“My first very first day in GSENM was as a first-year paleontology graduate student at the University of Utah in the fall of 2004, lugging a helicopter net deep into the badlands for later retrieval of an articulated dinosaur skeleton. From that moment, I was hooked on the remoteness and isolation of GSENM, traveling down from Salt Lake every chance I could to explore the dinosaur-rich rocks on the Kaiparowits Plateau. Even after finishing my degree and moving on to a PhD program on the East Coast, I made time every fall to spend at least a week with field crews from the NHMU in the Kaiparowits, exploring the area for fossils. When I started as the Curator of Dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in 2011, GSENM was the first place I headed for dinosaur fossils.
Over the next 11 years, I would assemble annual teams of volunteers, students, and interns to spend up to 10 weeks in the Kaiparowits and Wahweap formations, uncovering new species of horned dinosaurs, duckbilled dinosaurs, carnivorous dinosaurs, and countless fossils of long-lost ecosystems that thrived in the region between 83 and 73 million years ago. The recipe for finding fossils includes rocks of the right age and environment, rock exposures clear of vegetation and development, and public access for scientists and enthusiasts. Nowhere else can claim as continuous and productive of a fossil record as GSENM. The end of dinosaur-time in GSENM, the Cretaceous, consists of the most continuous stack of ecosystems anywhere on Earth, spanning nearly 20 million years and recording the early stages in the evolution of our modern world, including the diversification of flowering plants and many familiar animals still with us today.
Over my nearly two decades of research in southern Utah, the original inspiration for GSENM, a Monument to Science, has become even more clear. In addition to its fossil resources, GSENM is a repository of cultural, ecological, geological, and biological information, a kind of natural museum shared by the American public. We often think about our Parks and Monuments as places for recreation, where we can hike or bike or climb among inspiring landscapes. GSENM is more than that, it is a place where we can all learn from the past and present, and hopefully peer into our future.”