Update: Spring Break in Panama

The members of PCP PIRE that traveled to Panama for Spring Break have been collaborating with the field interns to collect plant, invertebrate and vertebrate fossils in several localities, both old and new. On Friday the group left the field early to visit the Biomuseo, a museum that focuses on the history and biodiversity of Panama. PCP PIRE, STRI and several other institutions have made contributions to the museum and it was the first time that many members of the Spring Break crew had seen the museum since its construction phase. The museum includes permanent and temporary galleries that explain the history of Panama: its geologic history and how the Isthmus came to be, its evolutionary history and biodiversity, and its cultural history and how humans have shaped the landscape of Panama. One temporary exhibit centered on contributions made by PCP PIRE and other institutions and included details of our discoveries so far as well as paleoart and casts of fossils made by members of the project. It was an amazing experience to visit the museum and see what we have discovered through the course of this project and how we are sharing our discoveries with the public.


The Spring Break crew listen to a tour guide explain the details of the architecture of the Biomuseo. Photo © Dawn Mitchell.


The Spring Break crew discuss the geology of the Isthmus of Panama as they walk through the “Building the Bridge” exhibit, which narrates the geological history of Panama. Photo  © Dawn Mitchell.


Members of the PCP PIRE Spring Break crew explore the “Worlds Collide” exhibit at the Biomuseo. The exhibit includes life-size statues of animals clashing in a representation of the Great American Biotic Interchange after the Isthmus of Panama was fully formed. Photo © Dawn Mitchell.

The Spring Break group is wrapping up their fieldwork on Saturday and will be headed back to Florida on Sunday. Be sure to check back next week to hear from our museum interns about their experience in the field!


Spring Break in Panama

Group photo

Photo of the Spring Break Panama Canal participants at the Canopy Crane.

This week 15 additional people descended on the Panama Canal – the University of Florida Spring Break crew has arrived. For the majority of participants, this is their first experience in Panama.  We arrived Saturday afternoon and took Sunday as a tourist day to see the sights – the canopy crane and Punta Culebra were both great activities.

The first group is hooked up to the crane, which lifts them into the tree canopy.

The first group is hooked up to the crane, which lifts them into the tree canopy.

The view from the crane.

The view from the crane.

This iguana was sunbathing in the treetops.

This iguana was sunbathing in the treetops.

Punta Culebra

Vista at Punta Culebra.

Monday morning brought us to the Panama Canal.  We depart our hotel at 7AM, get to the canal around 8:30, and work until 3:30.  Quite a few fossils have been found – lots of new vertebrate, invertebrate, and paleobotanical samples are filling the lab at STRI!

AndreaVictorRachel Emperador

Andrea De Renzis, Victor Perez, and Rachel Narducci search the Empirador Formation for sharks teeth and invertebrate marine fossils.

Dawn Mitchell searches for vertebrate fossils in the Las Cascadas Formation.

Dawn Mitchell searches for vertebrate fossils in the Las Cascadas Formation.

Museum Intern Will Tifft takes a swing at a difficult layer of Las Palmas along the Panama Canal.

Museum Intern Will Tifft takes a swing at a difficult layer of Las Palmas along the Panama Canal.

Paleo Potluck with Dena Smith


Dena Smith (second from left) leads a discussion on Sept. 10 about job possibilities in paleontology, and the importance of developing a diverse skill set. PCP PIRE partially sponsored her visit to the Florida Museum of Natural History to discuss outreach and educational goals within the context of paleontology. Photo by Steven Manchester.



Bruce MacFadden serves BBQ meat to Dena Smith, Roger Portell, and Michal Kowalewski at the Paleo Potluck Party held as part of Dena Smith’s visit to the Florida Museum of Natural History. Photo by Adiel Klompmaker.

All Hands Meeting, Nebraska

PCP PIRE just wrapped up the 2014 All Hands Meeting in Fort Robinson, Nebraska.  Why Nebraska?  That’s in the center of the USA, not really close to Panama.
The fossils deposited in the badlands of northwest Nebraska, however, are the same age as those in the Centernario Fauna of Panama.  They are also the same age as the Thomas Farm site in Florida.  Nebraska holds the type sections of 5 of the North American Land Mammal Ages (NALMA).  Bringing a group of researchers to view (and collect from) type localities allows both students and professionals to develop a context for the Cenozoic fauna they encounter in Panama.  More about the All Hands meeting is in the PCP PIRE August eNewsletter (sign up here to receive our eNews monthly).
In the meantime, here are a few photos, showcasing what we did:


Scene from within Toadstool Geologic Park, within the Ogallala National Grasslands. We had a special collections permit and collected numerous fossils (and left behind far more!) within the park. Those fossils will reside in the Florida Museum of Natural History.


Summer 2014 Intern Michelle Barboza excavates a fossil tooth on the Chadronian flats in the Ogallala National Grasslands of northwest Nebraska.

On-call paleontologist


PCP PIRE Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Gary Morgan keeps busy.  In addition to his role in PCP PIRE studying the small vertebrates of the neotropics, with a focus on bats, he is primarily the Curator of Paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.  When a probable Stegomastodon skull (extinct relative of the elephant) was found by members of a bachelor party who were camping at Elephant Butte State Park in New Mexico, Gary was brought in to properly excavate and salvage the find.  The Albuquerque Journal has more information here.

Bruce MacFadden’s Blog


PCP PIRE Principal Investigator Dr. Bruce MacFadden is blogging about his summer courses, fossil trips, and Panama activities with GABI-RET (Great American Biotic Interchange – Research Education for Teachers).  He will be accompanying a group of teachers this July for hands-on field work in Panama.  Check out his most recent blog posts here.