Discovered on October 14, 2010, near Snowmass, CO., bones of a juvenile Columbian mammoth sparked a massive excavation, producing over 4,000 fossils to date from a large variety of animals and plants.
The first fossils were found during the expansion of the Ziegler Reservoir by a bulldozer driver, Jesse Steele, and excavations have continued with co-operation of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District (SWSD). Kit Hamby, director of SWSD, with a team, took great care of the original unearthed bones, stabilized the site and contacted the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS).
Now known as the Snowmastadon Project, the research is being led by DMNS’ Dr. Kirk Johnson, Vice President of the Research and Collections Division of the Museum.
The scientific investigation phase of the fossils has begun and various methods are being employed to discover as much information as possible from the fossils.
Three main techniques will be used on-site, taking sediment core samples, high-resolution scans of fossils that are still in place, and physical samples.
Sediment core study provides information about climate during the Ice Age of the area. Being used to obtain the core samples, is a small drill rig, operated by the Lakewood, Colorado U.S Geological Survey Office, to drill up to 30 feet down into the sediment of the site. The samples, two inches in diameter, will be studied in Denver and then the University of Minnesota where they will be stored in the National Lacustrine Core Facility, a National Science Foundation funded facility set up to house sediment cores from around the world.
High-resolution scans will be taken of the ground, showing fossils and objects that are still unexcavated. LIDAR ground laser scans will enable scientists to construct 3 dimensional model of fossils that are mixed together with other debris, giving information about how the fossils came to be buried there.
Other physical samples, thousands of which are being taken, will give information about plants, such as pollen and spores, insects, and lake sediment chemistry.
DMNS is the co-ordination organization for the study and different specialists involved in the study will co-ordinate their data as well. As of June 24, 2011, the team of 50 at the Ziegler site have been joined by 27 scientists. The group effort study has participating scientists from 15 United States institutions, as well as Canada, Spain, and England.
To view project updates and the complete timeline from discovery (October 14, 2010) to June 30, 2011, go to this link at DMNS.