Science Division News

From Dr. Paula Cushing:

Diversification and post-glacial range expansion of giant North American camel spiders in genus Eremocosta (Solifugae: Eremobatidae)

Published November 11th in Nature.  Read it here.

From Dr. Frank Krell:

Authorship and date of publication of the name Scarabaeus stercorosus (currently Anoplotrupes stercorosus) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea: Geotrupidae)

Published November 12th in Zootaxa.  Read it here.

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Listen to Dr. Frank Krell discuss the new species Pulchritudo attenboroughi, a frog-legged, 48 million year old beetle.

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Debuting the untold story of a Paleoindian bison kill site through the Jones-Miller Collection

Institute of Museum and Library Services: Save America's Treasures

The nationally significant Jones-Miller Site (Site No. 5YM8), in Yuma County near the small town of Wray in northeastern Colorado, is widely recognized by professional archaeologists as the most important Paleoindian Hell Gap period (ca. 10,500–11,500 years ago) bison kill site in North America. Archaeologists from the Smithsonian Institution excavated the site during three field seasons (1973, 1974, 1975). Although the collection is legally owned by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, it was on loan to the Smithsonian for nearly five decades. In 2017 and 2018, the collection and its associated archives were shipped back to Denver and installed in DMNS’s state-of-the-art collections facility. Despite the undeniable importance of this site to American archaeology, its story has yet to be fully discovered, much less told. Because it has yet to be properly inventoried, cataloged, or published, the collection remains unavailable to scholars, cultural experts, and the public. Without further intervention, the collection is at risk of damage due to overcrowding, excessive handling, and agents of deterioration. An even more pressing risk is the loss of intellectual control as the chance of dissociation of data increases with the passage of time. This grant will enable the Museum to inventory, process, catalog, and lay a foundation for publication of a comprehensive report on the Jones-Miller Site and its collection for the first time.

WS Ranch Archaeological Project Collection: Processing to Sustain Cultural Heritage

National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections

The WS Ranch Archaeological Project (WSRAP) Collection is an important and irreplaceable assemblage of approximately 500,000 artifacts of Late Pithouse, Classic Mimbres, and Tularosa Phase material cultures. Excavated decades ago near Alma, west central New Mexico, by the University of Texas at Austin, the unprocessed, uncataloged collection has never been fully accessible to researchers and tribal representatives. Recently acquired by DMNS, the WSRAP Collection is being moved from substandard collections storage conditions in Texas to Denver prior to the project period. NEH funds will enable project staff, volunteers, and interns to sustainably preserve and install the WSRAP collection in the Museum’s state-of-the-art collections facility. Dissemination strategies will make the collection accessible to professionals and a variety of museum audiences, including tribes.

Perservation of Paleontological Heritage Resources from BLM Utah Lands

Bureau of Land Management: Cultural and Paleontological Resource Management

This project seeks to prepare, conserve, and curate specimens collected from BLM Utah lands by DMNS curators for the past two decades, including large recent (2012-present) collections from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This collection consists of ~20,000 specimens, comprised mostly of microvertebrate fossils (~15,000) that have already been screen washed and are awaiting identification and curation. In addition, the project will seek to tackle a significant portion of the current working collections of large field jackets stored in the Figgins Annex area on the 2nd floor of the SE Wing, assist with the curation of paleobotanical collections, and manage final locality and specimen data for upload to our publicly accessible collections web interface. We seek to work through this collection by partnering with the BLM to sort, prepare, catalog, georeference, image, rehouse, and make these paleontological specimens available to the research community and the public—thus fostering its long-term management. It is anticipated that this work will result in at least 3 to 6 research publications describing new dinosaurs, turtles, crocodiles, and plants from the Kaiparowits and Wahweap formations of southern Utah, supporting a major Department of Earth Sciences research priority.

Grant funds would support three interns each year of the project period, a proven successful model for tackling large preparation/collections backlogs. Internships allow DMNS to train the next generation of scientists while making headway on the large volume of fossils in this collection. Earth sciences collections managers (Kristen MacKenzie and Nicole Neu-Yagle) and preparators (Natalie Toth and Salvador Bastien) will support PI Sertich in training of the interns and will supervise the volunteers contributing to the project both in the fossil preparation and collections management aspects of the project.

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This year marks the 77th anniversary of the crash of an American bomber in Northern France that occurred in the summer of 1944. The pilot’s remains have gone unrecovered in the European country for decades.

A mission to recover the remains of the pilot who crashed in a farmer’s field is now underway, led by Colorado State University’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands in conjunction with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and archeologists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Together, the team will carry out a veteran’s archaeological excavation in France from mid-August to early September 2021.

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Learn more about Dr. Sertich's collaboration with Colorado State University.

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A new species of tarantula Ummidia paulacushingae sp. nov. has been named in honor of Senior Curator of Arachnology, Dr. Paula Cushing.  According to authors Rebecca L. Godwin and Jason E. Bond: 

"The specific epithet is a patronym in honor of arachnologist Dr. Paula Cushing who is also the curator of arachnids for the Denver Museum of Natural History and first female president of the American Arachnological Society. The second author is generally afraid of her."

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