Explorer Profile

For as long as Mike can remember, he's liked being outside, in a natural setting. Though his family moved from place to place during his childhood, wherever he found himself, he always came across some natural feature to investigate. From playing in the hills of coastal California, to breaking open creek geodes (crystal-filled rock spheres) in downstate Illinois, to exploring old Iowa limestone quarries looking for fossils, Mike has always been attracted to outdoor exploration.

When it came time to go to college and pick a major field of study, Mike wanted something that would allow him to work outside much of the time. His older sister often talked to him about the geology (study of the earth) course she was taking; since it sounded good to Mike, he signed up to be a geology major. It turned out that he really liked it, and he hasn't regretted the choice since.

Geology first took Mike all over the Mountain West as an oil well geologist in the oil fields. He also worked for a few years as a geologist for an oil shale company based in Vernal, Utah. Mike's master's degree thesis in geology allowed him to research the interactions among the atmosphere, water, and rocks in the headwaters of the Bear River in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. And to earn money to help pay for his graduate school, Mike put some of his geologic skills to work for scientists studying the fluvial geomorphology (river channels and associated landforms) of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. He was part of a team that set up, monitored, and studied the effects of an experimental flood of the Colorado River in 1996. The flood was meant to mimic the conditions of the river and the associated ecosystem that existed before the construction of Glen Canyon Dam.

Most geologists learn something about paleontology (the science of ancient life) as part of their training, and Mike was no exception. Mike says that most geologists and paleontologists like outdoor work: finding fossils takes a lot of walking around where there isn't much vegetation, because that's where erosion (wearing away of soil and rock) will expose fossils. Paleontologists often find themselves tromping around in deserts, badlands, and other barren places. No matter where you wander, however, it's important to remember that it's OK to collect certain kinds of fossils, such as plant and invertebrate fossils, but not vertebrates (anaimals with backbones). Important discoveries should be reported to local officials.

Mike believes that the hard work and harsh conditions are more than offset by the thrill of discovery and the sense of satisfaction gained by adding to humanity's store of knowledge. Being the first person to see evidence of a previously unknown animal species is an exciting experience! Mike feels blessed to be putting his skills and knowledge to work in helping develop the Bureau of Land Management's Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry near Price, Utah, both as an important scientific resource and an environmental education site.