Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Footprints in sand, snow and rock...

[Under development]
Yesterday evening, I went to a dinosaur lecture presented at SUNY Orange. It covered dinosaur fossils from the Hudson River Valley (NY, USA), Palisades and Northern New Jersey (NJ, USA), Virginia (USA), Morocco, Poland and dinosaur and dinosaur footprints from many other places.
It was presented by Paul E. Olsen, Storke Memorial Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (see video). You may be aware of Dr. Olsen's research which addresses evolution of continental ecosystems, including the pattern, causes and effects of climate change on geological time scales and how these in turn relate to mass extinctions and other biogeological events. The lecture was fascinating and presented views of many dinosaur and crurotarsians finds. Also discussed were the roles of pollen and of iridium in providing clues about dinosaurs. Given a chance to hear Dr. Olsen speak, I recommend going. You will get updated on dinosaurs, enjoy the depth of his knowledge and also his intelligent sense of humor. (Children attending might do well to be prepped before the talk, as it does go at a rapid pace. ) If you do not have that opportunity to hear Dr. Olsen speak, try reading his research. Next time you see him on a documentary, you can say to yourself, "I've read his papers."

Following the lecture, some went out for coffee and a discussion of the highlights of the talk, among thee topics discussed were footprints. Did you know footprints can give an overview of course taxonomic values (...Not to genus and species in other words, but to major groups)? We learned this point, along with many others, at the lecture. And at our coffee klatch after the talk, we discussed many of the points and then veered-off on a discussion of footprints.

Perhaps this discussion path was followed because one of us had worked tracking game for research purposes and had seen first hand how much the local professional trackers could discover from seemingly innocuous footprints. Then it happened that today I was reading, Billions and Billions (by Carl Sagan), and I came across this quote,
From a jumble of hoofprints, we can accurately tell how many animals passed; the species, sexes, and ages; whether any are lame; how long ago they passes; how far away they are.
It is through the lecture, discussion and Sagan book that I came to post on footprints in sand snow and rock. Have you left footprints in the sand at the beach or in the desert? Have walked through snow and made an imprint? Have you seen deer tracks?

[more coming soon]

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