Category Archives: Paleontology

Arizona’s Kartchner Caverns Steeped in Science, Secrecy

Image of Kartchner Caverns
Photo courtesy Kartchner Caverns State Park.

When co-discovers Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts found the blowhole entrance to the caverns in 1974, they did something extraordinary: They kept it a secret.  And when they could no longer shield the caves through secrecy, they sought out science to help protect Kartchner Caverns post-development.

Research has supported Kartchner ever since, but the reverse is true as well. Read/listen to my full story at KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk to find out how:

At Arizona’s Kartchner Caverns, Science Supports Stewardship — And Vice Versa

The Circle of Archaeology: Veterans Processing Finds by Other Veterans

A Mimbres pottery image from the center's collection.
A Mimbres pottery image from the center’s collection.
(Photo courtesy Center for Digital Antiquity)

An Arizona State University program this semester will use veterans to archive digital archaeological data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The four veterans will train and work at ASU’s Center for Digital Antiquity, which houses the nation’s largest archive of digital archaeological data.

Read/listen to my full story at KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk:
ASU Taps Veterans To Archive For US’s Largest Digital Archaeology Database

Of Mammoths Wild and Woolly

Woolly mammoth skeleton at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Photo by Kevin Burkett.
Woolly mammoth skeleton on display at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Photo by Kevin Burkett.

We love dinosaurs, but we never shared the planet with them. Such was not the case with woolly mammoths, which we once hunted, chowed down on, and used for tools and building materials. You don’t see T-Rexes on cave walls, but some of the earliest sculpture and art by human hands depicts these elephantine throw rugs.

Today, their well-preserved remains contain muscle, blood, teeth, bone, tusk and even brain. We’ve recovered and sequenced mammoth DNA, something we’ll never be able to do with dinosaurs. But if all you know about these majestic creatures comes from old Flintstones episodes, then join me as I explore …

How Woolly Mammoths Worked

The Scientist and the Sea Serpent

Monstrous tree roots break the surface of the sea, silhouetted by the sun.
Sea monster — or tree trunk? Photo by Colin Park.

Most seafaring cultures have sea monster myths or folktales. They are preserved in manuscripts, in the margins of old maps, on the walls of Hindu temples and in the rock carvings of American Indians. Tales tell of monstrous sea gods and their fearsome servants as well as other assorted briny beasts. But is there a drop of truth to any of these tall tales? And how might we find out? Join me as I explore…

How Sea Monsters Work

Cloning, Hubris and the Dino-DNA “Use By” Date

Be careful what your wish for. Photo by MathKnight and Zachi Evenor.

We know surprisingly little about juvenile dinosaurs, so every time a paleontologist uncovers a clutch of eggs or embryos, it is cause for celebration – at least until someone in the media gets hold of the story and asks The Dreaded Question: “Is Jurassic Park only a few years away?” or some variant thereof.

Being a member of said media, I am occasionally assigned one of these stories. And, although I don’t much care for sensationalism in science coverage, I’m generally too thrilled to be researching dinosaurs and cloning to complain very much. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to tell a deeper story, like this one.

Could we resurrect dinosaurs from fossil embryos?