Fieldwork Travelogue: The Mummified Fauna of Natural Trap Cave #NTCave15

Though it was nearly two weeks ago that I left Natural Trap Cave, there are still things I’d like to post about it.

One of the fascinating things about the cave is that it is, in fact, a natural trap. Though there is a grate over the top preventing large animals from falling in, small animals still drop in regularly.

Case in point: Packy le Pew, a poor packrat that fell in during the field season in 2014.

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Field Work Travelogue: Days 15 and 16 – Last Days at the Trap #NTCave15

I didn’t write yesterday, because it was such a full day. Because today was full of driving and otherwise really dull, I’ll fill you in now on what kept me so busy yesterday.

I hadn’t planned on going back into the cave yesterday, but suddenly we were short-handed and there I was, quarrying again.

Caver Juan Laden finally got to spend some time today with scientist Justin Sipla, and they spent a long time discussing hypotheses involving paleokarst (ancient cave systems that are now filled in) and the potential former existence of other holes that led to the surface. This idea had been suggested by another scientist, Trevor Worthy, who had visited early in the season.

Such a hypothesis requires testing, so Justin and Juan dug a test pit (now called the JJ Pit) in a spot that would not be expected to yield vertebrate fossils if the current opening were the only opening by which fossils could drop in, but would be loaded with fossils if their working hypothesis was true. Continue reading

Field Work Travelogue: Day 14 – Searching for the Red Beds #NTCave15

Today I worked on the surface collecting rock samples. I’m seeking an answer to a fairly simple question – one that was brought up by one of out caver colleagues.

Most of the so-called micro-vertebrate fossil (these are small animals like lizards, snakes, songbirds, mice, and shrews) come from a traceable layer in Natural Trap Cave that is brilliantly red.

A terrible flash photo, but you can clearly see the reddish layer. The hole in it is where I removed sediment for analysis.

A terrible flash photo, but you can clearly see the reddish layer. The hole in it is where I removed sediment for analysis.

So, why is the red layer red? Continue reading

Field Work Travelogue: Day 13 – And I Ain’t Lion #NTCave15

Today was another cave day for me. Most likely, it was the last cave day for this season for me. I’m leaving in a few days and have a few research items to pursue on the surface before heading out. (I’ll describe those in future posts.)

But the cave is a wonderful place. And as it happens, Natural Trap Cave has its heroes too. We ran out of toilet paper in the cave yesterday, but were rescued this morning by Toilet Paper Man. Who else could so boldly wear toilet paper on his head?

Toilet Paper Man, aka John Logdson, descends into the cave with a roll of toilet paper attached to his helmet. Our hero!

Toilet Paper Man, aka John Logdson, descends into the cave with a roll of toilet paper attached to his helmet. Our hero!

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