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Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies

All Convention Luncheon

Monday, 27 September 2021, 11:30 a.m.–1:15 p.m.  |  Denver, ColoradoHyatt Regency, Capitol Ballroom 4

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In 2010, a heavy equipment operator named Jesse Steele was excavating the bottom of a drained lake near Snowmass Village when his bulldozer sliced through a nearly complete mammoth skeleton. When scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science arrived, it became clear that this was not an isolated skeleton but an Ice Age lakebed full of fossil animals and plants. Kirk Johnson led a 70-day, 300-person dig that yielded more than 5,400 bones of seven kinds of large mammals including mastodon, mammoth, bison, deer, horse, sloth, and camel. This talk will tell the story of what is now known as the finest high-elevation Ice Age fossil site in the World.

Kirk Johnson is the director of the National Museum of Natural History where he oversees a collection of more than 146 million objects—the largest natural history collection in the world. Each year, the Museum hosts more than 5 million visitors and its scientists publish more than 750 research articles. In 2019, the Museum opened the David H. Koch Hall of Fossils—Deep Time, a 31,000 square foot exhibition about the history and future of life on Earth. Before he came to the Smithsonian in 2012, Johnson was the vice president and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where he led expeditions in 11 countries. As a scientist, his research focuses on fossil plants and the extinction of the dinosaurs and he is also known for his popular books, museum exhibitions, documentaries, and collaborations with artists. In 2011, he led the excavation of an ice age site near Snowmass Village, Colorado, that recovered more than 5,400 bones of mammoths, mastodons and other ice age animals and was featured in the NOVA documentary, Ice Age Death Trap (2012). His recent PBS documentaries include Making North America (2015), The Great Yellowstone Thaw (2017), and Polar Extremes (2019). His recent books include, Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline: The Travels of an Artist and a Scientist along the Shores of the Prehistoric Pacific (2018) and Visions of Lost Worlds, the Paleoart of Jay Matternes (2019).


Kirk Johnson
Sant Director, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History



The AAPG Foundation’s Teacher of the Year Award will be presented during the All-Convention Luncheon. The annual Teacher of the Year award of $6,000 is given to a K-12 teacher for excellence in the teaching of natural resources in the earth sciences. The award includes $3,000 to the recipient’s school and $3,000 for the recipient’s personal use. In addition, the recipient receives an expense-paid trip to the Annual Convention and Exhibition (ACE) to receive the award. Nominations for the award are submitted by the AAPG sections and the winner is chosen by AAPG Foundation’s Teacher of the Year Judges. Each section winner receives a $500 cash award.


Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies
Hyatt Regency Convention Center
650 15th Street
Denver, Colorado 80202
United States
+1 303 436-1234

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