Abstracts – 2018


Fostering Citizen Scientists in the Remote Reaches of Colorado

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Johnson, Colorado Northwestern Community College, Craig, CO

CNCC class GEY 229 2016 – Excavating a Dinosaur

Abstract: Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Johnson’s presentation will focus on the critical need for outreach in remote areas of northwest Colorado, not only to successfully find and extract significant paleontological specimens, but also to ignite, teach, and foster an excitement about the advances and relevancy of the scientific process to everyone. Johnson’s background is in molecular paleontology – the preservation of original organic molecules in fossil bone. Utilizing her extensive interdisciplinary skill set, she currently teaches a broad spectrum of sciences at Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) in Craig, CO. In 2014, she instituted a new and unique partnership between a BLM Government fossil repository and the paleontology education program at the Community College level. This collaboration is designed both to prospect, collect, and prepare specimens, and simultaneously to educate students and the public within CNCC’s service area. The marvelous and scientifically important specimens currently being excavated and prepared are under study by researchers from a variety of universities and institutions. This research helps to inspire individuals of all education and age levels. Johnson has witnessed the importance of working with local communities to give citizens ownership in the scientific process. Her work and leadership have demonstrated that building strong relationships between paleontologists, ranchers, and federal officials in northwest Colorado benefits all parties.

Science With a Social Conscience: A Natural Outgrowth of Fieldwork in Remote Regions of the World

David Krause, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Madagascar fieldwork

Abstract: Dave Krause’s presentation will focus on field science conducted in Madagascar, one of the very poorest countries on Earth. The paleontological project that he initiated there 25 years ago focused on the collection and analysis of Late Cretaceous vertebrates, everything from fishes to dinosaurs to mammals, and their geological context. The project has yielded exquisitely preserved and complete skulls and skeletons that have allowed him and his teams to address hypotheses concerning the plate tectonic and biogeographic history of not just Madagascar but of the entire southern supercontinent of Gondwana. This research also led to interactions with various indigenous populations in remote regions of the island and the realization that field scientists, who benefit greatly from working in such areas, have the opportunity to give back and thereby make a meaningful difference in the lives of those much less fortunate. Dave will review some of his work with children, work that has had the ability to profoundly change, and even save, lives. He will conclude by attempting to extrapolate to other field sciences and other areas, emphasizing that there is much need, and therefore much opportunity to make a difference, whether it be on remote islands like Madagascar or in under-served areas in this country. Field scientists working in remote areas are, in some ways, uniquely positioned to be “first responders for science.”

David Krause

Biography: Dr. David Krause is Senior Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver, CO; since 2016); Emeritus Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences, Department of Geosciences, and Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences at Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY); Research Associate of the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, IL); Founder and Executive Director of the Madagascar Ankizy Fund (www.ankizy.org); former Editor of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (1987–1990); and former Vice President (1992–1994) and President (1994–1996) of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Born and raised on a cattle ranch in southeastern Alberta, Dr. Krause received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Alberta (Zoology) and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan (Geology, 1982). He was also awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta in 2010 and an honorary doctorate from The University of Antananarivo (Madagascar) in 2012.


In the Footsteps of Darwin

Rob Wesson, USGS Scientist Emeritus

Abstract: Everybody knows―or thinks they know―Charles Darwin, the father of evolution and the man who altered the way we view our place in the world. But what most people do not know is that Darwin was on board the HMS Beagle as a geologist―on a mission to examine the land, not flora and fauna. Or about Darwin’s seminal role in demonstrating and exploring the ups and down of the Earth’s crust. This is the story told in Rob Wesson’s book, Darwin’s First Theory, and that he will share with us.


Rob Wesson showing this location on Darwin’s section across the Andes

Retracing Darwin’s footsteps in South America and beyond, Rob trekked across the Andes, cruised waters charted by the Beagle, hunted for fossils in Uruguay and Argentina, and explored sites of long vanished glaciers in Scotland and Wales. As he followed Darwin’s path―literally and intellectually―he experienced the land as Darwin did, engaged with his observations, and tackled the same questions Darwin had about our ever-changing Earth.
Upon his return from his five-year journey aboard the Beagle, after examining the effects of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and more, Darwin conceived his theory of subsidence and uplift‚―his first theory. These concepts and attitudes―the vastness of time; the enormous cumulative impact of almost imperceptibly slow change; change as a constant feature of the environment―underlie Darwin’s subsequent discoveries in evolution. And this peculiar way of thinking remains vitally important today as we enter the human-dominated Anthropocene age.

As the New York Time Book Review wrote, Rob’s book “dares, thank goodness, to work some of the rare Darwinian territory that is actually underexplored. Tracing the young Darwin’s tracks …Wesson relates how Darwin hatched his first, favorite, and most overlooked substantive theory, on the origins of coral reefs. In both method and vision—imagining forms changing slowly over time in response to changing conditions—this precocious, even audacious idea anticipated and possibly inspired the theory of evolution Darwin would publish two decades later.”

Rob Wesson at Iceberg Lake

Short Biography: Rob Wesson is an earth scientist who also loves stories. As a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, he became fascinated by mountains and glaciers. This interest led to a BS in earth science from MIT, and an MS and PhD in geophysics from Stanford University. His career in earthquake research with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) spans four decades, where he is currently a Scientist Emeritus. He has also written about science for a popular audience for the USGS and for Scientific American. In retirement, his research has turned to Chile where he is collaborating with a team exploring large earthquakes, tsunamis, and associated tectonic questions. This work has been supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation. When not traveling to South America or elsewhere, Rob divides his time between his home in Evergreen, Colorado, and the cabin he built near McCarthy, Alaska.

Rob first became interested in Darwin and his geology through reading The Voyage of the Beagle on a vacation trip to Patagonia. He became captivated by Darwin’s prodigious powers of observation and his insatiable need to understand and explain. Whatever rock, fossil, landscape, rodent, bird, or beetle that he found, Darwin wanted to tell its story.

How the 1859 Gold Rush put Colorado on the Map

Wesley Brown, Rocky Mountain Map Society

Denver Confluence in 1859

Abstract: In the spring of 1858, Colorado’s Front Range area was uncharted and inhabited only by Native Americans. But by the close of 1859, 100,000 fortune seekers had thoroughly explored the Front Range, north of Pueblo to the Wyoming border. In their quest for gold, they left their footprints on the landscape, establishing dozens of settlements and blazing numerous trails. This slide show and lecture will teach you about Colorado’s gold rush and how this important chapter of history influenced Colorado maps of today.

Short Biography: Wesley Brown has been a collector, student, and author of old maps for 40 years. He confines his map collecting to two areas (1) the earliest world maps up to the year 1540 and (2) the exploration and settlement of Colorado from the 16th through 20th centuries. A Denver resident, he co-founded the Rocky Mountain Map Society in 1990 and served as its President for its first seven years. He has served as the Co-Chairman of the Philip Lee Phillips Society (the national map and geography society of the Library of Congress). Wes has long been associated with the Denver Public Library, as one of its mayoral-appointed Commissioners where he served as President and where he is still active in acquisitions for the institutions important western map collection. He has published many papers on maps.

Wes first started using maps at age 16 as a mountain climber and has climbed about 400 different named peaks in Colorado. He is currently a Field Active Member of the Alpine Rescue Team.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Challenges in Providing Real-time Earthquake Shaking and Impacts Estimates

David Wald, U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado

Interactive map of Mexican earthquake map with intensity contours
Online menu for an earthquake

Abstract: USGS has recently developed several near-real time earthquake information systems that provide rapid and automated alerting of shaking distribution, critical facility inspection priorities, and estimates of economic and human impacts following earthquakes. I’ll describe the science and development behind the components required to rapidly assess an earthquake’s impact: rapid faulting characterization, estimates of shaking distribution, losses estimates, and communicating uncertain loss estimates in an appropriate form for actionable decision-making among a variety of critical users.

Rapidly and automatically assessing shaking and impact requires aggregating and interpreting a wide range of seismological, demographic, structures, economic and vulnerability information necessary to make such loss estimates strategies. In the course of explaining the end-to-end strategies and science/engineering employed by the USGS Prompt Assessment for Global Earthquake for Response (PAGER) system, we describe other challenges in making such information public rapidly. We’ll also cover recent seismological advances like earthquake early warning, and rapid estimates of earthquake-induced landsliding around the globe. Lastly, we’ll show how (re)insurers, governments and aid organizations use rapid earthquake information for loss estimation, situational awareness, and financial adjudication. Such financial tools can be a significant benefit to the at-risk public by facilitating risk transfer, fostering sensible management of portfolios, and assisting disaster response.

David J Wald, USGS, National Earthquake Information Center

Biography: Dr Wald is a Seismologist with the USGS in Golden, Colorado, and is on the Geophysics Faculty at the School of Mines (CSM). Wald is involved in research, development and operations of real-time information systems at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center. He developed and manages “ShakeMap”, “Did You Feel it?”, and is responsible for developing other systems for post-earthquake response and pre-earthquake mitigation, including ShakeCast and PAGER.

Wald earned his B.S. in Physics and Geology at St. Lawrence University, an M.S. in Geophysics at the University of Arizona, and his Ph.D. in Geophysics at Caltech. Previously at Caltech, and now at the CSM, Wald has advised dozens of post-doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students’ research projects. His own scientific interests include the characterization of rupture processes from complex earthquakes; analysis of ground motions and site effects; and modeling earthquake-induced landslides, liquefaction, and shaking-based losses. Wald has been the Seismological Society of America (SSA) Distinguished Lecturer a BSSA’s Associate Editor, and served on the Society’s Board of Directors. He served on the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s (EERI) Board of Directors, as Associate Editor for Earthquake Spectra, and was EERI’s 2014 Distinguished Lecturer. He was awarded SSA’s 2009 Frank Press Public Service Award, the Department of the Interior Superior Service Award in 2010, and their Meritorious Service Award in 2016.



Colorado’s Amazing Dinosaurs: A History of Discoveries from the Centennial State

2018 Colorado Scientific Society Past Presidents Dinner
Joe Sertich, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Abstract: The rich geology of Colorado captures nearly the entire evolutionary history of dinosaurs, ranging from their first appearance in the Triassic 240 million years ago to the last dinosaurs of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago. Included are the Rocky Mountain West’s iconic Jurassic dinosaurs like Stegosaurus and Allosaurus, so abundant in Colorado quarries they became a target of the late 1800’s “Bone Wars.” Cretaceous fossils preserved across Colorado capture the height of dinosaur evolution on “Laramidia” in addition to subtropical landscapes inhabited by the last dinosaurs to walk North America, the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. New discoveries from the Front Range, like the spectacular ‘Thornton Torosaurus,’ promise to solve recent dinosaur mysteries and have ignited a dinosaur renaissance in Denver, the only major metropolitan area where dinosaurs still lurk in backyards.

Hell Creek Formation, Late Cretaceous to Early Paleocene, ~66.8-66 Ma (Maastrichtian to Danian); claystone, mudstone, sandstone; Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming
Joe Sertich

Biography: Joe Sertich is Curator of Dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He received his B.S. in from Colorado State University in 2004, his M.S. at the University of Utah in 2006, and his Ph.D. from Stony Brook University in 2011. His research focuses on dinosaurs, crocodiles, and flying reptiles, and their ecosystems, during the Late Cretaceous. His field-based research is split between the Gondwanan continents of the southern hemisphere and western North America. He is one of the primary researchers on the Madagascar Paleontology Project exploring the latest Cretaceous of Madagascar and has expanded the search for dinosaurs to older deposits across the island. He is also working on several projects searching for the first latest Cretaceous dinosaurs of Africa, including work in northern Kenya and Egypt. In North America, he leads the Laramidia Project, currently leading work to uncover a lost world of dinosaurs in the Cretaceous of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, northwestern New Mexico, and northwestern Colorado.


CSS April Meeting

The Role of the USGS (US Geological Survey) and CGS (Colorado Geological Survey)

Eugene (Buddy) Schweig, Director, USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center
Karen Berry, Director and State Geologist, Colorado Geological Survey

Karen Berry and Buddy Schweig answering questions


The present and future of the Colorado Geological Survey

Karen Berry, Director and State Geologist, Colorado Geological Survey

What has the Colorado Geological Survey been up to since it moved to Mines five years ago? Karen Berry will discuss some of the current and future projects CGS is working on and opportunities for collaboration.

2014 West Salt Creek landslide, near Colbran, Grand Mesa (CGS)
Geological studies at the USGS in Denver: Where are we now and where are we headed?

Eugene (Buddy) Schweig, Director, Center for Geosciences and Environmental Change, U.S. Geological Survey, Lakewood, CO

The U.S. Geological Survey is undergoing some profound changes and these are affecting the research that the geology groups are doing at the Denver Federal Center. In spite of this and extreme budget uncertainty, we are looking at exciting new directions in geological mapping and mineral resources that will have implications for our work in Colorado and adjacent states for years to come. I will talk about the range of our projects in Colorado, what is coming to an end, and our plans for the next few years.

Coring sediment at Columbine Lake, near Grand Lake—Joe Rosenbaum, Jeff Honke, Richard Pelltier, Gary Skip ( USGS)


CSS May Meeting, Emmons Lecture

From Snowball Earth to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: Lessons Learned from Earth System Extremes

Will Clyde, University of New Hampshire

“About 55 million years ago, the Earth burped up a massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – an amount equivalent to burning all the petroleum and other fossil fuels that exist today. “And we don’t know where it came from.”

Looking at traces of the PETM

Abstract: We study human history to provide context for understanding the present and making projections into the future. Understanding the Earth system is no different. Reconstructing the geological past offers a window into the functioning of the Earth system over long timescales – timescales over which direct observations are impossible. In particular, by identifying and studying extreme conditions of the Earth system in deep time, we are better able to constrain Earth’s boundary conditions. In this presentation, I will review the key geological evidence for several extreme events in Earth history and highlight the lessons they offer for today and the future. In particular, I will focus on the causes and effects of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and other early Paleogene hyperthermals. These events provide an intimate window into the feedbacks and teleconnections of the Earth system during periods of rapid global warming that thus have important implications for today.

Biography: Will Clyde is the Carpenter Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at University of New Hampshire. He is fundamentally interested in Earth history and especially in how climate change, tectonics, and other geological forces have influenced mammalian evolution and shaped the terrestrial sedimentary record. He oversees the UNH Paleomagnetism Lab where he and his students use magnetostratigraphy to help determine the age of terrestrial fossil assemblages so they can be compared across continents and to coeval marine assemblages.