This summer’s fieldwork in Wyoming and Montana has been quite the experience. We began by spending two weeks camping in the Wind River Basin of Wyoming to prospect at Eocene fossil localities. Prospecting at these localities was super fun because they all tended to be rather fossiliferous. We were primarily interested in collecting mammals and found fossils from multiple taxa, mainly horses, rodents, and primates. The primates were of particular interest to much of the crew, as they represented early members of the order and can aid us in answering important questions about primate origins. After much of the team left for home from Wyoming, the Brooklyn College crew made their way up to Marmarth, North Dakota where we would stay while we worked in Montana. For the first few days we worked on identifying the fossils that we had collected in Wyoming as the weather did not seem ideal for going out in the field given we had to hunker down as a tornado flew by. Understanding more about what we had found was one of my favorite parts of the entire experience.
Fieldwork in Montana was a very different process, but a fun and rewarding one as well. We worked primarily at a Paleocene locality called Camel Butte, and screened sediment from a specific location at the top. The butte was super windy and this made for an incredibly dirty and pretty funny experience. We bagged the sediment for further screening and bubbling at the lab, and then worked on picking through some of the matrix to find fossils. This process is rarely immediately satisfying, but for me it is one of the most exciting parts of fieldwork because of the kinds of the taxa that we can find. We can find fossils (usually isolated teeth) belonging to multituberculates, condylarths, and even primate relatives. Some of the specimens we find may represent early radiations of extant mammalian groups and help us learn a lot about the evolution of these mammalian lineages. Others, like multituberculates, went extinct but are still incredibly important in that they were a successful radiation for a long time and survived the mass extinction event that wiped out dinosaurs. Another highlight of the trip was being able to prospect for dinosaur fossils. As someone who studies mammals, dinosaur fossils were so different and interesting to me. Overall, staying in Marmarth has been really neat as well. I definitely enjoy spending time in a small town, as opposed to being in New York City where I grew up and currently live. I really loved being around animals that I don’t usually get to see, like pronghorn. We even took a trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and saw bison and prairie dogs. Even cows, rabbits, and deer are a rare sighting where I live, so being surrounded by them was exciting for me. Everyone at the Marmarth Research Foundation has made our stay fun and comfortable and I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with such amazing researchers and overall great people. I can’t wait to come back in future summers!