BLM Logo
Wind River/Bighorn Basin District
Release Date: 07/18/11
Contacts: Sarah Beckwith, 307/347-5207    
  Beth Potier, University of New Hampshire, 603/862-1566    

Researchers Dig into Bighorn Basin for Climate Change Clues

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire are searching for climate change clues on public lands in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin this summer. As part of the partnership between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bighorn Basin Coring Project (BBCP), pairs of cores are being drilled at three sites through Aug. 11 to better understand the long-term carbon cycle of the earth.

A team of 27 scientists from 11 institutions will drill a series of 2½" diameter cores about 150 meters into the sediment of the basin’s stratified layers of rocks that they hope will yield clues about a massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that occurred about 55 million years ago during a period of extreme warming called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

Crews from the BBCP were recently working on BLM-managed lands 3 miles northwest of Basin but are now working at Polecat Bench west of Powell and will move to BLM-managed lands on Gilmore Hill in the McCullough Peaks area on Aug. 1.

This pioneering National Science Foundation-funded geological study will be the first time scientists have drilled continental cores in an attempt to understand this release of carbon dioxide and the warming, an environmental anomaly called a hyperthermal event, that surrounded it.

The PETM was one of the most significant episodes of warming in the last 100 million years. Sediments deposited during the PETM are well-exposed in the Bighorn Basin, offering an opportunity to understand this event and apply what is learned to current earth system changes.

For more information, please contact Archaeologist Mike Bies, BLM contact for the project, at 307-347-5100, or visit the BBCP website at

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Wind River/Bighorn Basin District   101 South 23rd      Worland, WY 82401  

Last updated: 07-19-2011