Cleaning up after spring break

And we’re back! A ton has happened since our last post. A huge group of our scientific partners at the University of Florida spent a week helping us collect fossils in Panamá. It was a wild time, with many folks downing Gatorades to stay hydrated in the blazing afternoon sun. Our combined efforts led to many fossil finds!

Jeremy with his humerus at Centenario 2 of the Cucaracha Formation

Jeremy with his humerus at Centenario 2 of the Cucaracha Formation

Anyhow, we are picking up where we left off. Last time, I described the heavy lifting we did to clean off one of our fossil localities and increase productivity. After we moved all of that sediment, Jeremy found the distal end of a humerus, possible from a fossil rhinoceros! We’ve continued down this path, moving to a new exposure of the Cucaracha Formation.

We just finished up a two-day project to revive our Centenario 6 locality – a fossil collection site where previous researchers have found unique fossils crucial to our understanding of American biogeography. The effort was literally massive. We must have busted up and shoveled nearly one thousand pounds of rocks and sediments with our rock hammers and pickaxes.

When we started...

When we started…

In order to continue finding fossils, you have to work to expose layers where bones are most-concentrated – a result of the environmental conditions where the sediment was being laid down millions of years ago.  This unit (Cucaracha, ~19 Ma) has produced incredible finds, including part of a jaw from a “bear-dog This a carnivorous mammal that originated in the “Old World”, and an Antracothere, which is an artiodactyl ungulate closely related to hippos and which is a sister taxa of whales. These fossils are critical clues, not only because fossil carnivores from this period are incredibly rare, but also because both of these fossils strongly link the mammals living in Panamá during the Miocene to those living contemporaneously in North America. The more evidence we find, the better our picture of Panamá and its role in the relationship between North and South America before the closure of the isthmus. Also, we’re looking to find some monkeys to better complete the picture.

Our newly restored locality!

Our newly restored locality!

Stay tuned for more! And Go Gators!

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Spring Break in Panama

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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.

Paleobotanist life for me

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These past few days in the prep lab I have been reconstructing the shell of a turtle known as Pleurodira sp. It has been very exciting to see the form of the shell after all the little pieces have been glued back together. I have also been working on my research, sketching the vein characters of my leaves for easy identification. Some of the specimens are so well preserved that it seems as if a modern leaf had been glued to the rock! And the detail of the veins under the microscope leaves me speechless! Every day that passes I become more amazed with my findings.IMG_20150204_164131691

After a week of knowing my project, the paleobotany department was going to renew the student research exhibit, and I was asked to construct a poster on my research. I only had a few days to put my poster together, so I had to work fast, and last Friday it finally became part of the exhibit. In my poster I briefly explain the depositional history of the formation and describe the different morphotypes that were found in the collection (A digital copy of my poster will soon be available at this site www.flmnh.ufl.edu/research/student_poster.htm).

I am also excited for the upcoming trip to Panama, last Monday we had a meeting about the trip and learned that new fossilized leaves were discovered! I can’t wait to see them and compare them to the leaves form Tennessee.

Summer 2015 Field Internship Application Available!

Collecting a peccary jaw

Jorge Moreno Bernal and Fall 2014 Field Intern Lillian Pearson collecting a partial fossil peccary jaw covered in plaster. Photo courtesy of Hannah O’Neill.

Application Deadline: 5PM EST on March 9, 2015

Are you interested in a geology and paleontology?  How about traveling to Central America and brushing up on your Spanish?  Want to gain valuable field experience excavating fossils while enormous cargo ships pass by in the distance?

If so, then we have the perfect internship opportunity for you.

PCP-PIRE is currently accepting applications for its Summer 2015 cohort of field interns. The goal of the PCP-PIRE field internship program is to expose students to geoscience field and research techniques in an international setting as we make new fossil discoveries and refine the stratigraphy of the Panama Canal Basin. Interns are also encouraged to explore the culture and natural history of Panama and expand their outreach abilities in conveying the importance of geology and paleontology to the public.

For more information, please visit our website: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/panama-pire/funding-opportunities/field-internships/. Also, check out the “Interns” category on the blog to check in on our Spring 2015 interns and see what past interns did during their internship and beyond!

Changes Coming to PCP PIRE

Fall2014 interns preparing marlin jacket

The four Fall 2014 field interns preparing a marlin jacket with Jorge Moreno Bernal. Photo by Daniel Mercado.

PCP PIRE has experienced a lot of change this December. Our Fall 2014 cohort of field interns will be finishing up their work at FLMNH this Thursday and will be leaving on Friday morning. We were happy to have them at the museum and in the field in Panama and wish them luck with their future endeavors. In January, a new batch of field interns will be heading to Panama and the first set of museum interns will be arriving at FLMNH.

A few of the leadership positions in PCP-PIRE have also changed. Our former Project Manager and post-doctoral associate, Aaron Wood, has moved on to a new job with the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences at Iowa State University as the new director of the Carl F. Vondra Geology Field Station. We wish Aaron the best of luck at his new job and thank him for his service with PCP-PIRE. Our new Project Manager and post-doctoral associate is former Project Assistant Cristina Robins and the new Project Assistant is museum intern Dawn Mitchell. We look forward to seeing what these changes and the new year will bring us!

Role Model Visit in Santa Cruz with GABI RET

Wes von Dassow (back, left) spoke with students in the Santa Cruz schools during the last week of October. Photo by Laura Beach.

It’s already Thursday and I am just sitting down to write about the conversations I’ve been having with teachers and classrooms full of students since Monday. It’s been really interesting talking to and, most times, having back and forth conversations with these classes. I’ve been told how some classes can be more attentive or rambunctious based on class “personality”, the time of day, or the general malaise that seems to cloud kids natural curiosity throughout high school. But, who am I to complain about those few classes? I remember being the same way to some degree at their age, which was only 4 years ago for me! [read more on GABI RET]

Wesley von Dassow at GSA

Summer 2014 PCP PIRE intern Wes von Dassow presents this morning on the field course in the Azuero Peninsula in Panama. He is viewing it from the vantage point of international collaboration, as the bilingual geological field camp was run by Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia and attended by Colombians, Panamanians, and Americans. Former interns Michelle Barboza and Robyn Henderek (who presented on Sunday) were also in attendance.

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Robyn Henderek and Lake Alajuela

Summer 2014 intern Robyn Henderek is at poster booth 358 today (Sunday) showcasing the stratigraphic efforts currently being undertaken to understand the history of Lake Alajuela (formerly known as Madden Lake) in Panama. Mollusk, shrimp, crab, crocodilian, gomphothere, and other fossils have been found there.
She also has flyers with student job opportunities for field internships in Panama, museum internships in the Florida Museum of Natural History, and a new post-doc opportunity with PCPPIRE!

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Application deadline extended on Spring 2015 Field Internships!

New application deadline:  November 15, 2014

Are you interested in a geology and paleontology?  How about traveling to Central America and brushing up on your Spanish?  Want to gain valuable field experience excavating fossils while enormous cargo ships pass by in the distance?

If so, then we have the perfect internship opportunity for you.

PCP-PIRE postdoc Nathan Jud (lower right) and the Fall 2014 field interns (clockwise from upper left:  Adam Freierman, Daniel Mercado, Lillian Pearson, and Hannah O'Neill) excavate a fossil turtle near Lago Alajuela.

PCP-PIRE postdoc Nathan Jud (lower right) and the Fall 2014 field interns (clockwise from upper left: Adam Freierman, Daniel Mercado, Lillian Pearson, and Hannah O’Neill) excavate a fossil turtle near Lago Alajuela.

PCP-PIRE is currently accepting applications for its Spring 2015 cohort of field interns. The goal of the PCP-PIRE field internship program is to expose students to geoscience field and research techniques in an international setting as we make new fossil discoveries and refine the stratigraphy of the Panama Canal Basin. Interns are also encouraged to explore the culture and natural history of Panama and expand their outreach abilities in conveying the importance of geology and paleontology to the public.

For more information, please visit our website:
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/panama-pire/funding-opportunities/field-internships/

Fall 2014 Interns’ initiation to Panama

ONeillMercado normal fault in the Cucaracha Fm

PCP-PIRE interns Hannah O’Neill and Daniel Mercado sit on either side of a normal fault within the 19-million-year-old Cucaracha Formation. The line between Daniel’s right hand and Hannah’s feet marks the fault plane, the surface that formed when the rocks on the left side of the picture “slipped” 10 meters downwards, potentially during an earthquake millions of years ago. Photo credit Aaron Wood.

PearsonFreierman welded tuff of the Cucaracha Fm

Lillian Pearson, a PCP-PIRE intern, stands next to the welded tuff of the 19-million-year-old Cucaracha Formation. Welded tuffs form when particles of hot volcanic ash adhere or weld together after an ancient volcanic eruption. Zircon crystals from the welded tuff were radiometrically dated by PCP-PIRE scientists in order to know the age of the fossil animals and plants found in the rocks immediately below and above the tuff, such as the ancient soil that PCP-PIRE intern Adam Freierman is standing on. Photo credit Aaron Wood.

 

Fossil leaves Las Cascadas Fm

These rust-red imprints are the part and counter-part of a fossil leaf preserved in the 21-million-year-old Las Cascadas Formation of the Panama Canal Basin. The midrib, or central vein, can be seen on each imprint with a few veins branching off to either side of the midrib. Photo credit Nathan Jud.