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Doing Paleontology at the End of the Rope

This year marks four consecutive years where I have been part of research at Wyoming’s Natural Trap Cave. Last week, we closed the gate entrance to the cave for the last time for the foreseeable future.

Sunset on Natural Trap Cave, locked up tight

Working in the cave has been fantastic. I never thought I’d have a chance to go into a cave like this, much less also do science there.

First steps...

We put our faith in ropes…

The singular anchor to which all ropes were tied.

...and local cavers like Juan Laden…

Juan Laden rigs a load to be hauled out of the cave. keep us safe each day as we climbed in and out.

The great cavern. A heavenly place

And the treasures we found! Oh, the treasures we found!

A whole bag of just fossil teeth!

An enormous vertebra!

A nearly complete jaw of a young horse!

Paleontology is a science. It’s also an opportunity have new experiences. Without cavers like Juan, the scientific advancements made from places like Natural Trap Cave would be impossible.

I also would never have met members of the caving community nor had the chance to sit in a cavern underground.

End of season treat: Checking out the back (and normally forbidden) passages of Natural Trap Cave.

But now the season is over and the funding has run out. It’s time to hang up the harnesses and do some science.

Hanging it up.

But we’re not done. Not by a longshot. The science will continue, and funding will be obtained again. So while this project is at the end of its rope, I am not, nor are my friends and colleagues. We’ll be back!

To learn more about the research at Natural Trap Cave, watch these awesome videos:

From Dennis Davis (Summer 2016):
From Barefoot (Summer 2016):
From the Billings Gazette (Summer 2016):

Also, check out the hashtags #NTCave14, #NTCave15, #NTCave16, and #NTCave2017 on Twitter.
Posted: 7/28/2017 3:49:42 PM by pennilynhigginsadmin | with 0 comments
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