Science, Research and Much More By: Dr. Jim Mead
This past Mammoth Site Excavation and Preservation Program, 2016, summer research season was very rewarding in a number of ways. First of all it was great to see so many returning participants – a few that I knew back in the 90s! 2016 was, and still is, a year of ‘change’ – a time of transition that is incredibly exciting. Participants in 2016 and 2017 are able to not only work on the classic mammoth Bonebed but have the option to also work on the other projects now part of the institute’s research program. Some participants in 2016 selected to work the entire time just in the Bonebed. Items discovered included, more possibly, articulated mammoth bones, more short-faced bear bones and teeth, and minute rodent remains. Critical to our mission is to provide educational viewing of the Bonebed to our visitors – some participants worked at doing detail work on already-exposed mammoth bones, skeletal remains that truly need better, more detailed presentation. Other participants elected to do part-time bone excavation and part-time preparation of already removed bone including ‘Vee’s skull’, a large mammoth skull removed in 2015 that has been on active display and preparation along the route of the Bonebed visitor tours. Various participants decided that they also wanted to work on the ground sloth, bison, or glyptodont limb bones from the tropical Ice Age locality named Térapa, located in northcentral Sonora, Mexico, just south of Arizona. Then there were a few participants who wanted to sit behind a microscope and sort hundreds of micro-mammals, reptiles, and amphibian bones from sediments recovered from the nearby Persistence Cave in Wind Cave National Park. …and all this will continue in the 2017 sessions.
The tours of the Bonebed that are offered to the many visitors at The Mammoth Site are designed to be educational at all levels of knowledge. Whether one takes a tour from one of the Interpreter Staff or Interns or by using the Self-Guided Tour Booklet, Research Staff are always on-hand to answer those additional, often detailed questions that many students and other interested public have that get generated after an experience with mammoths. The Research Staff also has provided a variety of evening talks in the Lecture Series. In 2016, there were only six lectures during the summer excavation season. In 2017, there will be more evening lectures and of more varied topics for summer excavation participants, visitors, and interested public.
The Exhibit Hall is also another more passive educational outlet for students, tourists, and public. In 2016, we offered a summer-time showing of the 3-D movie, Titans of the Ice Age. Over the course of the 2016 fall season, we will be up-grading our exhibits – adding in new material that has been gleaned from our research projects. The Mammoth Site is also having a smart-phone app made. This will be not only an additional experience for our visitors but one will quickly see that it is based on educating students and visitors. This app will expand in use as we incorporate more aspects into the program over the next few years.
Another new aspect growing here at The Mammoth Site is our science lab. Sandy Swift and I spent the past four months modifying a portion of the Kuhl building into a comprehensive lab that contains a large research library and skeleton comparative collection. For our institution to be on the forefront of Ice Age research of the Black Hills and greater western North America, we must have readily available a comprehensive library and teaching/research collection. As participants and staff (or visiting researchers) recover skeletal remains – whether mammals, reptiles, or amphibians – we need to have the library and collection instantly available. Active research is a critical part of the mission here at The Mammoth Site. Participants, staff, and visitors can have access to this growing research laboratory.
As you can see The Mammoth Site is an expanding and diversifying research and educational institution centered on the Ice Age of the Black Hills, western USA, and beyond.