Old bones raised in new KU building

Posted on Dec 1, 2017 in Campus News and News

Mosasaur and sea turtle installation at the Earth, Energy & Environment building at the University of Kansas.

The new Earth, Energy & Environment Center will include some old bones.

Triebold Paleontology recently cast and installed a replica of a mosasaur fossil known as tylosaurus proriger.  C.D. Bunker, curator at KU’s Natural History Museum, and his associates collected the fossil in Wallace County in 1911.

An intimidating predator, the mosasaur will take your breath away. The size and length are imposing enough. But its teeth seal the deal—or in this case, the fate of an 84-million-year-old sea turtle the tylosaurus is chasing in the display

“This is the Earth Energy and Environment Center; it’s all about the earth sciences,” said Bob Goldstein, Haas Distinguished professor of geology and special advisor for campus development in the provost’s office. “What better specimen to bring the public in than a spectacular 45-foot-long sea monster from the cretaceous of Kansas.”

Ancient fossils and KU connections

Sea turtles were likely prey for mosasaurs, and this particular fossil shows nearly 100 bite marks from a mosasaur similar in size to tylosaurus proriger. Anthony Maltese, c’04, was part of the team that collected the sea turtle fossil south of Quinter in October, 2011.

Bunker’s original tylosaurus specimen resides at the KU Natural History Museum in Dyche Hall. It is believed to be the largest complete mosasaur fossil in existence.

About the Earth, Energy & Environment Center

The Earth, Energy & Environment Center (EEEC) sits next to Lindley Hall and will open for classes in spring 2018. The two buildings of the EEEC—Ritchie Hall and Slawson Hall— will feature bridges to Lindley Hall and Learned Hall.

The multidisciplinary center is a collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering. It will bring together faculty, students and researchers from geology and engineering to tackle energy and environmental research.

—Dan Storey

Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures of the installation, or view the photos on Flickr. Read more about the installation from the Lawrence Journal-World.

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KU alumni on research team that ‘threatens to upend human history’ in North America

Posted on Apr 27, 2017 in Campus News and News

KU alumni on research team that ‘threatens to upend human history’ in North America
study published Wednesday in the prestigious journal Nature could obliterate all previous notions about the earliest human migration to North America, from the current consensus of about 15,000 years ago to a staggering 130,000 years ago.

This startling claim is made by a scientific team that features two KU doctoral alumni: lead author Steven Holen, PhD’02, director of the Center for American Paleolithic Research in South Dakota, and co-author Jared Beeton, PhD’07, professor of physical geography at Adams State University in Colorado.

Holen, Beeton and nine other colleagues from the U.S. and Australia have long studied mastodon bones unearthed during a 1992 highway construction project in San Diego County, California. The first scientists at the site, from the San Diego Museum of Natural History, began the arduous process of documenting the site, including a puzzling jigsaw of large rocks, which seemingly could not have been a naturally occurring part of the silt layer in which the bones were found, and crushed mastodon bones.

They eventually concluded that marks on the bones could only have been made by the rocks, perhaps in an attempt to extract bone marrow from leg bones, and that the rocks could not otherwise have been placed at the site by natural geological processes.

Their research then took a startling turn when scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey dated the mastodon bones to 130,000 years ago, give or take 9,400 years, and the San Diego site suddenly became perhaps the most important archaeological find in recent memory.

“If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet,” The New York Times reported April 26. “The earliest widely accepted evidence of people in the Americas is less than 15,000 years old. … If humans actually were in North America over 100,000 years earlier, they may not be related to any living group of people. Modern humans probably did not expand out of Africa until 50,000 to 80,000 years ago, recent genetic studies have shown.”

The 130,000-year-old mastodon, exclaimed Wired magazine, “threatens to upend human history.”

Beeton was the first graduate student in KU’s Odyssey Archaeological Research Program, which offers KU undergraduate and graduate students field experience in finding evidence of the earliest people to inhabit the central Great Plains.

The Odyssey program, directed by Rolfe Mandel, g’80, PhD’91, University Distinguished Professor of anthropology, was launched in 2003 with an endowment from Joseph and Ruth Cramer.

“I still remember Joe saying to me, ‘Rolfe, I’m not just putting this money up for you to go out and wander around looking for sites. I want you to train students to go out and look.’ And that’s exactly what happened,” says Mandel, also interim director of Kansas Geological Survey, which conducted blind testing of soil samples collected at the San Diego site. “It’s gratifying to see that it works. Joe Cramer would have loved to have heard that this is an example of where his investment produced a student who went out and pushed the envelope.

“If he were alive he’d be very gratified, but it’s also very gratifying to me, regardless of how this all shakes out. It may turn out this site’s a bust. That could happen. But regardless of that, I’ve got to give them credit for looking, and certainly for pushing the envelope. I do sort of feel like these are my children going out and doing what I told them to try to do.”

—Chris Lazzarino

Watch:

 

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Virtual reality app provides view of Pluto

Posted on Jul 14, 2016 in Campus News and News

The Heart of Pluto | Clyde Tombaugh
Jayhawks have always been proud of our ties to Pluto and the man who discovered it in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh. After all, how many alumni can claim that one of their own discovered a major celestial object? Although many were disheartened when the planet was downgraded to dwarf planet status in 2005, Pluto will always remain special.

In a significant first for any space scientist, Tombaugh’s ashes headed to the planet on the fastest spacecraft ever launched. New Horizons, a robot on a mission to “map the unknown,” took nine and half years to reach the dwarf planet. On July 14th, 2015, Earth time, with one short fly by, and just one opportunity, the spacecraft flashed through the skies of Pluto.

The crystal clear images of a world never before seen by human eyes have been released in a video by the New York Times. You can view “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart” through the free app, NYT VR, available for either iPhone or Android. You’ll have the best immersive experience if you use Google Cardboard, a virtual reality viewer that works with your smartphone, but you can still watch virtual reality stories on your phone without one.

The images show a rugged world of ice and frost with mountain ranges and sheets of ice that form Pluto’s “heart,” and the cracked and split ice surface of its’ moon, Charon. As New Horizon pulled away, cameras pivoted to capture Pluto’s atmosphere.

Isn’t it fitting that of that pale dot that Clyde Tombaugh first discovered so long ago, our final view is a halo of heavenly KU blue?

—Susan Younger

Google Cardboard Viewers
If you are looking for a summer science project, you can build your own Google Cardboard Viewer. This viewer is gaining in popularity, and  it adapts your phone with a construction/gadget that is like one of those old View-Master toys, that simulate 3D. ComputerWorld released this do-it-yourself guide specifically for the NYT VR app, which includes the viewer format. (Or, click here to order an inexpensive one online).

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