UCMP’s summer field adventures (cont.)

then applying multiple layers of liquid plastic for securing and shipping the fragile egg masses back to the museum.
Audrey compared the sedimented egg masses she collected to gelatinous ones produced by two naticid species in Australia. These collars are produced in the same manner, but do not incorporate sediment. Her preliminary results refute some proposed hypotheses, including the idea that sediment prevents the eggs from drying out and the idea that sediment serves as an architectural support system allowing for the production of a very large egg mass.

Mammals and dinosaurs from the Hell Creek of Montana
Some members of UCMP joined colleagues from the Museum of the Rockies (MOR) for a month of fieldwork in eastern Montana. Base camp was set up at the Hell Creek Recreation Area along the shores of Ft. Peck Lake, where exposures of the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary are well-exposed.
As part of UCMP’s research program, Greg Wilson, graduate student of Bill Clemens, introduced five adventurous undergraduate research assistants (Marissa Ames, Brian Farrell, Michael de Sosa, Heidi Morey, and Daniel Stewart) to a search for microfossils—specifically, tiny mammal teeth dating back to the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (65 million years). Daily, they jumped into Blazers and drove on precarious dirt roads, until they had to travel on foot using rock hammers to steady themselves on the rocky inclines.
Heidi Morey had this to say about the experience: “I found prospecting (searching for new sites) exciting, because of the possibility that a rare mammal tooth could be lying just behind the next rock. Crawling on hands and knees, we searched the terrain for tiny fossils using hand lenses. At first I thought that looking for microfossils would be quite difficult due to their size, but I learned that it is possible to attain this skill with time and patience. We collected the visible fossils on the surface (the float) and quantities of the surrounding matrix, three times the amount of matrix collected in previous years.
“Jack Horner, MOR, offered the use of a helicopter to transport the matrix back to camp, where we rigorously set to screen-washing. This entailed pouring matrix into sieve boxes and sorting out the fossils to take back to the lab. The screen-washing solicited much attention from curious vacationers, film crews (Spiegel and NBC), and even a few celebrities (Joe Johnston and Homer Hickum).

  transporting matrix by helicopter
preparing to screen wash matrix At top, Mike de Sosa, Daniel Stewart and Greg Wilson leave the helicopter after "borrowing" it to transport bags of matrix back to camp. Below, Marissa Ames (in baseball cap), Daniel Stewart and Mike de Sosa prepare to screen wash matrix on the shores of Ft. Peck Lake. Dave Weishampel, Johns Hopkins University, carries a bag of matrix. (photos by Heidi Morey)

“This summer I learned the true meaning of working hard, and playing hard too. Although I devoted much time to strenuous fieldwork in the sweltering sun, I also enjoyed the comical and calming effect of living in the outdoors. Swims in the refreshing waters of the Hell Creek Marina became a daily ritual and radio sing-alongs in the Blazer became the ultimate group activity. This field season has made me appreciate the high caliber of staff, professors, and students that is UC Berkeley.”

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