Fossil Leaf Lab

Paleontology of the Denver Basin

  • Fossil leaf salvage at 6th and Simms

  • Steve Wallace, CDOT Paleontologist

  • Overbank deposits right above the KT boundary

  • Cretaceous leaf from east of Denver

  • Stedillie 3000, a sweet Cretaceous locality

  • Bob Raynolds on the Eocene D2 megafan

Understanding the paleontology of the Denver Basin is a major on-going project by the Denver Musem of Nature & Science. We collaborate with many local land owners, local municipalities, conservation groups, and the Colorado Department of Transportation to access fossil-rich sites along the Front Range. Our work focuses on understanding the paleoclimate of Colorado, the origin of rainforests, the extinction of plants at the KT boundary and subsequent recovery, the evolution of modern forests, and the uplift history of the Colorado Rockies.     

Field expeditions in the Kaiparowits Formation

  • Powell Point, 2010

  • Scientists in Action broadcast, 2010

  • Scientists in Action broadcast, 2010

  • Cheryl McCutchan, 2010

  • Kris Miller, 2008

  • Fall 2010

  • Peter Heller and Kirk Johnson, 2010

  • Fall 2010

  • Leaves from "Moonseed Mountain" KP Fm

  • Liz Miller, mom

  • Dane Miller, brother

  • Fossil sycamore leaf, 2009

  • Digging leaves at "Sycamore Sundae," 2009

  • Scientist in Action broadcast seen from Ricketson

  • Steve Wagner, 2010

  • Camp, 2010

  • Digging leaves in the snow, Spring 2010

  • Paleoaster, fossil poppy

  • SIA broadcast as seen in the field truck

  • Fall 2010

  • Fall 2010, anything to keep the dust out

  • Fall 2010, truck load of fossils

  • Favorite dinner, 2009

  • One of many new species, 2010

  • Talk in Escalante, 2010

  • Wade Poltenovage with a theropod tooth

  • The colossal exposures of the Kaiparowits Fm

Late Cretaceous floras are common the Western Interior Basin but very few have been studied with modern techniques. With the exception of a few basins on the eastern edge of the Rockies, there exists a nearly complete literature gap for post-Cenomanian and pre-Maastrichtian megafloras. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in southern Utah has tremendous unrealized potential for the study of Late Cretaceous vegetation. Over the last two and a half years, our crew from the Denver Museum has been working with Dr. Scott Sampson and his team from the Utah Natural History Museum, Dr. Alan Titus from the BLM and Dr. Eric Roberts from the James Cook University in Australia to find new megafloral sites in the Dakota, Wahweap, Straight Cliffs and Kaiparowits Formations in the GSENM. Our initial work in the Campanian Kaiparowits Formation has begun to flesh out an exceptional vegetation to match the already spectacular dinosaurian fauna from the same sequence.

Wind River Basin

  • Sunset over the Owl Creek Mountains

  • Field school 2009

  • Bob Raynolds with a Jake Staff

  • Sun shade for fossil wrappers

  • Field school 2010: Richard Stucky holds court

  • Richard Stucky enjoying fossil leaves

  • Richard Stucky, ready to tour an Encana drill rig

  • Jay and Ian Miller, field 2010

The Wind River Basin Project is a new collaborative effort to understand the response of terrestrial plants, animals, and their interactions to the long-term global warming during the Early Eocene. We are specifically asking whether the interactions between animals and plants are effected by gradual temperature change, whether the floral and faunal communities undergo coordinated responses to climate change, and whether most of the terrestrial ecosystem change occurs with long-term climate trends or abrupt climate events. At DMNS, this project is led by Dr. Richard Stucky, Dr. Bob Raynolds and me. We collaborate with Dr. Ellen Currano at the University of Miami, Ohio; Dr. Henry Fricke, The Colorado College; Dr. Will Clyde, University of New Hampshire; Dr. Amy Chew, Western University of Health Sciences; Dr. Deborah Anderson, St. Norbert College; and Dr. Sam Bowring, MIT.  

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