4,000+ Fossils Uncovered At Ice Age Dig Site

27 Scientists Joining 50-Person Dig Team In Snowmass

Crews digging at the Ice Age fossil site at Zieglar Reservoir near Snowmass Village report they have now recovered 4,056 fossils since work resumed this spring.

Excavation began at the site last fall after a bulldozer operator uncovered a bone while working on an expansion of Ziegler Reservoir. Work stopped for the winter but resumed in mid-May.

A group of 27 scientists have joined the 50-person dig team. Crews have one week left before they turn the site back over to the water district expanding the reservoir.

"While much of our activity has centered around salvaging fossils from the core of the dam site, we are now entering a phase of intense scientific investigation about the origin of the ice age lake and its history," said Dr. Kirk Johnson, the leader of the excavation team and vice president of the Research and Collections Division at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Sediment Cores

The scientists are collecting cores of sediment from the ancient lake bed, studying the sediment that fills the ancient lake, making high-resolution scans of in-place fossils and collecting various samples for analysis.

"Sediment cores are a very important way for us to sample the complete sequence of lake sediments and preserve them for future research," said Johnson. "They are a critical piece of the science that can be archived and studied for climate information such as temperature changes and drought."

The cores will first be studied in Denver and then move to the University of Minnesota where they will be permanently stored at the National Lacustrine Core Facility.

Ground Laser Scans

A team from the Colorado Water Science Center is collecting LIDAR ground laser scans of select fossils.

The scans will allow scientists to reconstruct parts of the site with high-resolution 3-D models.

Other Samples

The team of scientists is also gathering thousands of samples from the site to study fossil pollen and spores, insects, plants and the character and chemistry of the lake sediment.

The samples will provide information about the ecology and climate of the ancient landscape, officials said.

Deadline Coming

Crews are scheduled to dig at the site until July 1, when the site will be handed back over to the water district and work on the expanded reservoir will be completed.

A small excavation crew will remain on site.

Get the latest on the project on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Snowmastodon Project website.

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