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Cruisin’ the fossil freeway in Vail

Daily Staff Report
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyIn their latest book, "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip," paleontologist Kirk Johnson and artist Ray Troll examine rock quarries that have yielded hundreds of fossilized bones and unearth paleontological treasures at small-town museums.
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VAIL ” Fossils are everywhere; to find them, you just need to know where to look. Throughout the American West, from the mountains to the badlands, canyons, plains and deserts, exposed sedimentary rocks and fossils from every geological period lay waiting to be discovered. Dr. Kirk Johnson will bring his “Cruising The Fossil Freeway” tales and photos to the Vail Mountain School tonight at 6 p.m.

Dr. Johnson and artist Ray Troll are known for making fossils engaging, and fascinating adults and children at presentations. In their latest book, “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip” (2007), Johnson examines firsthand rock quarries that have yielded hundreds of fossilized bones, walks the remains of ancient sea shores tracked with dinosaur footprints, and unearths small-town museums packed with paleontological treasures. Combined with Ray Troll’s imaginative illustrations, the findings in Johnson’s book create the ultimate “fossilogue” for the states of Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.

In his interactive slide presentation for the Vail Symposium, Dr. Johnson will show fossils from around the Western United States’s highway system, with a special focus on the fossils found along Colorado’s highways.

“I am especially looking forward to digging into fossils with the dynamic and engaging Kirk Johnson,” said Fraidy Aber, executive director of the Vail Symposium, who has been eager for the paleontologist’s talk since the beginning of the season. “Kids and parents, alike, will appreciate details about how fossils can spice up road trips and drives through our state.”

Kirk Johnson, vice president of research and collections and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, joined the Museum in 1991 after earning a doctorate from Yale University. He is best known for his research on fossil plants, which is widely accepted as some of the most convincing support for the theory that an asteroid impact caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Since 1997, he has supervised the Denver Basin Project. This work has led to the discovery and analysis of a 64-million-year-old tropical rainforest in Colorado.

Dr. Johnson has authored “Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth, Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the past 300 Million Years of the Colorado Front Range,” and “Gas Trees and Car Turds: A Kids’ Guide to the Roots of Global Warming.”

The program is free for kids (under 18), and $10 for all others. The illustrated book, “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-mile Paleo Road Trip” with its accompanying map, will be on sale at the event. For reservations or more information, call 476-0954.


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