Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Day!!!

Well, I'm about to leave for Thanksgiving week, and in a few minutes I'll be driving to the sprawling, gigantic Gallatin Field airport here in Bozeman (or should I say Belgrade). Anyway, it only has four gates, and can't service anything larger than a 737 (which it only does during the holidays).

I am super excited, mainly to see my family (who I haven't seen in several months), but also because of fieldwork - I have checked aerial photos, and there has been a LOT of coastal erosion, and it will only get worse (or in my case, better) between now and winter break.

You see, most paleontologists (here at MSU anyway) only get to their field areas in the summer, because its usually too damn cold to do so in the winter (although with a few Miocene land mammal spots around Bozeman, we've gone out in 20 degree weather before, and done jackets in 35 degree weather, with snow on the ground - we were really, really bored.... yeah...).

However, in California, it rarely dips below 45 degrees on the coast (and sometimes rarely above 55 in the winter), so it is possible to go out during this time of the year. However, in the winter, it is not only possible, it is usually far more productive as well. This is due to increased storm activity during the winter, and the increased chance of having cliff collapses (which really suck for the landowners above, who usually have pieces of their backyard now fifty feet lower, but is really good for me!). Also, during the summer the lack of extremely high tides and storms usually allows the cliffs to collect all sorts of dust, grime, and algae - storms during the winter usually clean off all this unsightly garbage, so that you can see clean, unweathered rock surfaces. I cannot begin to explain how much easier and more productive it makes collecting.

It also allows for the researcher to actually see sedimentary structures, and the detail of trace fossils (e.g. spreiten). Anyway, I have a good feeling about thanksgiving break, and a good feeling about winter break this year. Although I have no idea how I can top last winter break - a 40% complete fur seal skeleton (with partial skull), two partial odontocete skulls (one with partial skeleton, and a partial dentary), a 6" long Carcharocles megalodon tooth (aka bigass shark tooth), and a bunch of pinniped bones, bird bones, and shark teeth as icing on the cake.

I'll try to top that. I know I have at least one dolphin skull to excavate. Wish me luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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