geology Field Trip to

                       the Badlands, South Dakota



A field crew of seven (composed of five students and two faculty members) conducted a very successful paleontological survey in a designated area of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota.  The designated field area was acquired by applying for a permit from the Nebraska National Forest Service, and allows for research to be conducted over five square miles of badlands topography, rich in fossil specimens.  The field crew spent the first two weeks of June and one week in August documenting, collecting, and prospecting fossil specimens in the designated field area.  This is an ongoing project that will continue over the next five years, and offers numerous opportunities for undergraduate research.    

Several varieties of fossils were recovered and consist of two fairly complete tortoise shells, an oreodont skull, titanothere vertebra, pelvic bone, and jaw fragment, as well as many other bone fragments and teeth from other mammalian taxa.  Many of these specimens are now at the Moody Science Building of the Geology Department where they await preparation and relocation to the Llano Estacado Museum for curation. Recently, one of the plaster jackets was cut to begin preparation of a partial jaw bone.  Preparatory work and cataloguing of specimens will continue throughout the school year.

The five students that participated in the summer 2012 field season were: Hunter Green, Jacob Kemmer, Taryn Shadden, Hannah Wells, and Garrett Williamson.  Four of those five students that were part of the field crew have engaged in research projects associated with the field work they completed.  These students presented their research proposals on August 24th.  Research topics vary from classic paleontological taxonomic descriptions to geologic mapping.  Below is a list of titles that students have proposed for their research.

Taxonomic description of titanotherium fossils collected from Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota (Author: Hunter Green)

Taxonomic description and paleoecology of fossil tortoise from Indian Creek, South Dakota (Author: Jacob Kemmer)

Interpretation of fossil microvertebrate site from Inidan Creek area of Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota (Author: Taryn Shadden)

Geological mapping of the Indian Creek area, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota (Author: Garrett Williamson)