Valley of the Mastodons Day 3

Hey there every peoples!

We have arrived to the thrid and final day of the Valley of the Mastodons workshop at the Western Science Center. What does it have in store? Read on!

The day started off when the glass case was removed from Max’s skull. A whole post could be done just on this guy, despite being only 9% complete. But being the best skull in the fauna meant he was a prime target for the visiting researchers. It will be interesting to see what secrets can be gleaned from this incredible specimen.

Jeremy Green getting Max’s tusk ready for molding

Greg Smith applying the molding agent to Max’s teeth

Max even got the seizure gun treatment:

With the glass off, Eric Scott spotted a potential pathology on Max’s upper right jaw. Mas has 2 injuries already so it’s not outside the realm of possibilities.

Right upper jaw of Max

After that all the important science people went to lunch at some winery. The glass was left off Max as the molding on his tusks was still setting. So i hung around and helped the volunteers make sure no one went near it. But once everyone got back things got hopping again. One thing i did was give the Center a present:

My old ebay collection

This is a collection of Paleozoic plants and invertebrates i had gotten off ebay many years ago. I  have long railed against the commercial sale of fossils so it should go without saying that this is something I’m not proud of. It was a time when i was desperately working towards an unattainable goal. I justified it by constantly reminding myself it was for the greater good. Well the reason i got them died a long time ago. So these fossils would just be sitting in my shed taking up space. Then i remembered Alton said at WAVP that the Center was starting to feel the need to diversify it’s collections.* So i asked him if they would like them. They are obviously useless for research since they have no field data. But they could still be used for education, outreach, and maybe even display if they need to. Alton said they’d love to have them. So I donated them to the Center. At least now they are somewhere where they can do some good. Alton already featured one of them for Fossil Friday on his blog.

Then it was back into the collections for science. In a break from workshop protocol, Eric focused his efforts on bison:

Eric showing Chris and Brian Engh a huge bison vertebra. The sheer size suggests it’s from the extinct giant bison, Bison latifrons.

Eric measures a horn core of the extinct giant bison, Bison latifrons

As we wrapped up in the collections, museum members and guests started arriving for the exhibit reception. And this party was hopping:

Eric peers into the depths of my soul

Alton gave a stirring speech before letting us all in

This is the single largest display of mastodons in history. Everything from isolated bones and teeth to partial skeletons are displayed. It quite impressive:

These are the fossils that started it all. These 7 fragments of mastodon bones were the first fossils found during the Diamond Valley project. No one would have guessed based on these unassuming chunks of bone that they’d uncover one of the biggest ice age sites in North America

Skull and tusks

Articulated vertebrae with some ribs (another jacket contained a tusk and more ribs from the same individual)

The partial skull, with some ribs and vertebrae of Little Stevie. Is that a pathology (maybe a healed break) on the rib across the top? (Side story: Alton commented on the odd tooth wear and said “Little Stevie was stupid”. I then suddenly got an image in my head of a googly-eyed mastodon running around yelling “STEVIE!” Brian, get on that!)

A display of tusks

A skull dubbed “The Old Man”

Mandible (whole lower jaw) backed by an associated (I think) upper jaw and tusk

Teeth from the youngest mastodon found in Diamond Valley

An innovative touch was white boards filled out by the visiting scientists about the research they were doing on the specimens. While those will accompany the exhibit for it’s run, the guests at the reception got to hear it straight from the scientists mouths:

Ashley Leger of Cogstone explaining mastodons to guests

The exhibit seemed to be going over great:

Grant Zazula trying out an interactive display

The event even featured a performance by the Center’s in-house barbershop quartet:

Don’t ask how i came up with it. Just another idea that spontaneously popped into my head due to my demented imagination…

This was quite the experience. It was something else to observe the scientists doing their research and talk to them. Of course, the demon, as usual, tried to ruin it. In the company of the professionals can be very intimidating, making me feel like a useless no body. Hell even Brian Engh, showing everyone his incredible mural. Silly ways to feel, for sure, but that’s what the demon does. It can twist the best of situations against you no matter how much you try to fight. But this type of thing (scientific research and explaining it to people) are what everyone tells me i should be doing. Whatever, these people work hard to do actual science. Maybe someday I’ll be important and relevant enough to give a talk or walk people through an exhibit. As opposed to being the king of amateur hour.

Minor efforts of my affliction aside, I am most grateful to Alton Dooley for organizing this event and inviting me to it. Big thanks to all the scientists and artists for putting up with me. Props to the Center staff for all their hard work getting the exhibit ready on time. And a thank you needs to go Victor De La Cruz, the maintenance technician, for opening up the cases (no easy feat). This was a unique experience and can’t wait for the next one: Valley of the Pocket Gophers!

Till next time!

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