2009 FIELD NOTES

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December 13, 2009, Sunday 
It was a very cool morning as Gretchen Gürtler and I headed for the field. It was difficult to believe it had been almost a year since we were at MOTT VPL 3629. We were greeted at the locality by thousands of sandhill cranes that constantly serenaded us all day while flying over. We worked our way to the area where Gretchen had found the near four foot long phytosaur jaw (Dec. 30, 2008 Field Notes). I headed north and then east and prospected along the eastern margin of the basin. I collected a large ungula, a few isolated phytosaur vertebrae, and a portion of a metoposaur skull. I collected some large bivalve and was working my way back when Gretchen was coming to get me.
     She showed me a badly fragmented portion of a phytosaur skull she had found as we continued on to her better find. She had went over to photograph a rotary telephone she had found on the last trip when she discovered a phytosaur mandible. The mandible wasn't exposed on our last field trip and this time most of it was beyond repair. The only thing recoverable was the right ramus of the mandible. The entire mandible would have been close to four feet long. Gretchen soaked the posterior portion with Butvar to consolidate it and worked on uncovering what looked like a portion of the left ramus. I went to move the truck closer and get the plaster, etc., for a jacket.
     While  the Butvar was drying, Gretchen headed towards the central portion of the basin. When I returned I dropped off the supplies and went to an area about 150 meters northeast. There I found a portion of another metoposaur skull, some phytosaur vertebrae, and some osteoderms. Gretchen and I returned to the jaw site and jacketed the material there. 
     While waiting on the plaster and polypropylene padding to dry, I headed for my rhychosaur site. I found a few  bone fragments there, but then nearby I found a pair of sacral vertebrae and sacral ribs. A few other interesting bones were found nearby including some tarsals, vertebrae, and limb bones. While I was collecting this material, Gretchen was collecting a conglomeration of Otischalkia vertebrae and assorted bones. When I arrived, I found an ungula and a couple of tarsals. Gretchen continued to collect there while I headed west to where I had found a huge phytosaur humerus and osteoderms last trip. I found a couple of osteoderms and then worked my way north circling the basin and only collecting some bivalves. I worked my way back to Gretchen, we cleaned up the site, and then headed to remove the jackets. We extracted the jackets and headed back for Lubbock after a beautiful day in the field. 
Sandhill cranes flying over.
Sandhill cranes
 

Large bivalve
Large bivalve
 

Middle portion of Gretchens phytosaur jaw
Symphasis of  phytosaur jaw.
 

Gretchen jacketing phytosaur jaw ramus.
Gretchen jacketing phytosaur jaw ramus.


October 25, 2009, Sunday 
It was an absolutely beautiful day in the field. It was just after sunrise as we left for the field. It had been way too long of a hiatus since our last trip to the field. Our longest hiatus since the fall of 2007. The rains at my research locality had been very spotty. In one area it would appear to have come a torrential downpour last week. A hundred meters away it had only sprinkled since our last visit to this locality (July 5). Then a hundred meters past that it appeared to have received 2-3 inches of rain last week. 
     Anyway, we started out a bit slow at Site XLII. While Gretchen was extracting what appeared to be an ischium, I drove over to the next area and started working my way back, collecting a few isolated elements on the way. After meeting and seeing what each had collected, I headed for Site XVI, while Gretchen headed for her metoposaur pond and Site I. I made it by several sites before hitting Site IV where I worked on recovering an articulated series of Trilophosaurus vertebrae Gretchen had found on July 4. I also recovered a sub-adult phytosaur ilium nearby. I worked my way on around the margin of the basin. At Site XIV I collected an "associated" group of phalanxes. Each phalanx was about 2-3 mm in length. I was at Site VI when Gretchen showed up. She had been collecting a wide assortment of material at Site I. She had a Trilophosaurus femur, Trilophosaurus vertebrae, some Vancleavea material, metoposaur elements, a possible dinosauromorph limb (needs to be prepared for identification) and other stuff. At Site VI, Gretchen soon found an aetosaur paramedian osteoderm. Aetosaur material is more uncommon than dicynodont material at this locality. 
     We split up and headed for the original metoposaur pond, Site XXIV.  I found very little on the route I took but Gretchen found an element that I need to confirm is what I believe is dicynodont. We continued to the metoposaur pond and there was a small interclavicle that was "exploded" beyond reasonable reconstruction. One of the drawbacks of not enough staff, not enough funds, and not nearly enough TIME. I enjoy "jig-saw puzzles" but we have way more than I can contend with now. Gretchen and I then worked our way back to my truck and headed back for Lubbock. The change in seasons has ended our 12+ hour field days. 

Sub-adult phytosaur ilium I collectected.
A sub-adult phytosaur ilium I discovered at Site IV.

September 20, 2009, Sunday 
Last weekend it rained and we couldn't go to the field. This weekend we were busy with projects. However, we have been getting some prep work done. To the right is a phytosaur atlas vertebra that Alyson collected September 6 and a pretty complete, very gracile, juvenile phytosaur premaxilla I collected August 16. That makes the third juvenile premaxilla I have found, but the other two were not nearly this complete.
     We are getting a lot of fossils prepared this semester since we have three student assistants, two volunteers, and Gretchen working in the lab. I am pleased Gretchen is getting to go to SVP in Bristol. I wish I was going also. I did receive a SVP Fossil Preparation calendar Friday and it looks very nice. 
     Yesterday I carried some fossils from my personal "teaching collection" to the museum for use in their annual paleo event. That way the kids (and adults) would have some real vertebrate fossils that they could touch and pick up. Over 900 people attended the event. 
Phytosaur atlas vertebra
Phytosaur atlas vert.

Juvenile Triassic phytosaur premaxilla.
Juvenile phytosaur
premaxilla


September 6, 2009, Sunday 
It was barely light as Alyson Brink, Kevin Hoch, GretchenGürtler, and I left for the field. We were going to a locality we hadn't visited since March.  There had been quite a bit of rain and erosion at the locality. Alyson, Kevin, and I began working our way along the southern margin of the locality. Gretchen went ahead to check on her Koskinonodon jaw site. She found a couple of aetosaur paramedian osteoderms nearby. I found a phytosaur cervical vertebra near where we collected a phytosaur skull last fall. Kevin and Alyson were finding some material, coprolites, and phytosaur teeth. Then Alyson found a small lag deposit that contained abundant teeth. I looped around past where Gretchen was collecting some material and began working my way back to her. I found a Poposaurus coracoid that was mostly complete. Gretchen found a partial phytosaur jaw that was in pretty bad shape. 
     Everyone worked their way to the eastern margin of the locality while I worked my  way back to retrieve the truck and drive around to where we stopped for lunch. After lunch we spread out again. Gretchen found another aetosaur paramedian osteoderm. Alyson found one also but hers was to weathered to save. Alyson then went to the small element site and collected mostly teeth (non-phytosaur, non-metoposaur). 
     Gretchen and I worked our way to her Desmatosuchus site and there was a complete paramedian osteoderm, a couple of fragments and a couple of rib fragments. Then we found a number of skull fragments. We didn't uncover a skull, only scattered fragments. We then continued to Gretchen's Adamanasuchus site and collected most of a cervical or caudal paramedian osteoderm. We then headed to the western portion of the locality. On the western portion we found mostly fragments of elements. Then I found part of a Koskinonodon skull, and a couple of aetosaur paramedian osteoderms. I then found a very small metoposaur clavicle. After collecting those elements, Gretchen and I worked our way back towards the others and the truck. This will probably be our last visit to this locality until after hunting season unless there is a torrential downpour before hunting season starts.
phytosaur cervical vertebra
Phytosaur vertebra
Poposaurus coracoid
Poposaurus coracoid
Gretchen Gurtler, Kevin Hoch, Alyson Brink
Field crew in shade
aetosaur osteoderm
Aetosaur osteoderm

August 16, 2009, Sunday 
Gretchen continued sorting through and cataloguing the Shuvosaurus material after Emma left. We went to my research locality last Sunday, August 9, and found almost nothing. The rain had caused a lot of visible erosion since our last visit, but almost no fossils were exposed. I found a procoelous vertebra, a rauisuchid tooth, and a metoposaur interclavicle. Gretchen found a metoposaur humerus. Not much for that much erosion. 
     Yesterday Gretchen 
Gürtler and I left for the field before daylight. It was a beautiful morning and wildfowl were abundant. On our way to and from the locality we saw: Ardea herodias (great blue heron), Bubulcus ibis (cattle egret), Nycticorax nycticorax (black crowned night heron), Plegadis chihi (white-faced ibis), Fulica americana (american coot), Recurvirostra americana (american avocet), Himantopus mexicanus (black necked stilt), Zenaidura macroura (mourning dove), Callipepla squamata (scaled quail), Columbigallina passerian (ground dove), Geococcyx californianus (roadrunner), Chordeiles minor (common nighthawk). We identified well over a dozen more common species and saw a number of ducks and shorebirds that were too far away for definite identification. A good day.
     On the ranch, we rendezvoused with the landowner and headed for the locality, VPL 3624. It was a beautiful morning for the half kilometer hike into the locality. Once there we immediately saw a prolific number of coprolites of a variety of shapes and sizes. The site was a "small vertebrate" locality so we began to scour the ground closely. Gretchen quickly found one of Atanossov's procoelous vertebrae, before long Zoe had found one also.
     Our faunal list for the day included: coprolites, Argonodus dortheae, Coelacanthidae, Quayia zidekiKoskinonodonApachesaurus, cf. DrepanosaurusTecovasuchus, Phytosauria, Shuvosaurus, Rauisuchidae, two of Atanassov's taxa, and more. 
Proceolous vertebra.
Procoelous vertebra
Zoe asking Gretchen to identify a specimen.
Zoe showing Gretchen what she found.
Gretchen and Zoe collecting fossil bones.
Gretchen and Zoe collecting fossil bones.
Some vertebrate fossils found in the Tecovas Formation.
Fossil elements collected.

August 3, 2009, Monday 
Life is like a Jimmy Buffett song and today it is Changes in Latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains the same....
     This past two weeks have been busy with us trying to get some things ready for a visiting researcher, Emma Schachner. Gretchen 
Gürtler has been working hard sorting, identifying, repairing, and cataloguing most of the Shuvosaurus material, along with working on her own research material. I had never spent much time going through the Museum's PoposaurusPostosuchus, and Shuvosaurus material. In the past, someone was always working on it and I didn't want to impose, plus I barely had time to examine my own taxa. I have examined more of the paracrocodylamorph material in the past two weeks than in the past decade. Pretty interesting, with some interesting observations. I think Gretchen came up with a "population" of at least 18 Shuvosaurus individuals from the Post Quarry.
     We haven't made it to the field for several weeks. Gretchen has been working on her phytosaur research and I have been working on a variety of projects. I also had to prepare for a photography exhibit that opens Friday.
     Hopefully, Emma's trip was worthwhile for her research. At least Gretchen's and my cooking didn't make her ill. She may have an illusion of Texas as it was cool and rainy the entire time she was here, instead of the 105+ temperatures we had just before her arrival. I think her trip her will be successful when all is said and done. 

     It was too wet at our localities to go to the field this past weekend. Reports indicate that many of our localities received over three inches of rain last week, so Gretchen and I are very anxious to see what has been exposed by the rains. 
Gretchen Gurtler sorting and cataloguing Shuvosaurus elements.
Gretchen cataloguing Shuvosaurus bones.

Emma Schachner photographing Postosuchus bones.
Emma Schachner working with Postosuchus bones.


July 5, 2009, Sunday 
The holiday weekend was not much different than usual. I spent most of Friday in the "dungeon" preparing fossils we collected last week and working on manuscripts. We pieced together parts of metoposaur skulls, interclavicles, humeri, and clavicles. I also shot some photographs of a variety of fossil elements throughout the day.
     Saturday morning found Gretchen, her niece Kendra, and myself on the way to my research locality for a short trip. In the relative coolness of the early morning we saw a lot of wildlife including the round-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma modestum) at top right. It had rained since we were there Monday. 
     I collected a few common elements at Site I.  Gretchen and Kendra collected a bag full of expoded metoposaur skull fragments at Site II. At Site V, I collected a few small vertebrae and phalanges. At Site IV, Gretchen found a series of articulated Trilophosaurus vertebrae. She asked me to help excavate them. While I was excavating them while she was retrieving supplies, I found a couple of ornithodiran vertebrae that are pretty interesting. Shortly after that we had to cover the dig and return to Lubbock.
    That evening was spent at Doug's house celebrating the 4th of July and watching firework displays. 
Round-tailed horned lizard, Texas

Fireworks viewed from Doug's front yard.


June 29, 2009, Monday 
Early this morning Gretchen and I met Sankar Chatterjee at the Museum. Then we left to meet Doug Cunningham and continue to the field. Our first stops were the Headquarters localities in the Cooper Canyon Formation (this is the proper nomenclature: not Bull Canyon Formation). It was the first time Dr. Chatterjee had been in the field with us in over six years and his first visit to these localities. Dr. Chatterjee and Doug went to Headquarters South and worked the area where Doug discovered the sphenosuchian skeleton almost five years ago. Gretchen collected a phytosaur coracoid and a Typothorax paramedian osteoderm that Doug had found a while back. She then found a phytosaur astragalus and collected it, an aetosaur lateral osteoderm, a phytosaur fibula, and more elements. I went to my micro-sites and collected some procoelous vertebrae from both of Atanassov's taxa. I collected a few Drepanosaur elements also at Headquarters South.  Doug found what may be a sphenosuchian tibia, it just needs preparation to identify it with certainty. Gretchen and Dr. Chatterjee went to Headquarters North but didn't find much of anything exposed. 
     After covering the area, we went to "Camp Doug" for lunch. Doug then returned to Lubbock while the three of us went to my research area. There had been some light rains since we were there last. It was getting hot and muggy. Gretchen went to check on her metoposaur pond and Site I. Chatterjee and I went to Site V and Site IV. I collected some more vertebrae of Atanassov's taxa. Clouds and lightning were approaching so we headed for Lubbock, driving much of the way in the rain. 
Aetosaur lateral osteoderm from Headquarters.
Aetosaur lateral osteoderm.
 
 

Cunningham, Chatterjee, Gurtler
Cunningham, Chatterjee, Gurtler.
 
 

Gretchen showing Dr. Chatterjee a vertebra she collected.2
Gretchen showing Dr. Chatterjee a vertebra she collected.


June 28, 2009, Sunday 
Gretchen and I left early again, to get as much work in as possible before the heat of the day. Again it was overcast and raining as we left my townhouse. Our prime objective was VPL 3939 that we discovered last week. We wanted to recover the material we left due to the wet conditions last week.
     We went in to the site via a different route. I did stop and photograph the unconformity in the mud stone a half meter below the base of the capping sandstone. It is a very nice example of an unconformity. We worked our way around to the site finding scattered bone, including a metoposaur cleithra, in the interval just above the conglomerate layer.
     We reached the primary site and began to recover exposed material. We collected some fragments of a metoposaur skull and an interclavicle that we removed last week. We recovered another metoposaur interclavicle and Gretchen removed a partial metoposaur skull. We recovered the large phytosaur femur Gretchen had found last week. Near one of the interclavicles, Gretchen found a metoposaur humerus. About five meters south, I found a fragmented metoposaur skull, about a dozen vertebrae, parts of a clavicle, and another humerus. There were three other partial skulls within about three meters. They were mostly in poor condition. All the skulls here were dorsal side down and all of the interclavicles were ventral side up. 
     I went on to the next site about 100 meters south where there was more phytosaur and metoposaur material. I collected another interclavicle. The phytosaur premaxilla I found last week was too incomplete and fragmented to recover. The same was true for the phytosaur jaw I found about 30 meters to the east. There were also fragments of metoposaur skulls, clavicles, phytosaur vertebrae, phytosaur proximal tarsals, and phytosaur skull fragments scattered along the outcrop for almost 100 meters. By this time, with no wind, the heat was beginning to get less than comfortable. We hauled all of our material out and prepared to leave early so we would have time to get ready to return to the field tomorrow. 
Gretchen removing a metoposaur humerus with earlier recoveries lying in the foreground.
Gretchen with metoposaur recoveries.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Three large metoposaur vertebrae of the more than a dozen recovered here.
Metoposaur vertebrae.


June 21, 2009, Sunday 
It has been a while since Gretchen and I have been able to make it to the field. Yesterday we visited two known localities and discovered a third. It was raining steadily when we left my townhouse but the radar and meteorologists indicated that in an hour we would be out of the rain and all the rain should stay west of us. The skies were gray and in turmoil when we arrived at the first locality. Gretchen headed for an area where she had collected part of a phytosaur jaw previously. I headed to an area where I had collected a fragmented Koskinonodon skull previously. On the way I found five petrified "trees" that still had their limbs attached (top right photo). I was then heading for where I had collected a Paleorhinus skull (part of Gretchen's NSF fellowship research) when the rain started. It took me a while to get back to the truck, where I found Gretchen waiting inside. It quit raining just about the time I reached the truck. We examined the sky and then went back to check on a couple of elements that Gretchen had abandoned when the rain started. Before long, light showers began to re-occur. We decided to leave this locality and go to another one where we could collect much closer to the truck in case heavier rains began. 
     At the second locality, Gretchen immediately found a very large rauisuchid tooth. She found a block containing a variety of fossil elements. The block was from a layer that laterally graded from a coarse sandstone to a conglomerate containing carbonate clasts and bone fragments. A short distance away, just on the top of this layer, I found a number of phytosaur teeth, a very large rauisuchid tooth (32 mm in length on the broken base), part of a metoposaur skull, and a metoposaur interclavicle (fragmented but complete). The rains were starting again so we left that basin. By the time we reached the main ranch road, the rain shower had stopped again and the roads were not wet enough that we were cutting them up, so we headed for another area that I had spotted from an aerial photograph. It wasn't visible from the ranch roads.
     We parked as close to the area as we could and then hiked in to the basin. We both dropped over the caprock at the same time about 25 meters apart. We both reached the base of the slope about the same time and both called to each other about the same time as we had both found specimens. I went over to Gretchen and she had part of a large bone encased in matrix. We can't identify it at this time. I can tell you what it isn't but not what it is. Hopefully after a bit of work in the lab tomorrow removing matrix we can. My gut is crying out dicynodont. If so, this would make our sixth dicynodont locality. My finds weren't so intriguing. Where I "landed" I found a very large metoposaur vertebra, a metoposaur interclavicle (nicely preserved), and a metoposaur femur. We looked around and found a fragmented metoposaur skull, two more interclavicles, a large distal phytosaur humerus, and lots of phytosaur teeth. Gretchen continued working there while I made a quick survey of the area. Gretchen collected another half dozen metoposaur vertebrae (about 70 mm in diameter) and two ilia (a left and a right). Since it was so wet, we collected some of the isolated elements but left the interclavicles and skull for evaluation (and recovery?} next weekend. I need to make a measured section there also. There was a conglomerate layer just above where the fossils were eroding out and then at the rim of the basin was a distinct sandstone that Jeff Martz had mapped through much of southern Garza County. The lithology here is very similar to that of a locality Gretchen and I visited further east in Kent County. There was a beautiful unconformity a half meter below the sandstone. 
     We hiked back out and then circled around to the west and hiked over a kilometer to reach the western portion of the basin as light showers continued off and on. We found some evidence of bone and will prospect the area more thoroughly next week. We then left and visited with the landowner for a couple of hours before returning to Lubbock.
     Today we worked in the lab piecing elements together. The metoposaur interclavicle I found at 3939 is complete and well preserved. Along with it, Gretchen collected about half of the right side of a metoposaur skull (we didn't dig at all, only collected the float). It was right below there that Gretchen recovered the atlas vertebrae and cervical vertebrae of a metoposaur. 
     Hopefully we will recover more of the skull next weekend. I expect next weekend to be a very productive day in the field. We should recover three 
metoposaur interclavicles, a partial metoposaur skull, and a phytosaur premaxilla (I am not sure how much is there, didn't dig). We are going to be busy. We are going to try to excavate the material from 3939 and prospect the rest of that basin, then finish covering the two localities we examined first yesterday, and also cover the basin at 3938.  It is going to be a very busy day(s), if we can get it all done next weekend. Then Monday, we (including Doug Cunningham and Sankar Chatterjee) are scheduled to go to the field to the locality where much of my drepanosaurid material comes from. It has been way too long since I had been there. Dr. Chatterjee is wanting to see where the sphenosuchian (new genus and species) Doug discovered came from. We also have a phytosaur skull there that we need to recover from that site but I don't know if we will have time. We still have five phytosaur (mostly complete?) skulls in the field we need to recover. 
Petrified tree with limbs in place
Petrified tree with limbs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gretchen Gurtler with block containing fossils.
Soaking wet Gretchen with block containing fossil elements.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rauisuchid tooth, phytosaur tooth, metoposaur skull fragment
Phytosaur tooth, huge rauisuchid tooth, metoposaur skull fragment.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gretchen Gurtler preparing a phytosaur mandible.

Gretchen preparing a phytosaur mandible articular.


June 1, 2009, Monday 
Gretchen and I have just returned from visiting her family in Virginia and attending the Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists annual meeting at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, Virginia. We had spent the past few weeks getting ready for the conference. It was my first trip to Virginia. I got to meet Gretchen's father and family that live in Virginia. Gretchen gave me the grand tour of her home village, The Plains. She also showed me some other very interesting sites such as the Confederate Soldier memorial in Middleburg with flags out for Memorial Day (top right). The second day, the Skyline Drive along the Shenandoah National Park was a bit disappointing, since we were socked-in with clouds and couldn't see more than thirty meters from the road. We did stop at the Hazel Mountain Overlook for a bit. 
     The conference was very enjoyable and very informative. We met Alton Dooley, Jr. and his family, along with 
many other new people. The Dooleys and others all did an excellent job of hosting the meeting and making everything work very well.
     I was "reunited" with a lot of paleontology that I hadn't thought of for a long time; since I began working the Triassic. There was a presentation on otoliths that reminded me of all of the Eocene otoliths from Stone City in Texas that I supplied to the late John Fritch, LA County Museum, back when I was and undergrad at Texas A&M. I also got a lot of information on Anurans from Hope Sheets presentation on Rana catesbeiana ilia. It was very helpful in the identification of some of the material in our collections.
     I also got to examine a lot of Triassic fissure fill material, including Planocephalosaurus material, from Cromhall that I had mistakenly thought was no longer in Virginia. We got to see a lot of the material in the collection from the Triassic Solite Quarry, including Icarosaurus and Tanytrachelos. Gretchen spent part of her time identifying Triassic material from Texas that was in their collection.
     Since so much of the research presented was "Post-Mesozoic", there was also a significant tie to all of the Blancan (and younger) fauna in the collections of the Museum of Texas Tech. So I related to most of the talks even though they weren't about Triassic material. I didn't think about it until I was there, but I should have carried a Castoroides specimen from Lubbock for the mammal people to examine.
     One of the highlights of the conference for Gretchen and I was the field trip to the Triassic Solite Quarry. It was a very short field trip (when you are used to 10-11 hour days in the field) but it was very worthwhile. We saw some massive blocks with nice theropod tracks in them. The field trip was especially rewarding after Gretchen and I both uncovered Tanytrachelos specimens. As usual, Gretchen's specimen was much more complete, nicely preserved, and larger than the specimen I found. It is very fortunate that I truly enjoy seeing her find the "kewl" specimens; otherwise, I would be very frustrated.....and depressed.  As it is, I am happy and happy for her. 
Memorial Day flags at a Confederate Memorial, Middleburg, Virginia.
Memorial Day flags

Gretchen Gurtler at Hazel Mtn overlook, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
Hazel Mtn overlook

Gretchen Gurtler working in the collections of the Virginia Museum of Natural History
Gretchen identifying
Triassic material.

Gretchen Gurtler uncovering a Triassic Tanytrachelos specimen.
Gretchen cleaning her Tanytrachelos

A Triassic Tanytrachelos that Gretchen Gurtler uncovered at the Solite Quarry, North Carolina.
Gretchen's Tanytrachelos.


May 17, 2009, Sunday 
The morning was beautiful after a week of yo-yo temperatures: W-100, T-62, F-92, S-58. Radar had indicated that a couple of rainstorms had hit my research locality since our last visit. On the way into the locality we saw a Great Blue Heron (Ardea) and a night heron (Nycticorax). Gretchen got to see her first Chordeiles minor (nighthawk) up close and sitting on the ground. When we arrived the rains appear to have been very spotty. There was still standing water in some areas and absolutely no rain had fallen in other areas of the locality. The prickly pear and cholla cacti were beginning to bloom (right). 
     Since many of our sites had not received rain, we were able to cover areas we examine less often due to a lack of time. Gretchen discovered material in an area where we had never found anything before (again!). It appears that another "metoposaur pond" may be starting to weather out of a hillside. Gretchen found fragmentary and macerated remains of four sub-adult to adult skulls, a couple of interclavicles, fragments of clavicles, a number of vertebrae, and various other post-cranial elements within a stretch of about six meters along the hillside.
     While she was working the new site, I went to Site I where I found an interesting jaw fragment I need to prepare (center). The other sites we checked produced the typical fauna: Metoposaurids, 
MalerisaurusTrilophosaurusphytosaurids, and rauisuchids. At the Dromomeron site (Site XLIV), we found over a half dozen "smaller" rauisuchid teeth. We had never found teeth of any kind there previously. Then at Site XLII, Gretchen found another complete metoposaur clavicle (bottom).
     When we were leaving we ran across a herd of about a dozen feral hogs. Later we also saw a few deer. It was a beautiful day to be in the field. 
Blooming prickly pear cactus

Tiny jaw from Site I

Gretchen Gurtler excavating a Metoposaur clavicle.


May 10, 2009, Sunday 
Things have been very busy with the end of the semester. I have been working on finishing up some manuscripts and presentations. I have also been reworking some of the geology on my dissertation.  I am preparing another small jaw  that may be another procolophonid but I have more prep work to do before a definite identification can be made.  Next weekend will be our last opportunity to go to the field until mid-June. 
      Gretchen has garnered recognition lately. She was Volunteer of the Year for the MOTTU, her research poster took a third place in the TTU Graduate Research Poster competition, and she was just awarded a NSF fellowship. 
sandstone sample

April 27, 2009, Monday 
The past month has been busy with various projects, preparing fossils, and getting ready for the end of the semester. Preliminary preparation of the Koskinonodon interclavicle, clavicle, and manibles is almost complete. The preliminary work on the storage jacket for Gretchen's phytosaur jaw from December 30 is in progress. 
     I have been re-working my Libognathus skull description with the new material and also the dicynodont description since I found another partial skull.
     Sunday Gretchen and I went down to my research area. We didn't find much material even though there had been about two inches of rain since our last visit. It was an excellent day for viewing wildlife, especially birds. 
     I found a Trilophosaurus femur that, because of its robustness, may belong to Trilophosaurus dornorum. It is much more robust than the femora of T. jacobsi we find. The femur at right is about 140 mm in length. Gretchen found a variety of metoposaur material including another metoposaur ilium and numerous vertebrae. She also found fragmentary remains of a couple of partial skulls. Some phytosaur vertebrae, a phytosaur ilium - ischium, osteoderms, and a variety of other isolated elements made up the remainder of our collection for the day. 
Trilophosaurus dornorum femur
Trilophosaurus femur
Gretchen Gurtler excavating a phytosaur ilium - ischium.
Gretchen with phytosaur ilium.

April 5, 2009, Sunday 
The past two weeks have been busy as usual. We have been preparing the specimens collected during our trips to the field over "spring break". 
     Gretchen presented a talk on our research project on basal phytosaurs at the 25th annual Women's Studies conference last Friday. We didn't plan to go to the field this weekend because the winds were predicted to be about 55-60 miles per hour. Fortunately, the predictions were wrong. We spent much of the weekend in the dungeon sorting, identifying, and preparing material collected over spring break. 
Gretchen Gurtler sorting, identifying, and preparing material from our last trip to the field.
Gretchen sorting and preparing
specimens

March 22, 2009, Sunday 
We are recovering from spring break. No partying but we stayed very busy in the lab and in the field. Our visitors left yesterday, and today was spent recuperating, cleaning and re-packing field equipment, and preparing specimens collected in the field this past week. I only got Friday off for spring break, so I had to use vacation days for most of the week. It is complicated.
     The month since WAVP has passed quickly. We missed going to the field for several weekends as we both were working on research projects. We did take a little road trip March 13, examining some Triassic outcrops and Gretchen got to photograph some wild hogs and piglets. 
     Last Monday several graduate students from the University of Texas and the American Museum of Natural History came in to visit, examine the collections, and do fieldwork. We spent Monday and Tuesday examining the collections. Wednesday we went to the field. 
     In the field, Gretchen finished getting her Koskinonodon jaw ready to jacket while I pedestalled the Koskinonodon interclavicle. In the process I uncovered an associated clavicle. While I was working on the Koskinonodon material, everyone else was prospecting for other specimens. Sterling Nesbitt found a Poposaurus vertebra and a nice Rauisuchid tooth. One of a handfull he found. He and Michelle Stocker collected 
Vancleavea vertebrae. Katie Criswell found a very nice Poposaurus tooth. Kerin Claeson collected a proximal Vancleavea femur. Gretchen Gürtler found a Poposaurus ungula and a crocodylomorph ilium. We left at the end of the day to meet Doug Cunningham at "Camp Doug" for dinner.
     The faunal list for the day included: coprolites, a Colobodontidae, Metoposauridae, ApachesaurusKoskinonodon, Phytosauridae, Stagonolepididae, TecovasuchusAdamanasuchusVancleaveaPoposaurus, Rauisuchidae, Crocodylomorpha (cf. Hesperosuchus), and three rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). 
     Friday was spent at my research locality. There had been three light rains our last visit; however, it didn't amount to much. It was very dry but some material had been exposed since our last visit. We had to drive through fog to get to the locality but it began to burn off shortly after we arrived. Michelle found a Trilophosaurus jaw at the first site we visited. At Site IV, Sterling found some articulated vertebrae and while taking them out, uncovered several articulated drepanosaurid vertebrae. Gretchen collected a phytosaur femur.
The faunal list for the day included: Antediplodon, Metoposauridae, DrepanosauridaeTrilophosaurus, Parasuchidae, Rauisuchidae, one of Atanassov's taxon. We also saw a Phrynosoma cornutum and threeCrotalus atrox
Koskinonodon perfectus interclavicle and clavicle found by Bill Mueller.
Koskinonodon perfectus interclavicle and clavicle.

Katharine Criswell and Kerin Claeson jacketing a Koskinonodon clavicle.
Kate and Kerin jacketing a Koskinonodon clavicle.

Sterling Nesbitt with articulated drepanosaur vertebrae.
Sterling Nesbitt with drepanosaur vertebrae.

Katharine Criswell and Michelle Stocker with a partial Koskinonodon skull Katie found.
Katie and Michelle with a partial Koskinonodon skull.

Gretchen Gurtler collecting a phytosaur femur.
Gretchen collecting a phytosaur femur.


February 16, 2009, Monday 
     The past week has been very productive. GretchenGürtler and I attended the Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists annual meeting at the Petrified Forest National Park. The weather was wonderful except for the drive to Arizona in horrendous winds for the entire way. Gretchen and I both had posters presented at the meeting (see DP's photo of Gretchen at right). Gretchen's was on basal phytosaurs from the Dockum Group of Texas and mine was on the fauna of my research area. 
      It was cold but nice. We got to visit with a lot of old friends and acquaintances: Bill Parker, Jeff Martz, Axel Hungerb
ühler, Randy Irmis, Matt Brown, Pete Reser, David Gillette, Mark Mancini, Max Langer, and others. Then we had the privilege of meeting many new people who are to numerous to mention. It was nice to see the Petrified Forest group that we knew: Bill Parker, Matt Brown, and Jeff Martz; and the Mesalands Group (old friends and new acquaintances): Axel Hungerbühler, Reginald Tempelmeyer, and Axel's students. The conference was very good in that we met many of new people. 
     The first day field trip was very informative with all of the new stratigraphy Bill Parker and Jeff Martz have constructed over the past year. Parts of the trip were repetitive for me but new for Gretchen (sometimes I need a lot of repetition before I comprehend!). Even though the recent snow had dampened things, we were able to trek in to a very interesting site. At the site, I got lucky and found part of a metoposaur mandible. 
     The following day the presentations were led off with Max Langer and his presentation on some of the fauna from Brazil. The first group of talks were mostly concerning the Triassic (that is why we were here). The following talks were all informative and interesting. This was the first WAVP meeting Gretchen and I had attended and from what I was told, this was a bit more formal than most of the previous meetings. Although it was a relatively small meeting compared to the SVP meeting, it was very well co-ordinated and planned.
     Gretchen and I were here at the Petrified Forest five years ago this week doing some of the preliminary research on Trilophosaurus dornorum. This trip brought insight on a number of new specimens from our collections. We were also able to stop in and look at a number of specimens that may provide input to our research.
     Now it is back to looking at sand grains and catching up with my lab work.
Aetosaur material from 2-7-09
Gretchen's aetosaur material from 2-7-09

Gretchen Gurtler discussing her phytosaur poster at WAVP
Gretchen with poster
at WAVP

Gretchen Gurtler at Blue Mesa
Gretchen at
Blue Mesa
Sand grains from lab.
Sand grains

February 7, 2009, Saturday 
     The last few weeks have been very busy with prep work and research.Gretchen has been working on the Paleorhinus material and the phytosaur jaw and other materials she discovered December 30, 31.  The past  few days have been beautiful and today was also. A bit windy but nice. Shortly after we arrived at the locality, Gretchen was excavating a complete right mandible and partial left mandible of a large metoposaur. While she was working on that, I had spotted a bit of bone weathering out in the next gulley. It turned out the be the anterior tip of a large, complete Koskinonodon interclavicle. We prepared the specimens for later removal and then continued prospecting. 
     We found more of the usual suspects: fragmentary phytosaur material, fragmentary metoposaurid material, and fragmentary aetosaur material. I did find a small coelacanth quadrate. We also collected some interesting coprolites, a nice cervical vertebra, phytosaur scapula, some aetosaur osteoderms, and a variety of teeth. Then Gretchen found a cache of aetosaur material where I found some Desmatosuchus lateral spines last fall.  Today Gretchen found several ribs, a couple of lateral osteoderms, and several paramedian osteoderms. They appear to belong to Desmatosuchus also.
     We went over to the Adamanasuchus site and collected some osteoderm fragments before heading west. In the western area we collected a few bits and pieces, a few interesting teeth, and a tiny phytosaur partial premaxilla. We continued west where Gretchen found a large phytosaur basiocciputal and more aetosaur osteoderms. Our faunal list for the day included:  Coelacanthidae, coprolites, Metoposauridae, Koskinonodon, Phytosauridae, Stagonolepididae, DesmatosuchusAdamanasuchus, and Rauisuchidae. 
Gretchen Gurtler with a partial metoposaur mandible she discovered.
Gretchen Gurtler with a metoposaur mandible.
 

Large metoposaur interclavicle.
Large metoposaur clavicle.
 

Coelacanth quadrate
Coelacanth quadrate


January 19, 2009, Monday 
     Today was a beautifully warm day in West Texas. Gretchen and I spent yesterday afternoon in "the dungeon" where she was preparing her Paleorhinus skull. She was able to get the posterior portion of the antorbital fenestra and the orbit reconstructed. I was working on a wide variety of tasks, including sorting and identifying the last of the material from our "New Year's Eve" field trip. All that is left now is to prep out the ~ 4' long phytosaur jaw Gretchen found. I spent quite a bit of time correlating a lot of stratigraphic data acquired on that trip with some interesting results. The faunal list from that locality has expanded to include bivalvia (an unusual species of Antediplodon ?), Gnathastomata, Metoposauridae, VancleaveaTrilophosaurus, Otischalkia, Phytosauridae, Rutiodon, Stagonolepididae, DesmatosuchusParatypothorax, Poposauridae, Rauisuchidae, a Crocodylomorph, two of Atanassov's taxa (in the process of being described), and several elements belonging to taxa other than the usual suspects.
     Today Gretchen and I went to my research area. It was a little breezy but a beautiful day. It has been dry. My tracks from Thanksgiving weekend were still very visible and there has not even been enough dew to "melt" the clods from our digging then. Our collecting was fairly sparse since it hadn't rained since we were there last, so we started searching sites that we had not visited on the last few trips. Gretchen found a small, broken up, juvenile phytosaur pelvis. I collected a few small isolated elements, including another cervical vertebra of one of Atanassov's taxa. I then headed for the central part of the basin. 
     Typically we do not find much material in the central part of the basin but when we do, it is pretty "kewl". Gretchen headed for the southern rim of the basin. My first find was a dicynodont pubis! A bit later I noticed that Gretchen was still digging in the same spot 
and so I headed her way to see what she had found (a partial, ventral portion of a metoposaurid skull). I detoured by an outcrop where I often find isolated phytosaur material and the first thing I spotted was the top of a dicynodont skull. It turned out to be a partial skull but it was diagnostic enough to confirm it belonged to the new genus and species of dicynodont I am describing! Gretchen arrived about the time I finished  excavating the skull. We started working our way back to the truck. I found a fragment of a "rare" aetosaur osteoderm. Aetosaur material at this locality is rarer than dicynodont material. Today's faunal list inclueded: Bivalvia, Gastropoda, Metoposauridae, Protorosauridae, Trilophosauridae, Parasuchidae, Stagonolepididae, Dicynodontidae, Atanassov's taxa. We finished up 2008 with a bang and it looks like we have started our 2009 field season the same way. 
A phytosaur femur we collected today.
Phytosaur femur
 
 

Trilophosaurus phalanx
Trilophosaurus phalanx
 
 

Gretchen Gurtler with juvenile phytosaur pelvis fragments.
Gretchen with parts of a juvenile phytosaur pelvis.


January 10, 2009, Saturday 
     Much of the week and almost all day today, Gretchen Gürtler spent time sorting and preparing the material collected December 30, 31, 2008.  She ended up sorting and preparing a number of very interesting specimens that we collected, including the large, unusual phytosaur osteoderms she is holding in the photo at right. Preparation of the phytosaur jaw (120cm +) hasn't started but will this next week. 
     There are several specimens that we collected that need further research to identify. Several of them are very interesting.
     It is hard to believe that classes started earlier this week. I am not ready. I had more I needed to do over the break and didn't get done. This spring is going to be extremely busy!
     I am still getting a lot of positive feedback from the photography exhibit opening January 2 at Hard Tops' gallery. 
Gretchen Gurtler with two large unusual phytosaur osteoderms.

January 4, 2009, Sunday 
Happy New Year and may the next trip around the sun be the best you have experienced.
     Yesterday and today were spent sorting through the material we collected the last two days of 2008. We had collected much more material than I had thought. Our faunal list included Bivalvia, Gnathastomata, Stereospondyli (Metoposauridae), VancleaveaTrilophosaurus, Otischalkia, Phytosauridae, Stagonolepididae, Desmatosuchus spurensisParatypothoraxPoposaurus, and Rauisuchidae, and two of Atanassov's taxa (in the process of being described). 
     Happy New Year and may this be our best trip around the sun ever, mein Liebchen.
Gretchen Gurtler examining fossils she discovered.
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