Saturday, March 9, 2013

Willamette Valley Pleistocene Project

Mike Full with an amazing sloth bone!
Jasper and I headed over to the Tualatin Historical Society for a talk by Mike Full of the Willamette Valley Pleistocene Project.  The talk began with a presentation by David Ellingson who is a science teacher at Woodburn High School. They are very lucky to have an Ice Age dig site right on school grounds.  Six of his students came with fossils they had collected and arranged in display cases, which they presented to the Tualatin Historical Society.  Then Mr. Full told us all about his volunteer run group which bravely searches the riverbeds of the Willamette Valley and some of the amazing fossils they have found.  Mr. Full actually scuba dives to search for fossils, but the rest of the search typically takes place in the summer when water levels are lowest and both wading and searching the riverbed are  viable alternatives.  In 2012 they made some remarkable finds which were all firsts for Oregon including  mammoth tracks, evidence of baby mammoths, and a fossil which most likely is a horn core of a Bison latrifons,  one really huge critter with a seven-foot horn span.  He said he'd love to get the word out that efforts are being made to document the history of ice age animals throughout Oregon,  and they would be thrilled to hear from anyone who has such a fossil in their private collection.  Their website has a page where many enthusiastic amateur fossil hunters display their finds.  Kids (and adults too!) should know that science is a field where everyday people of any age can contribute to scientific knowledge in meaningful ways.  

An impressive mammoth bone.
Baby mammoth teeth.
The front claw-like finger bones of giant sloths.
A probable horn core from a Bison latrifons (top) and a Bison antiquus (bottom).

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