Wed February 23, 2011

Snowmass Fossil Dig to Resume in May

Scientists have reached an agreement with the Town of Snowmass Village to continue unearthing ice age fossils at a reservoir site this May. 

Teams from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science say the town has agreed to suspend a planned expansion of the reservoir so the exploration can continue once the snow melts. 

Last fall, a bulldozer driver working at the site stumbled upon what would turn out to be a bounty of rare, ice age fossils and countless plants, some believed to be more than 130,000 years old.

Scientists then led a two week excavation frenzy before the snow started accumulating. 

"And so we’re going to come back to Snowmass Village with the same size force, forty-plus people, and instead of spending 14 days on the ground, we’ll spend about fifty days on the ground," said museum paleontologist Ian Miller.

Miller is literally giddy to get back up there to resume the dig at Ziegler Reservoir. 

"That entire lake as far as we can tell is filled with bones, so we’re very excited and I cannot imagine that we won’t find tons and tons of stuff," Miller said. 

After more research, scientists hope to better understand how high mountain ecosystems responded to radical shifts in climate thousands of years ago – and how that might be applied to what’s happening today. 

"The key is that it’s not that long ago, most if not all the same plants, and we can really see how ecosystems in the Rockies are responding to climate change over tens of thousands of years."

Listen to a report from last fall and view a slide show of some of the fossils that are now being housed at the Denver museum here.