk Johnson. Kirk is a world-renowned paleontologist and the author of several popular books. This is a trip on which you will gain an appreciation of the vastness of the American west, how mountains form, the excitement of understanding how landscapes develop and how we deduce a detailed understanding of what this region was like 100 million years ago.

While we will discuss everything from present day water shortages, to mining of oil shale, to how we can deduce climate fluctuations related to wobble shortages in earth’s spin axis in 50 million year old lake deposits, we will focus on the time period from about 100 to 45 million years ago. In particular, we will examine exquisite fossils of plants, dinosaurs, and fish that have been preserved in volcanic ash. We will examine evidence from the rocks that allow us to infer what environment the rocks were deposited in, what the climate was like, how we can track evolutionary innovations, and how we can determine the age of volcanic ash to ±100,000 years.

  • Travel from Boston to Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming
  • Camping each night
  • Informal lectures from faculty
  • Interact with and learn from the vice-president of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science - Kirk Johnson
  • Examine how fossils are preserved and collected
  • Learn how to infer paleo-climate from fossil assemblages
  • Collect your own fossils
  • Learn how solar system dynamics affects climate and the rock record
  • Learn how we determine the age of volcanic rocks
DEAPS Specifics
  • Dates: Saturday, August 16 through Saturday, August 23.

  • Place: Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

  • Available Spaces: 25

  • Cost: $150. The cost is a deposit. The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences will be covering the remaining balance of meals, housing and transportation.
What Will We Do?

An approximate and preliminary itinerary

  • Day 1. Colorado Springs to somewhere near Grand Junction.

  • Day 2. Grand Junction to near Vernal: examine site with fern fossils and dinosaur tracks near Westwater Utah (~100 Ma). Drive up and over the Book Cliffs, stop to examine Green River section at Hell Hole Canyon Green River Fm. Site of spectacular ~47 million year old leaf fossils and camp near Vernal.

  • Day 3. Vernal-Rock Springs: Visit the Museum at Vernal before driving over Uinta Mountains and into Green river Basin, visit rock Springs formation ash with spectacular 80 million year old fossils and dinosaur tracks.

  • Day 4. Rock Springs-Kemmerer: Almond Formation ash that extends for 5 km with great in situ herbaceous plants, oysters, and snails (~71 Ma), Frontier Formation 15 meter thick ash with great fossil plants dated at ~93Ma, stay in/near Kemmerer.

  • Day 5. Kemmerer: Green River basin stop at quarry in Fossil basin and collect fish fossils. Fossil Butte stay in/near Kemmerer.

  • Day 6. Kemmerer-Granby: Drive I-80 to west flank of Medicine Bow Mountains and then south into North Park and middle Park stay in/near Granby.

  • Day 7. Granby-Colorado Springs: Drive through Rocky Mountain National Park to Colorado Springs

  • Day 8. Depart Colorado Springs (2pm)
Recommended reading:
  • Rising From The Plains John McPhee
  • Roadside Geology of Wyoming (Roadside Geology Series) David Lageson;
  • Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip by Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll
For more information contact Sam Bowring and be sure to check back later on for additional details.