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Campers explore paleontology, archeology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Haxtun Conservation District recently hosted their sixth annual Conservation Camp in Holyoke. Twenty-three students ranging from fourth through eighth grades attended the free two-day camp at Phillips County Event Center Monday-Tuesday, June 4-5, according to Denise Swanson, Haxtun Conservation District manager.

Dr. Richard Stucky, curator of paleoecology and evolution at Denver
Museum of Nature and Science, explains what the landscape in
northeast Colorado might have looked like for prehistoric animals. 
—Enterprise photo

Paleontology and archeology were the main themes, along with soil health.

Jerry Miller, Farm Bill biologist, opened the camp with the legacy and principles of conservationist Aldo Leopold. Each student received a journal and a Sand County Almanac. Camp activities and observations were recorded by the students throughout the camp.

Dr. Richard Stucky, curator of paleoecology and evolution at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, showed a slide show of the excavation of a 1.2-million-year -old stegomastodon discovered last year at a gravel pit in Phillips County.

Dr. Richard Stucky shows campers where they excavated the spine and tusks of Sandy, a prehistoric stegomastodon, in eastern Phillips County. Pictured from left are Jesse Vasa, Owen Tennessen, Tate Dille, Taylor Trumper, Stucky and Remington Hielscher.
—Enterprise photo

This set the stage for a field trip to the site. In 2011, a team of paleontologists recovered, casted and moved the specimens to the Denver museum. At the site, the group was shown where the specimens were located and discussed how they may have lived, died and were eventually discovered.

Camper Drew Stewart of Holyoke located a large bone-like specimen partially exposed by the recent rain. Stucky became very interested and excited about the discovery, noting a team would return for a closer look and possible excavation. He said Stewart would be listed in the log book giving him credit for the discovery.

Conservation camper Drew Stewart shows off a piece of possible fossil
he discovered during the camp’s tour of the gravel pit and dig site.
Recent rains may have helped more fossils come to the surface. 
—Enterprise photo

At the conclusion of the tour, Haxtun Conservation District board member Renee Weis gave each person a “bagged and tagged” fossil specimen collected from the site during the excavation.

Earth Team volunteer Mary Cave presented a fabulous display of Indian artifacts that she had collected over many years. She presented each student with a piece of local history to take home that included its purpose and when and where it was found.

Holyoke’s NRCS soil technician Tim Becker and soil conservationist Joe Crowder gave a presentation on soil health and the benefits of no-till farming. The demonstration showed the improved water infiltration and less water runoff of no-till soil compared to conventional tilled fields due to the improved soil structure.

NRCS rangeland specialist Josh Saunders followed by tying in the water cycle and soil types and showed examples of sheet and rill erosion caused by water runoff.

Over 135 youths have attended the camp since its beginning in 2007. Swanson noted the camp is held the first full week of June.

A group of kids from this year’s Conservation Camp takes a look at a prehistoric fossil found at a gravel pit southeast of Holyoke. Dr. Richard Stucky, pictured at far right, was recently at the site with a team looking for more fossils where they found some one year ago. This fossil, pictured in center, is too fragile to excavate.  —Enterprise photo

Holyoke Enterprise June 14, 2012