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Ten countries and nine states: UCMP in the summer of 2011

Susumu Tomiya and Utah field trip

[Click any photo on this page to see an enlargement] Susumu Tomiya, along with Pat Holroyd and Howard Hutchison (on slope in background), joined a conference-associated field trip to the Uinta Basin, Utah.
As typifies UCMP during the summer, most labs and offices emptied at one time or another as the occupants headed off to squeeze in as much research as possible. In August there was a troop of UCMP folks and alumni working again in the Triassic of Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Alums Randy Irmis (now at the University of Utah) and Sterling Nesbitt (who divides his time between the University of Texas and the University of Washington) were joined by Kevin Padian and present grad students Sarah Werning and Liz Ferrer, new grad student Ash Poust, and our recently graduated undergraduate Zach Morris, who has now settled successfully into graduate work at UT Austin (working with two other former UCMP alums, Tim Rowe and Chris Bell). The nepotism wasn't complete, though: lots of other folks from Utah, Texas, Stony Brook, and far flung places showed up too. This was the sixth season at Ghost Ranch and the discoveries keep piling up. The team took out a huge jacket of aetosaurs and recovered many bones from the 20-odd taxa that have already been discovered there.

Tony Barnosky began the summer with writing (yet another) grant proposal, then spent two weeks collecting raptor pellets near paleontological sites across the western United States with undergrad Daniel Lopez and UCMP grad student Susumu Tomiya. The field team also included faculty and students from Stanford University (Liz Hadly and undergrads Anne Rempel and Jonathan Barrera), Emma Barnosky from Colorado College, and Clara Barnosky from Gunn High School. Their trek took them across Nevada (twice!), into Oregon (where they met up with UCMP student Kaitlin Maguire to spend a couple of days helping Kaitlin at her Miocene sites near aptly named Rattlesnake Butte), and then into Utah and Colorado. Tony and Daniel will be using the bone samples they collected to determine how modern mammalian diversity in the western USA compares with fossil-mammal diversity, which Daniel is focusing on for his Biology Fellows Program project. Liz and her crew were sampling rabbit scat and bones for DNA in order to work out details of lagomorph history in the Great Basin. Then Tony went to Ecuador to work with UCMP student Emily Lindsey on her project at the Tanque Loma megafauna site, where he spent a few days puzzling about Quaternary geology and tar. He capped off the summer with a visit to Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, gathering information for a book proposal on today's extinction crisis.

Sarah Werning Tony Barnosky Maya deVries

Left: Sarah Werning pedestals around a plaster jacket containing theropod dinosaur and aetosaur bones. Middle: The raptor pellet collectors smile for the camera. Down in front are Tony Barnosky, Liz Hadly, and Pepper. In back, from the left, are Anne Rempel, Daniel Lopez, Jonathan Barrera, Clara Barnosky, Emma Barnosky, and Susumu Tomiya. Right: Maya deVries diving off Panama.

Graduate student Maya deVries spent the summer wrapping up her ten-month Fulbright Fellowship in Panama. She worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Galeta Marine Laboratory on the feeding behavior of tropical marine crustaceans known as mantis shrimp. Most of her ten months were spent collecting video data on these fascinating creatures; so during the summer, she analyzed the videos with a group of Panamanian students from the University of Panama's Regional Center in Colon. She also explored other field sites for future projects on the ecology of coral reef food webs in the Kuna Yala Province of Panama, Coiba National Park, and Las Perlas Islands.

While many of her colleagues were jet-setting off to distant field sites, Jenny Hofmeister had the great fortune of driving down to southern California to access an island paradise of her own: Santa Catalina Island. Not only is Catalina a breathtakingly beautiful place to vacation, but it is also home to the University of Southern California Wrigley Marine Science Center, where scientists from all over the world come to study the fascinating and pristine flora and fauna of the kelp forest ecosystem. Jenny researches predator-prey interactions and octopus behavior in kelp forests, and so the Wrigley Center is an ideal base of operations for her fieldwork. She spent two weeks on the island, many hours of which were spent SCUBA diving. In fact, she spent a total of 18.6 hours underwater! She measured the population density of octopuses, their prey (mostly snails) and their predators (mostly fish), hoping to understand more about how these three groups interact to form a community. In her words: "While the work was challenging and sometimes exhausting, I was well rewarded with knowledge not only about the ecosystem and the animals I study, but also with how best to organize my data and set priorities for my research. I cannot wait to return to Catalina and continue my exploration of this beautiful and important ecosystem."

Mark Goodwin spent his summer field season visiting the dinosaur collections in the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum and the Yale Peabody Museum, on the trail of John Bell Hatcher and O.C. Marsh. Marsh sent Hatcher to Wyoming in 1889 and over four long years, he amassed a significant collection of more than 50 Triceratops skulls and partial skeletons that have formed the basis for Mark's studies of Triceratops with his colleague Jack Horner. The archives at Yale University were enlightening and revealed the dedication and scientific acumen of Hatcher, who during his lifetime (1861–1904) established himself as a top-notch collector and scientist, collecting more fossils and investigating more outcrops than any of his peers. Mark's preliminary research will form the basis for a book on the life of Hatcher, the discovery and early studies of Triceratops by Hatcher and Marsh, and the more recent research by Goodwin and Horner that has changed our understanding of how "three-horned face" evolved and modified their skulls as they grew.

In August, Pat Holroyd attended the 15th International Symposium on Dental Morphology at Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, an international meeting for specialists in dental growth and development. There she presented research on dental development in California Eocene ungulates done with recent UC Berkeley Anthropology graduate, Joseph Kobler. She also hosted numerous researchers visiting UCMP to work on our vertebrate collections.

Jenna Judge spent her summer as an East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) fellow in Japan at the University Museum in Tokyo, learning techniques to study deep-sea gastropod morphology. She also did some fieldwork, dredging Sagami Bay and sorting through sediment in search of deep-sea limpets. Not only did she learn valuable skills that will contribute to her dissertation work, but she also developed collaborative relationships with Japanese researchers and experienced the different facets of culture in Japan. To learn more about Jenna's research and travels, visit her blog.

Jenny Hofmeister O.C. Marsh's grave Jenna Judge

Left: Jenny Hofmeister studying a marine ecosystem off Santa Catalina Island. Middle: The grave of Othniel Charles Marsh, visited by Mark Goodwin. Right: Jenna Judge (second from left) with Takenori Sasaki (left) and his lab at Misaki Marine Biological Station getting ready to dredge Sagami Bay.

Since July 1, Emily Lindsey has been back at her dig site in coastal Ecuador, where she is busy excavating tropical Pleistocene megafauna and teaching a course in vertebrate paleontology at the local University — the Universidad Estatal Peninsula de Santa Elena. Helping her were two Berkeley undergraduate students serving as field assistants, Colleen Young and Olivia Tullier, as well as personnel from the Page Museum at Rancho La Brea who have been helping out with the project for the last two years. And as mentioned earlier, her advisor, Tony Barnosky, also came down to visit. Emily's excavation site is an asphalt seep preserving the remains of a wide array of organisms. However, unlike the Tar Pits in California, the Ecuador site doesn't appear to be a tableau depicting the tragic demise of animals stuck in tar. Instead, it is likely the final resting place of remains transported by running water and then covered by nearby asphalt. To learn more, visit her blog.

Jere Lipps was invited to join Professor Sergio Ávila (University of the Azores) on an international paleontologic expedition on Isla de Santa Maria, the southernmost island in the Azores. The purpose of the expedition was to examine fossil and sedimentary deposits preserved in volcanic sequences on this oceanic island. Oceanic islands usually subside, taking with them these deposits. Santa Maria, however, has been uplifted and thus provides a unique opportunity to study the exposed deposits. Jere studied these for comparison to the Galapagos paleo sites he, Carole Hickman, and Ken Finger have worked on already, and found them to be very similar.

Cindy Looy and Ivo Duijnstee headed to the Italian Alps to work on fossils from a newly discovered Late Permian plant locality in the incredibly scenic Bletterbach gorge. This research is part of a larger project, which is trying to quantify the hits that the terrestrial ecosystem took during the end-Permian world-wide biotic crisis. Last year a multidisciplinary team was assembled to make an inventory and study the various plant groups and reptilian ichnofossils collected at the site. Cindy and Ivo were there to study and photograph the conifer remains and sample them for preserved leaf cuticles. The collection is housed in the natural history gem—the Naturmuseum Südtirol in Bolzano, in a beautiful respectfully converted historic building from the late 1400s. So, just like last year, they spent the hottest part of the European summer up in the attic of yet another natural history museum. However, it turned out that the curator, Dr. Evelyn Kustatcher, was a fabulous cook, as well as a wonderful host, and so daily macchiatos and apiretivos on café terraces and the stunning natural beauty of the area made Bolzano a particularly difficult place to leave.

Emily Lindsey Jere Lipps Cindy Looy

Left: Prior to their removal, grad student Emily Lindsey and her crew record measurements of vertebrate bones. Emily traveled to Ecuador to continue excavations at this Pleistocene megafauna site. Middle: Jere Lipps helping find and sort small invertebrate fossils in the Azores. Right: Ivo Duijnstee and Cindy Looy examining fossils of Late Permian conifer branches in Italy.

Kaitlin Maguire returned to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument as a Guest Scientist through the GeoCorps of America program. She continued to collect data for her research by visiting Hemingfordian and Barstovian fossil localities throughout Oregon and studying the collections at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. She was assisted for part of the summer by Tony Huyhn, a Berkeley undergraduate in Integrative Biology.

Rosemary Romero spent the summer on two efforts: (1) working with Oakland Unified School District 3–5th grade teachers to develop inquiry-based science curricula, and (2) planning a preliminary experiment on seaweed spores. As part of the CAL:BLAST Project, Rosemary and three other graduate students (including UCMP's Joey Pakes) helped plan and host a week long institute that included biological field work at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab and Reserve and encouraged teachers to include question driven science activities in their coursework. Upon concluding the institute, Rosemary began working on a preliminary experiment to determine the volume of water she will need to filter in order to detect the microscopic spores of the green algae, Ulva, in seawater samples. She is trying to test the hypothesis that there is a constant flow of Ulva spores available for recruitment.

In May, Susumu Tomiya attended a regional meeting of the Geological Society of America in Logan, Utah, and gave a talk on his ongoing project on Eocene mammals from southern California. As part of the meeting, he joined a field trip to the Bridger (WY) and Uinta Basins (UT) with Pat Holroyd and Howard Hutchison to learn about the regional geology and mammalian paleontology. In July, he travelled with Tony Barnosky and his crew to Nevada, Oregon, and Utah to collect raptor pellets for an undergraduate research project that is taking place in the Barnosky Lab and to assist Kaitlin Maguire (see above). From late July to August, he visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and the San Diego Museum of Natural History to study Eocene mammals from southern California, with the goal of understanding how the regional diversity of mammals changed from about 46 to 37 million years ago.

Graduate student Susan Tremblay spent the summer months continuing her studies of Paleozoic fossil liverworts. In mid-July she spent a week at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow photographing all the existing specimens of the five known Carboniferous liverwort taxa, described by John Walton in the 1920s. Then in August she spent several weeks in the Catskill Mountains collecting Devonian liverwort fossils with Linda Hernick and colleagues at the New York State Museum. Hundreds of exquisitely preserved specimens of recently described Metzgeriothallus sharonae, the oldest known representative of the liverwort lineage, were collected from the Cairo quarry in Greene County, NY, and brought back to the UCMP. A first step for work on many of these specimens will be HF (hydrofluoric) acid maceration to extract the delicate fossils from the shale matrix. This is a technique that was developed by Walton during his early work on the Carboniferous liverworts.

Kaitlin Maguire Rosemary Romero Susan Tremblay

Left: Kaitlin Maguire taking notes at Black Bone Hill, Oregon. Middle: Rosemary Romero working with Oakland teachers at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab and Reserve. Right: Susan Tremblay collecting fresh, uncontaminated Metzgeriothallus sharonae fossils from a quarry in New York for geochemical analyses.

Sarah Werning journeyed to Baja California for fieldwork with the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology in May. As mentioned, in July-August, she and recent graduate Zachary Morris went to Arizona and New Mexico for a week of lizard hunting and three weeks of Triassic work at Ghost Ranch. In early September, she will present research done at the UCMP at a conference in San Juan, Argentina, as well as visit several museum collections in central Oregon.

Uinta Basin field trip photo by Susumu Tomiya; Sarah Werning photo courtesy of Sarah Werning; Barnosky crew photo by Tony Barnosky; Maya deVries photo courtesy of Maya deVries; Jenny Hofmeister photo courtesy of Jenny Hofmeister; O.C. Marsh grave photo by Mark Goodwin; Jenna Judge group photo courtesy of Jenna Judge; Emily Lindsey group photo by Tony Barnosky; Jere Lipps photo courtesy of Jere Lipps; Cindy Looy and Ivo Duijnstee photo courtesy of Cindy Looy; Kaitlin Maguire photo courtesy of Kaitlin Maguire; Rosemary Romero photo courtesy of Rosemary Romero; Susan Tremblay photo courtesy of Susan Tremblay