Earth Sciences 2022 Year in Review

Greetings and Happy New Year!

Aloha from your DMNS deep-time detectives! We’re writing to share news, to thank you, and to invite you to our future. As we reflect on the world, it feels like the dial has been turned back up. But to 11 (out of 10)! To wit, last year we hosted record numbers of visitors—in our collections, at conferences, and in the field. With your help, we mentored more than ever before, too—as new donors and grants financed over 30 interns and postdocs in our department. Together with staff across the museum, they helped us publish 15 scientific articles and archive countless new specimens from the Rockies and beyond.

In-between it all, we still found time to play—whether dancing with gnomes in dioramas or talking turkey vs. T. rex with kids nationwide. As 2023 blooms, we look forward to connecting with you. Come to one of our free public lectures, join us on a field trip, or stop by on your way to Casa Bonita version 2.0. 😊 


Eldon Panigot

One of our newest team members is National Geographic-funded Digital Preparator and Alum Eldon Panigot (Intern, '21). When he wasn't reconstructing fossil skulls in the Digital Research Lab, Eldon helped us inspire at the museum's Member's Night and Science on the Spot events. Plus, he presented his first poster at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) meeting.

Eldon also wrote his first popular article this year, highlighting our evolving Digital Research Lab with Lindsay Dougan (featured below). An avowed science nerd, Eldon also enjoys video games, tabletop games from Dungeons & Dragons to Root, and reading comics and nonfiction. And pets? He's got one of the coolest—a leopard gecko named Leo.


Sadie Sherman

Another new DMNSer is Kneller Family Foundation-funded Preparator and Alum Sadie Sherman (Intern, '21). Welcome back! Sadie has been cultivating a volunteer team to prepare our extensive yet uber-cool Hell Creek Fm collections. Together with interns, they traveled to North Dakota last summer where they prepared a trove of fossils to reposit in our collections.

Highlights were collecting a giant bowfin-like fish, and working with Volunteer Charles Clark and Intern Jaren Abraham to prep a Torosaurus that Tyler Lyson (see below) collected as a teen. Peach fuzz and all! Sadie also attended SVP, learned to use our new IMLS-funded 3D scanner and helped transport Madagascar specimens from the Field Museum to the DMNS.


Franklin Duffy

Another new staffer is National Geographic-funded Digital Preparator and Alum Franklin Duffy (Intern, '21) who's working on the Colorado Springs Project. Like Sadie and Eldon, Franklin helped with last year's member events and attended the annual Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting. He also attended SVP, where he gave his first talk—on coprolites, no less!

Franklin is keen on machine learning and innovation, something he conveyed at our recent National Geographic-funded workshop on Corral Bluffs. Franklin hopes to eventually pursue a PhD where he can leverage his passion for new ways of creating knowledge. Outside the museum, he likes to swim, read, and fish. Maybe he should check out Sadie's bowfin!


Libby Couch

Our lynchpin, Business Support Specialist Libby Couch, kicked off the year with a behind-the-scenes tour of Egypt, courtesy of DMNS Supercurator of Secret Stuff, Erin Baxter. As she thinks about her sons' imminent graduation from high school, maybe a trip to the pyramids is in her future. In the meantime, Libby kept us all paid and (mostly) out of trouble.

Over the summer, Libby joined us in the field, along with fellow Science Division shepherd Courtney Scheskie. They both hope that 2023 brings a new VP to the Division and a Director to our department. Oh, and a robot that can handle our p-card receipts! In the meantime, Libby's keen to learn how to use our new 3D specimen scanners, and how to play the cello.



Salvador Bastien

Preparator Salvador Bastien began the year hauling a truckload of unprepared Colorado mastodons and mammoths to an offsite prep lab in Texas. His top-secret "Texas Tusk Truck" didn't come back empty though. He brought back the now-prepared Triceratops from Highlands Ranch. Hmmm... we might have to rename it the Texas Triceratops Truck. 

Salvador helped cradle ~100 fossils at the Marmath Research Foundation in North Dakota, later bringing them back to the DMNS for curation. His year ended with building a new three-tiered screen-washing station for extracting microfossils from Corral Bluffs. In his free time, he likes to stay covered in dirt while rock climbing around the American West and when possible, in Spain.

Natalie Toth

Chief Preparator Natalie Toth spent much of the year mentoring new interns and staff, while also rebuilding our volunteer corps. As a result, our prep labs are humming as never before! In addition to leading "Prep Camp" in North Dakota, she, Salvador, and Joe Sertich (Curator, '11-'22) taught a Colorado State University field paleontology course in a remote area of New Mexico.

There she battled sandstorms and 100°F heat to collect the most complete Pentaceratops skull ever and retrieve a beautiful juvenile Bistahieversor. What's that, you say? A really cool Tyrannosaurus-like dinosaur. Natalie also led a team of interns and BLM colleagues to jacket a sauropod tibia and fibula found along a hiking trail and shepherd it to the Royal Gorge Museum in Cañon City.

Dave Krause

Curator Dave Krause's biggest change in 2022 was stepping up to become interim Director of Earth & Space Sciences. Thanks, Dave! With a new grant from the David B. Jones Foundation, he helped host two colleagues from Madagascar for two months of training in collections management and fossil preparation. One of them, Bakoli Rakotozafy, will join our staff next year.

Dave and Research Associate Pat O'Connor led an international workshop on Cretaceous ecosystems of Gondwana—one of three such workshops our team hosted at the DMNS last year.

With Kristen MacKenzie (see below) and Natalie, Dave received a monstrous NSF grant to steward our Madagascar collections and train the next generation. That work began at an iDigBio-sponsored workshop held here, and came on the heels of Dave winning the top award in his field, the Romer-Simpson Medal. But his favorite role? Being "dadabe" to his grandson.

Nicole Neu-Yagle

Collections Manager Nicole Neu-Yagle kicked off the year with some fieldwork with James Hagadorn in the Grand Canyon, where she became an official ‘Cambrian-ite!’ With volunteers and interns, she helped catalogue over 3500 paleobotany specimens, log nearly a thousand invertebrate fossil localities, and acquire an at-risk collection of diamond-bearing kimberlites.

Nicole also helped assemble an eye-popping display of DMNS minerals and meteorites for the Hard Rock Summit. What's amazing is that she accomplished all this on the heels of recovering from major surgery. The good news? She's bounced back. Big time! When not at the museum she enjoys taking long hikes, backpacking, and of course... bagging fourteeners. Go Nicole!

Holger Petermann

Sparkjoy Foundation-funded Postdoc Holger Petermann spent much of the year making paleo-geographic maps with James and a bevy of Interns and Teen Science Scholars. Inspired by Holger, several of them just might become geologists! At the GSA meeting, Holger's presentation of his turtle-vs-tectonics work dropped jaws and was picked up by the NY Times.

In addition to being a deep-time dude, Holger is also a talented herpetologist. At the international JMIH conference, he presented research showing how the microstructure of snake and lizard bones reveals their sensitivity to climate change. He followed with a talk on Colorado's Cretaceous lizards, at the SVP meeting. Holger's next steps? Write up the results for publication!

Kristen MacKenzie

Collections Manager Kristen MacKenzie is happiest when our collections get discovered, catalyze science, and inspire imagination. To that end, she and Nicole helped host over two thousand visitors in our collections and hundreds of visiting researchers and loan requests. In-between they mentored 11 Interns and Teen Science Scholars and trained two Malagasy colleagues. Wow!

Kristen somehow found time to join the prep team in North Dakota, including a few field days and packing of specimens for the trip back to the DMNS. Last but not least, she co-helmed successful NSF and IMLS grants to shepherd two major vertebrate collections—from Madagascar and the Morrison Fm. On days off? She's hiking with her Australian Cattle Dog, Freya! 

Tyler Lyson

Curator Tyler Lyson continued to crush it. He received a grant from National Geographic, led a zillion field trips, and filmed a documentary for French TV5Monde about the Colorado Springs discoveries. He published four peer-reviewed papers, including a remarkable one that showed how early mammals were more brawny than brainy. Fortunately, Tyler has both features!

In Colorado, North Dakota and Bolivia he discovered dozens of Cretaceous-Paleocene localities containing mammals, alligators, and dinosaurs. A few of them even had the best fossils of all...turtles! When not fossiling, Tyler enjoyed hiking with friends in search of trout-laden alpine lakes, pumping iron in his home gym, and going to Broncos games—despite their losing record. 


Lindsay Dougan

Lyda Hill Philanthropies-funded Digital Preparator Lindsay Dougan celebrated her fifth year at DMNS. Congrats! Much of her year was spent training interns, including the first graduate-credit-providing internship through a partnership with CU-Anschutz. Two of her former interns, Franklin Duffy and Eldon Panigot, were so talented that we hired them to help Lindsay in the lab.

Lindsay learned to use our new 3D scanner and encourages you to dive into the Jurassic by playing with these first-gen digital models. In the fall, Lindsay joined our prep team at the SVP meeting, pausing for a moment to observe the view from the ROM's red bubble. Meanwhile, the Digital Research Lab's 3D printer was busy, spitting out nearly a hundred fossil models in 2022!

Gussie MacCracken

NSF Biological Infrastructure-funded Postdoc, Alum, and soon-to-be-DMNS Curator Gussie Maccracken (Intern, Laboratory Assistant, '10-'14) spent most of the fall and spring digging at Corral Bluffs for Cretaceous and Paleocene floras. Back at the museum, she mentored two Teen Science Scholars in curating these samples. Despite the abundance of palm fruits in them! 

Gussie also lectured at the Edwin Carter Society, at the Prehistoric Museum, and at the ultimate saurischian Lollapalooza—DinoFest. She also helped host many a tour, field trip, and hands-on table. In-between it all, she bought a house, wrote a popular article on postdocs, and published three papers, including one that honors our late colleague Mike Getty. Way to go, Gussie!


James Hagadorn

When he wasn't shooting DMNS videos (see FB, Gram, LinkedIn), researching mineral exhibits, or tackling our pandemic collections backlog, Curator James Hagadorn squeezed some science in. Highlights include fieldwork in the Grand Canyon and Great Basin. With a supercharged team of interns, community scientists, and very patient colleagues, Dr. J published six new papers.

The hardest one to write was also the most fun—a Rocky Mountain paleontology paper that foreshadows our future. With new staff and new donations to our department, including new gear below, our future looks bright. To wit, James has a new mantra, adapted from lyrical hero Michael Franti. Work Hard and Be Nice


Want to help us solve a mystery and win some sweet swag (above) in the process? Tell us what rock unit is depicted here. Or identify where the photo was taken. Hint: The ~4 cm thick white beds at right are tonsteins - clay-rich rocks often formed by alteration of volcanic ash deposited in organic-rich freshwater settings. See a local example here. Ping James for guesses or clues.

Bob Raynolds

Research Associate Bob Raynolds ('94-present) began the year in Kenya, creating a new digital geologic map of Plio-Pleistocene hominid-bearing strata at Lake Turkana. This effort, sponsored by the Turkana Basin Institute, leverages new apps that allow such maps to be used in the field on one's phone or tablet—even absent cell service or internet access. 

In between updating Colorado's strat charts, Bob partnered on new digital dome programming, and a 3D visualization effort for Douglas County's Arapahoe Aquifer. This underground water resource provides much of the water to county residents yet is poorly known because "it's dark down there". He hopes the new models will shed light on this finite resource.

Tiye Garret-Mills

Teen Science Scholar Tiye Garrett-Mills ('14) is now working on a M.S. in molecular & cellular biology from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Her research focuses on cell biology, and she's getting ready to apply to medical school. She fondly remembers her summer of science at the DMNS - an experience that has taken her further than imagined.


Geoff Lee

Geoff Lee (Volunteer, '12-'14) is a geologist at PDC Energy in Denver, where he helps them navigate the Niobrara Fm and Codell Ss in the Denver Basin. Outside of geology, he loves hunting and going on hiking trips with his wife and 2-yr-old daughter. She's more excited about dinosaurs than any other animal group. Sounds like it's time for a behind-the-scenes tour at the museum!

Jennie Beltrame

Jennie Beltrame (Intern, '19) lives in Chicago where she works for a medical lab in the 'burbs. In her spare time, she volunteers at her local museum, overhauling their collections. Since the world opened back up, she's been traveling. She explored Michigan, kayaked with seals in San Diego, and hiked the Smoky Mountains. But the Rockies still have her heart. Ours, too!

With the help of Lindsay Dougan from our Digital Research Lab, Jennie was able to attend seminars on digital research and keep up with all things museum related. Later this year she'll start her M.A. in Museum Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She's eager to learn and build on her DMNS experience. Who knows... maybe she'll end up back at the DMNS.

Becky Shorey

Becky Shorey (Volunteer, '11-'14) worked in our prep labs and assisted with the Holyoke and Snowmastodon sites. A week after Snowmass, she and her now-husband Chris Shorey, who also volunteered on the dig, got married in the Colorado School of Mines Museum. A first! The sunburn, field rash, and swollen hands from shoveling created a wedding experience to remember.

Their time in Snowmass is now affectionately referred to as “the muddymoon”. Becky’s professional life has gone from teaching high school Earth Science to managing educational technology for Jeffco Schools. While she no longer spends any time in the field in an official capacity, she has turned her passion for geology into landscape photography. Check it out at the Lakewood Arts Gallery.

Rich Bottjer

Rich Bottjer (Research Associate, '19-present) has been geologizing like never before. In 2022 he focused on the biostratigraphy of the Carboniferous Heath Fm in Montana, and continued work on the Cretaceous Sussex Ss of Wyoming and Codell Ss of Colorado. The goal? Integrating stratigraphic architecture, biostratigraphy, and geochronology. Looking forward to it!

Rich loves helping organize field trips for the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, and hanging out with his wife, Lynn, herself a heavy-hitting geologist. In his spare time, Rich likes travel, photography, gardening (especially when the tomatoes are good), cycling, and cross-country skiing. And the hilarious game of golf; sometimes it gets better, and other times it gets worse.

Chris Noll

Since connecting with us, Chris Noll (Intern, '17) made his way to Stanford University to study Earth & Planetary Sciences. He'll continue on next year for a M.S. there. His DMNS experience launched him toward the Stanford Earth Young Investigators Program, where he examined impacts of respiration on marine animal body size. That work was just published in the journal Paleobiology.

Last summer Chris participated in a summer research program to examine motivations and support systems of youth climate activists. That led to his interest in how Odonata (a group that includes dragonflies) evolution is impacted by climate change. When not in school, he enjoys playing in the marching band, tutoring LAUSD students, and listening to BBC's Global News Podcast!

Karen Whiteley

DMNS Research Associate Karen Whiteley ('09-present) lives in Dillon with her husband, Jim and pug, Willow. Originally a prep lab volunteer, she soon began helping James Hagadorn repatriate rock samples to the USGS that were collected in the 1890’s. The best part? Discovering field notes and specimens of early geological jedis like Cross, Emmons, and Eldridge.

Since then, Karen's helped identify the Permo-Triassic mass extinction through examination of redbeds, continental carbonates, and eolian sands that once blanketed Colorado and vicinity. When not geologizing, Karen enjoys genealogy, traveling with an eye toward geology, singing with the Summit Choral Society and spending time with grandsons Emerson and Conley.

Steve Renda

After a five-year stint in Georgia (where he finally found a trilobite!), Steve Renda (Volunteer, '07-'13) is back in Denver. His DMNS experiences helped him develop the background and lifelong relationships that allowed him to pursue his passion for science education. This work included helping ex-DMNSer Greg Wilson Mantilla (Curator, '05-'07) to establish the DIG Field School

When he’s not fly fishing or trail running, Steve still has the museum and science bug. Bzzz! He leverages this passion to advise museums and science education organizations in their business development. His latest project? Helping new companies create infrastructure for electric vehicle charging and develop software to secure the hazardous materials supply chain.

Laurel Butterworth

Laurel Butterworth (Teen Science Scholar, '17, '18) is studying environmental chemistry and geology at Wellesley College. For her research, she recently participated in an 18-day NOAA-WHOI research cruise along the Atlantic coast. She also helps mentor students in the chemistry department and works in the geology lab, studying lead contamination of local farms. Wow!

Terri Morzos

Research Associate Terri Morzos ('10-'16) spends many days playing with her two grandsons (ages 9 and 5). But what really stokes her fire is oil painting, which she began after working in our Eocene collections and fieldwork in Wyoming with the late Richard Stucky (Volunteer, Curator, Chief Curator, Vice President of Research & Collections, '71-'72, '89-'14). Inspiring

Kim Nichols & Tom Brown

CSU Professor Kim Nichols and DMNS Research Associate Tom Bown ('11-present) recently taught their tenth annual Primate Paleontology Field Course. Held every summer in the Bighorn Basin's badlands, students in the class collect oodles of Eocene fossils ranging from mammal teeth to invertebrate trackways - most of which will be reposited at the DMNS.

These collections anchor our understanding of how climate change influenced animal evolution 54 to 56 million years ago. When not examining fossils, Tom spent part of the summer studying the Heart Mountain Detachment in the Absaroka Range. Outside of science, Kim and Tom enjoy medieval history, cooking, traveling, and identifying historic structures in the Sahara.

Vikki Crystal

Vikki Crystal (Intern, '13, Volunteer, '14-'19) has been busy since her DMNS days. With Erica Evans (Intern, '15-16) and several other DMNSers, she's published or working on articles on Cretaceous river systems and Paleocene plants. After moving to Omaha to teach for the U. of Nebraska, all her courses, including those with field trips, became virtual due to the pandemic. Arg!

In a pandemic positive, Vikki created the Ask a Scientist podcast, which asks scientists questions by elementary and middle school students. Today she's a curator and museum specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geological Materials Repository (GMR). There she loves being surrounded by ~80,000 sq ft of rocks, and has become quite an accomplished forklift driver. Vroom!

Evan Tamez-Galvan

Evan Tamez-Galvan (Intern, '21) cut her teeth at the DMNS - making cradles, excavating fossils and preparing our giant Cretaceous turtle, Basilemys. That propelled her into a gig at the Black Hills Institute, preparing sauropods for display. But her big news? She's returning to us this year as a Preparator for our IMLS-funded Jurassic Giants grant. Welcome back!


2021 was not without loss. 15+year Volunteers Nick Wagner, Glenn Tucker and Joe Cover helped make our science more relevant than we could ever have on our own. We miss them dearly. And former Curator-VP Richard Stucky? His legacy lives on in all of us, including a postdoctoral fellowship fund we hope will grow to support the next generation

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