The morning didn't start off so well when the Shadwick Lab van didn't start. But after a quick jump, we were off to the races...to try out the rock saw, go to the hardware store and grocery store, and to celebrate some news with colleagues. (Photo: J. A. Goldbogen)
It's the night before we leave for our trip to the Vancouver Island (hereafter, "the island"). We've spent most of the day packing, organizing, and making last minute shopping runs. We double-checked our equipment list, did some final dry runs with key hardware, and reviewed logistics.
So what are we doing? In 2009, I made a preliminary reconnaissance trip to the Oligocene rocks of Vancouver Island to look for fossils of marine mammals. The Oligocene (~23-32 million years ago) is one of the great frontiers in marine mammal paleontology because we know so little: by comparison to other time periods, fossils are far more rare, and they tend to be important because they provide us with a window into what surely was a time of rapid diversification that presaged many modern lineages, but also completely extinct ones too. In general, the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada ranks among the premier places to look for fossil marine mammals, and there is a rich history of important specimens found in the marine rock units of Oregon, Washington State and British Columbia. As a postdoc at the University of British Columbia, my main goal was to work on the biomechanics of lunge-feeding, but I knew that Vancouver Island was an outstanding enigma in my mind.
While prospecting with frequent friends of the lab, we found several exciting fossils, including the skull, jaws and postcranial skeleton of what is likely an aetiocetid -- a "toothed" baleen whale, about the size of pilot whale. The problem was that we didn't have the proper equipment, time, logistics, collection permits or stratigraphic knowledge to retrieve the fossil. Fast forward 3 years, and now we've remedied all of those problems, and we're set to go collect it. So stay tuned.
We will be posting updates to the Ocean Portal, so stay tuned.
Every expedition needs a staging area -- in this case, Bob's house. NDP and RES, trying field looks in RES's basement. Gotta have a field look. (Photo: J. A. Goldbogen)