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BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 543

Teens Help BLM Barstow Field Office to Manage Fossil Resources

students and leaders sift through fossil finds in the desert
Collecting bones at a paleontological site

Hanna and Zach Larsen participated in two seasons of paleontological (fossil) resource management in the Rainbow Basin Area of Critical Environmental Concern north of Barstow.

Zach and Hanna, in the 9th Grade at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, took the study a bit farther - to the Science Fair! Their investigation used bones and fossils from the Miocene Barstow Formation to reconstruct the type of environment from that period. Bones recovered were identified as limbs and teeth of Merychippus (three-toed horse), phalanges of a large Miocene camel, and limbs of Pseudailurus (an ancient cat), as well as root casts and algae. Merychippus hoof print impressions were also found in the area, further substantiating their hypothesis that this area was a lush wetland surrounded by a grassland ecosystem during the Miocene era.

Their investigation determined that the climate, habitat, and the animals present during this lush time in southern California's pre-history give insight on how climate change impacts ecosystems. Climate change over time caused wetlands to dry and change into the desert environment that currently exists.

Fossils in the Miocene (15 million years ago) Barstow Formation can only be collected under BLM permit, and must be curated into an accredited museum. The Mojave River Valley Museum annually recovers fossils weathering from silty sediments around Rainbow Basin, marking their precise location using GPS coordinates. Recovered fossils are cleaned in a lab, then measured and compared to published accounts. Fossils, and even fossil animal tracks, are curated into the Raymond Alf repository museum in Claremont. This project was directed by Robert Reynolds and Bob Hilburn of the Mojave River Valley Museum, assisted by members of the Inland Geological Society, under the supervision of Jim Shearer, Barstow BLM archaeologist.

This Science Fair project advanced from Martin Luther King High School to higher levels:

Riverside Unified School District Science Fair:
Silver medal, Earth Science Department Special Award

Riverside, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino Counties Regional Science Fair:
Gold medal, Inland Geological Society Special Award

California State Science Fair:
Silver Medal; second place

a girl holds a labelled plastic bag containing specimens
Hanna holds specimens labelled with the location where they were found.

a boy sits among rocks at a collecting site

a girl and boy pose in front of their science fair display

- BLM Barstow Field Office (August 2012)

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 543 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.

Last updated: 08-09-2012