Corral Bluffs Field Notes and News

2022 was another successful year for the Colorado Springs Research project! Our team spent 40 days in the field, published four peer-reviewed scientific papers, received a $100K grant from the National Geographic Society, filmed a 90-minute documentary for the French public broadcasting network (TV5Monde) called “Asteroid Survivors which will air in the spring of 2023, and had our work highlighted in Discover Magazine and The New York Times. In funding news, we were awarded a grant of $100,000 from the National Geographic Society to support the project! We plan to resubmit a ~$3 million-dollar, multi-institutional grant to the National Science Foundation early in 2023.

Notes from the Field

We found 23 new vertebrate localities and collected more fossils at 12 existing Denver Museum of Nature & Science localities.  We found 16 new plant localities and collected about 1000 plant fossils.

Numerous collaborators joined us in the field, including scientists from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Wyoming, University of Manchester, and University of Rhode Island.

The United States Geological Survey’s Unmanned Aviation Team joined us in the field and flew their fleet of drones over Corral Bluffs. This work is important for determining the age of all of our fossil localities.

In July we led a fieldtrip for 12 geologists for the annual Association of Applied Petroleum Geologists meeting in Denver. See photos below!

We led five fieldtrips: Colorado College, the University of Colorado Boulder, the Pioneers Museum, and two Denver Museum of Nature & Science fieldtrips.

Discovery highlights include the endocast of a crocodilian brain

Publication News

Our team published four peer-reviewed scientific papers in 2022!

The first paper was published in Science by postdoctoral scholar Ornella Bertrand. Ornella CT scanned dozens of fossil mammals, including several from Corral Bluffs, to look at the early evolution of the placental mammal brain after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Her work determined that mammals first got big and bulky and it wasn’t until ~10 million years later that placental mammal brains started to become enlarged and specialized. The title of her paper sums it up: “Brawn before brains in placental mammals after the end-Cretaceous extinction.”

This work, as well as other work at Corral Bluffs, was picked up by Discovery Magazine.

The second paper was by University of Wyoming Ph.D. student Matt Butrim who analyzed leaf dry mass per area across the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary in the Denver and Williston basins.

The third paper was by postdoctoral scholar Holger Petermann. Holger looked at turtle shells from the Denver and Williston basins and measured how flattened they were to determine the burial depth of the basins. Holger’s work was featured in The New York Times.

The fourth paper was led by a Yale Undergraduate student, Chase Brownstein, who named a new species of alligator gar from immediately after the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary in North Dakota.

You can read more about this discovery here and here

Fossil Preparation and CT Scans

In 2022, we prepared dozens of concretions which contained complete skulls and skeletons inside!

Research updates and news from our collaborators

Luke Weaver received a prestigious two-year NSF postdoctoral fellowship to study the driver(s) of mammalian evolution after the K/Pg mass extinction. Dr. Weaver’s project will focus on the mammals discovered in the Denver Basin, particularly Colorado Springs. Dr. Weaver presented some of his Corral Bluffs research at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Toronto this year. He and the team are currently finishing up a paper describing a new mammal from Corral Bluffs.


The French Channel 5 documentary, “L’Abominable Mystere Des Fleurs”, which including both Gussie and Tyler’s work at Corral Bluffs, had over 800,000 viewers on the first night of broadcast

The team worked with a French film crew on a 90-minute documentary entitled “Asteroid Survivors.” This documentary will air in 2023 in France as part of Channel 5’s Science Grand Format (equivalent to PBS Nova in the US). The discovery at Corral Bluffs is the focus of this 90-minute documentary.


Colorado Springs Talks given in 2022:

  • Science on Tap in Colorado Springs
  • Keynote for The American Academy of Neurological Surgery
  • Distinguished Lecture Series – University of Wyoming
  • Yale Peabody Museum Board of Directors – Yale University

Our work was highlighted by Discovery Magazine and the New York Times.



Tyler R. Lyson, PhD

Associate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology

Natalie Toth, MS

Chief Preparator

Salvador Bastien

Fossil Preparator

Lindsay Gaona Dougan, MS

Digital Research Lab Technician

Holger Petermann, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

James Hagadorn, PhD

Tim & Kathryn Ryan Curator of Geology

Libby Couch

Business Support Specialist III

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