Protect & Invest in Ecosystems

So, my daughter Susan took my photos and made a beautiful slideshow PSA to remind people how important it is to invest in and protect our state ecosystems for the good of the land and for generations to come. Please VOTE on November 6th and use the power of your choice to help conserve our natural places. 

Citizen Science at Badlands National Park

Steve & I spent 5 days at Badlands National Park in South Dakota last week. One of the highlights of our adventure was finding what I think is a fossilized bone. This post is my way of reporting that find to a Physical Science Technician in Paleontology at the park. I don’t have a GPS device to help him locate the find, so I’m walking him (and any other readers) to it through this blog post. If you happen to visit the park and find this bone (or any others), please leave it undisturbed. It is essential to have it in its original place in the sedimentary layers of rock in order to determine vital information. 

I initially spotted and photographed the bone on September 22 and filled out the reporting form at the Visitor’s Center. The next day, I returned to take additional photos to help lead the paleontology team to its location.  I just got home last night, and can now download my photos to this blog and share them.

The crosswalk over Hwy 240 at the Visitors Center leads to a creek wash that starts at a lone cottonwood tree and goes west toward the rocky ridge. There is a separate rocky hill to the right of that wash. Follow the wash beyond that hill as it curves to the left.  The peak with the squared-off top is a primary landmark. The fossil I saw is in the face of a hill to the left of that peak. Click on the first photo of this gallery to see the series in a slideshow. 

I was absolutely thrilled and humbled to discover this little white tubular thing. I hope it’s a genuine fossil. Even if it’s not anything significant to science, the invitation to observe and participate in sharing this observation is significant to me.

I am a huge fan of the National Parks and happy to purchase an Annual Pass in support of America’s Best Idea. I hope that future generations continue to value, respect, and protect these places that show the unique and autonomous nature of the Earth.

*** Update 10/4/2018***
From a letter from the Paleontologist at the Park:

“That is a humerus or upper arm bone (the bone that articulates with the scapula in the shoulder).  It looks to be in relatively complete condition, albeit weathered and fractured.  It also looks like there may be additional fragments of bone eroding on that slope.  Unfortunately, I can’t see enough of them to make any interpretations on what they might be.

Based on the size of the humerus and it’s general shape, however, I would make an educated guess that it probably came from an oreodont (of the family Merycoidodontidae).  As you may be aware from your visit, oreodonts are the most common, abundant, and widespread mammal found in the fossil record here at Badlands.  From 36 to 27 million years ago (during the Eocene and Oligocene Epochs), they were an exceptionally prosperous group of herbivores that dotted the landscape, probably living together in large herds.  They would have been a key prey item for many carnivores, such as dogs and the ancestral cat-like lineage called nimravids (family Nimravidae).  As a group within the animal kingdom, the last known oreodonts finally disappeared from the planet during the Pliocene Epoch some 4 to 5 million years ago.”

So very cool! *smiles*

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

The example set for this challenge is exceptional. Please take a look at Krista’s post on WordPress. 


I am thrilled when someone sets the bar high.
 “We can do better,” Steve often says, as a sort of mantra to a deeper call to “do no harm”. Here he is in Canyonlands National Park, just outside of Bears Ears National Monument. Can we ascend to higher thinking about how we treat wild places?   

The newest addition to the National Park system is Pinnacles National Park. What is our goal for protecting the natural beauty and balance of this place we call America? Have we reached that summit? Are we striving to ascend towards it?

“We can do better.” It doesn’t matter where you start. Ascend, and see how your perspective changes. 

Ascend

Odds and Ends…and Beginnings

Since I now have a Facebook account, I have been posting many of my photographs there to share with my immediate family instead of on my blog. I feel like I have rather neglected my Blog family, though, so I thought I’d catch you up with some of my favorite shots.

This one is simply a prairie beauty, the Fringed Gentian. Take a moment to read D.H. Lawrence’s poem Bavarian Gentians – he captures the dark, sensual mystery of this flower quite well. 

I found the gentians while on a walk with my son and future daughter-in-law. They represent the Beginnings in the title of this post. 

My son has asked me to do a special photo shoot of them next month down at Starved Rock in Illinois. I’m excited (and a little nervous!) about that.

Steve & I had a wonderful late summer road ramble last Saturday. We’re planning a 12-day camping trip for next month, possibly to Superior National Forest in MN. I’m looking forward to photographing more Fall color, mushrooms, and another Great Lake. 

And work continues at the Conservation Foundation. I try to get outside locally to remind myself why it’s important to preserve the natural spaces around here. 

Thanks for visiting this blog and Happy Fall! I hope you get outside often to enjoy the changing season. 

All photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2017. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Structure

I’m gonna show my age and admit that when I hear the word “structure”, I can’t help remembering Madeline Kahn in Paper Moon telling Tatum O’Neill that she’s got good ‘bone struck-cha’. 

How my sisters and I giggled over that line!

I do love the resilience of ancient structures, man-made…

…and natural. 

I wonder what structures will crumble in my lifetime, and which will remain for my children’s children. What kind of masonry am I working on now? I work for a Land Trust. I like to think I’m working on building a network of green space that will resist development…forever. 

 
Structure

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ooh, Shiny!

“Hey, look! A plastic castle!”

No thank you. Plastic? Yuck. Man made? Not interested. 

My favorite diversions, distractions, and delightful detours are definitely of the flowers-and-butterflies variety.

Polygonia comma

Gray treefrog

Blue vervain

But to tell you the truth, these things are not merely beautiful bagatelles. These are the elements of a grand eco-system, the intrinsic parts of a working Universe. And so I am trying to be that disciplined, working person that focuses on protecting these habitats. They are not my distraction, then, they are my day plan. 

Ooh, Shiny!

An American Adventure: Part Four

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I was 9 years old and seeing the mountains of Colorado for the first time the last time I was here. Frankly, the only thing I remember of it from back then is the name. It kind of scared me.

 

It is a National Park, a deep gorge, a wild river, a cross-section of geography, and a wilderness where humans are temporary visitors at best. From the Visitor Center parking lot, a glimpse of the scale of  its depth is merely a tease. 

 

After a good night’s sleep, we walked the canyon rim from the campgrounds to the Visitor Center and got a closer look. 

The early morning silence, the delicate frost in the shadows, the warm fragrance of juniper and sage, the glimmer of rushing water at the canyon floor…I had stepped into a holy sanctuary that Sunday morning and wept with awe and joy…and sadness.I feel the threat to wild land as a pain deep in my gut. The river that carved this place is running high this year and being “managed” and diverted and manipulated to provide irrigation and recreation and serve a host of human needs. I don’t know how all the demands are weighed on this issue. My desire is to listen to the place itself, to let it simply Be, and to learn what I can with my brain, my heart, and my soul. 

A volunteer guided us on a wildflower walk later that afternoon and introduced us to Western species new to us. Many of the Gambel oaks had just budded when that late snowstorm hit, and their tiny, crisp, shriveled leaves looked woefully sad. They are a hardy bunch and will hopefully recover, but the acorn yield in the fall will likely be diminished. The colorful blooms along the trail seemed to be not at all harmed. 

This plant tour proved very useful. We saw a lot of Oregon grape, which is quite common and looks a lot like poison oak when it shows up as just three leaves with a reddish tinge. However, it does get additional leaves and yellow flowers which make it obviously distinct.

The campsite we found later in the Manti-La Sal National Forest was covered with it. I was glad to know I wasn’t risking a poison oak rash every time I went in the brush to pee!