Utah Expeditions
Search the Collections

The Division of Vertebrate Paleontology has mounted expeditions to the southern deserts of Utah for the 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 field seasons in search of fossil vertebrates in rocks of Triassic age (ca. 248 to 206 million years BP). In this picture, rocks of the Chinle Formation, the most promising area to look for fossil vertebrate remains, form the slopes and the valleys of the canyons. The reddish cliff-forming rocks at the top belong to the Wingate Formation, which typically does not contain fossils.

The vast majority of fieldwork consists of walking over mostly barren land looking for tiny fragments of bone that have weathered out on the surface. In this photograph graduate student Matthew Benoit searches the desert floor in the Red Canyon region of southeastern Utah.

Alana Kawakami (top, graduate student), Marilyn Fox (Preparator), and Walter Joyce (bottom, Collections Manager) collect fragmentary remains of a Metoposaurus, a giant salamander-like carnivore, found near a set in Pariah Canyon that was used for several western movies.

The lower jaw of a phytosaur, a strange crocodile-like animal, before excavation. The rock hammer is used for scale and the compass indicates north.

In 2003, the Yale Peabody Museum Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, in collaboration with volunteers from Petrified Forest National Park, made an important discovery in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument—the almost complete skeleton of a rare, bipedal carnivore called Poposaurus. This picture shows the field party during the excavation.

Parts of the tail of the Poposaurus are jacketed and ready to be removed from the ground. Fossils are wrapped in plaster and burlap to protect them during transport. The jackets are carefully removed once the specimen arrives at the Museum.

These jackets hold the pelvis and the foot of the Poposaurus. The jacket near the bottom of the photograph is ready for removal from the pit. The one above has layers of tissue applied and is ready for plastering. After one side of the fossil is jacketed, the specimen is removed from the ground, flipped over and the other side is also plastered. This produces a sturdy, custom-sized container for the fossil.

Covered in plaster, graduate student Matthew Benoit and Preparator Marilyn Fox complete one side of the tail jackets. Spread around them are tools used in the excavation—brushes, glues, trowels and picks.

Two more jackets that have been lifted from the quarry, flipped, and plastered. Field numbers will be written on both sides of the jacket. They are then ready to be carried out to the vehicle for transport back to the Museum.

A happy and successful crew carries a jacket to the car. From left to right, Matthew Benoit (graduate student), Lyndon Murray (behind Matt), Marilyn Fox (Preparator), and Brian Andres (graduate student).

In southern Utah, a long day of work is typically rewarded with spectacularly scenic camping sites.

The complete 2004 field crew: top row, Oliver Wings (visiting graduate student, University of Bonn); middle row, Takanobu Tsuihiji (former graduate student), Jason Downs (graduate student), Matthew Benoit (graduate student), Brian Andres (graduate student), Bhart-Anjan Bhullar (undergraduate student); bottom row, Marilyn Fox (Preparator), John VandenBrooks (graduate student), Walter Joyce (Collections Manager), Alana Kawakami (graduate student).