Paleontology in the National Park Service

By Voynick, Steve | The World and I, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Paleontology in the National Park Service


Voynick, Steve, The World and I


Every morning during the summer months, Herb Meyer begins his day by inspecting a small hillside excavation where college interns are busy recovering insect and leaf fossils. As park paleontologist at Colorado's Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Meyer is also in charge of identifying and cataloging new fossil specimens, supervising the preparation of collections, and computerizing a database of thousands of fossil specimens, many of which were first cataloged more than a century ago.

Meyer earned a Ph.D. in paleontology from the University of California at Berkeley, where he also taught geology and paleontology. After teaching Elderhostel field programs in Oregon, he moved on to a research position at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Strong interests in paleobotany and paleoclimatology led him to the National Park Service. In 1994, he became the sixth National Park Service paleontologist and the first to be permanently assigned to Florissant.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument ranks among the world's top fossil plant and insect sites. Until Meyer's arrival, the fossilization at the site was generally attributed to huge volcanic ashfalls that covered an Oligocene lake and its surrounding, subtropical forest. The Oligocene epoch lies between the Eocene and Miocene epochs and is dated generally at 35 million to 27 million years ago. …

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