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ECWG Virtual Meeting: Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies

December 19, 2020 @ 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Explorers Club Members, Associates/Friends, Members’ Guests and Non-Members’ Guest List You are cordially invited to the December 2020 ECWG virtual via Zoom.

About the Presentation

In 2010, a heavy equipment operator named Jesse Steele was excavating the bottom of a drained lake near Snowmass Village when his bulldozer sliced through a nearly complete mammoth skeleton. When scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science arrived, it became clear that this was not an isolated skeleton but an Ice Age lakebed full of fossil animals and plants.

Kirk Johnson led a 70-day, 300- person dig that yielded more than 6,500 bones of seven kinds of large mammals including mastodon, mammoth, bison, deer, horse, sloth, and camel—plus 13 types of smaller animals—otter, muskrat, beaver, chipmunk, bat, rabbit, mouse, salamander, frog, lizard, snake, fish, and bird. This talk will tell the story of what is now known as the finest high-elevation Ice Age fossil site in the World.

Kirk Johnson is a paleontologist who has been the Sant Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History since 2012.

About Our Speaker

Dr. Kirk Johnson is the Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where he oversees a collection of more than 146 million objects—the largest natural history collection in the world. Each year, the Museum hosts more than 5 million visitors and its scientists publish more than 750 scientific research papers and describe more than 300 new species.

In 2017, the Museum completed a $225 million capital campaign and in 2019 it opened the $40 million David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time. Before he came to the Smithsonian in 2012, Johnson was the vice president, chief curator and paleobotanist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where he led expeditions in 11 countries that resulted in the discovery of more than 1,400 fossil sites. His research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs and he is known for his scientific articles, popular books, museum exhibitions, documentaries, and collaborations with artists.

In 2011, he led the excavation of an ice age site near Snowmass Village, Colorado, that recovered more than 5,400 bones of mammoths, mastodons and other ice age animals and was featured in the NOVA documentary, Ice Age Death Trap (2012). His recent PBS documentaries include Making North America (2015), The Great Yellowstone Thaw (2017), and Polar Extremes (2019). His recent books include, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific (2018) and Visions of Lost Worlds, the Paleoart of Jay Matternes (2019). His upcoming book, Trees are made of Gas, The Story of Carbon and Climate, will be published in 2020.

How to Attend

This presentation will be given on the Zoom platform. Access will be mailed to all members. For help using Zoom please see this post: 

Zoom Meeting Instructions


December 19, 2020
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm