High Country Speaker Series wraps up with a Colorado climate history | VailDaily.com

High Country Speaker Series wraps up with a Colorado climate history

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AVON, Colorado – The 10th annual High Country Speaker Series wraps up this year with Richard Stucky, curator of paleoecology and evolution at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Walking Mountains Science Center. His talk, “Really Hot and Really Cool Times in the Rocky Mountains,” is the final installment in the 2012 High Country Speaker Series.

“The emergence of the Rocky Mountains millions of years ago has preserved many ancient ecosystems that give us a remarkable record of the story of climate change and the evolution of plants and animals that have inhabited our planet,” Stucky said.

The Rocky Mountain region has, perhaps, the most important sequence of fossil beds found on Planet Earth, ranging in age from billions of years ago to the more recent Pleistocene about 10,000 years ago and the Anthropocene, that began about 1800. Fifty million years ago, the Rocky Mountain region was tropical. The plant and animal life of that time reflect a tropical ecosystem when diversity was at very high levels and animals such as primates were present that were well-adapted to a tropical forest canopy. Over the past several hundred thousand years, the Rocky Mountain region has experienced much cooler climates, with glacial advances and plants and animals that reflect lower diversity and adaptations to cold. Climate change is a given through the Earth’s history. The discussion will explore what this means for the present world and predictions of how our region will change with either increased warming or cooling.

Stucky received his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1982 from the University of Colorado with a specialization in vertebrate paleontology. His research involves understanding the evolution of species and natural communities among mammals through the past 65 million years, with a specific interest in the impact of climatic change on biotic systems. He also has a keen interest in getting youth involved in science to lead them into scientific careers.

The High Country Speaker Series is a partnership between the Eagle Valley Library District and Walking Mountains which brings environmental speakers to our community. These talks are free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended but not required. For more information, or to make a reservation, call Walking Mountains Science Center at 970-827-9725.

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