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Special Volume on Snowmastodon Project Relies Significantly on Work of CC Geologists

Four years ago, a bulldozer turned over bones at a construction site near Snowmass Village, Colo. Scientists called to the scene confirmed the bones were those of a juvenile Columbian mammoth, setting off a frenzy of excavation, scientific analysis, and international media attention. The 2010 discovery culminated recently with the publication of the "Snowmastodon Project Science Volume" in the international journal Quaternary Research. Of the 14 articles in the special issue, six are co-authored by Colorado College geologists, looking at various aspects of the extraordinarily well-preserved Ice Age site.

The Snowmastodon Project, which was spearheaded by the Denver Museum of Science & Nature, involved the work and expertise of numerous CC geologists. The papers in Snowmastodon Project Science Volume represent "a new benchmark for understanding climate change in the American West," said paleontologist Ian Miller '99, Snowmastodon Project co-leader and chair of the Museum's Earth Sciences Department.

"The excavation project led to a major field and lab research effort to understand the biota, environment, and climate of the Colorado Rockies during the penultimate (or Bull Lake) glaciation about 140,000 years ago, and succeeding early part of the final (or Pinedale) glaciations, said CC Geology Professor Eric Leonard. Leonard led the glacier modeling effort on the project, contributing to the analysis of paleoclimatic conditions at the site.

"This was a time period of very pronounced environmental change here in the Rockies, for which little detailed information was available prior to the project," Leonard said. "The findings of the project represent a tremendous breakthrough in our understanding of the period."

In addition to Leonard, other CC geologists involved in the project were Miller '99, curator of paleontology at the Denver Museum of Science & Nature, who co-directed the entire project and was involved in several aspects of the scientific research. Saxon Sharpe '76, associate research professor at the Desert Research Institute, led an effort using mollusks and ostracods to reconstruct the paleohydrology of the fossil site. Gussie Maccraken '11 and Adam Freierman '12 were among nine nationally selected student interns working on the project during 2011.

The articles penned by CC geologists in the special Snowmastodon Project volume are:
"Numerical modeling of the Snowmass Creek paleoglacier, Colorado, and climate in the Rocky Mountains during the Bull Lake glaciations," Leonard, CC faculty, first author
"Introduction to the Snowmastodon Project Special Volume: The Snowmastodon Project" Miller '99, second author
"Geologic setting and stratigraphy of the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado" Miller '99, second author
"Biogeography of Pleistocene conifer species from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado" Miller '99, second author
"A high-elevation MIS 5 hydrologic record using mollusks and ostracodes from Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA" Sharpe '76, first author
"Summary of the Snowmastodon Project Special Volume: A high-elevation, multi-proxy biotic and environmental record of MIS 6-4 from the Ziegler Reservoir fossil site, Snowmass Village, Colorado, USA" Miller '99, first author; Leonard, CC faculty, and Sharpe '76, co-authors

A bronze sculpture commemorating the Ice Age discovery was installed on the west side of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in October 2014.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/16/2020