We took the sloth show on the road April 1 and travelled to Macomb, IL for the 2012 MAPS Expo. Here’s a link to some of the photos. Many thanks to my wife and veteran slother Lynette who stepped in at the last minute to help out. Tried out many of the lessons in the Museum’s upcoming traveling trunk of sloth fossil-prototypes. Tremendous reception . . . Dave
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Our sloth bone prototypes were a big hit at the Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show this passed weekend. Total attendance was 4,500. Hundreds stopped by the table to learn about the sloth project and 60-70 stayed for the powerpoint talk.
Many thanks to the Cedar Valley Rocks & Minerals Society for sponsoring the event, Steve Struckman, UI College of Engineering Prototyping Center for expediting fabrication of the prototypes, Tony Smith at the Hobby Corner for his skillful paint-job, and graduate assistant Youbing Yin, Iowa Comprehensive Lung Imaging Center for fixing the last-minute kinks in the STL files.
The radius and ulna prototypes provoked no little amazement. Stop by the museum for a lesson on how sloths moved their arms and to examine the other prototypes. Sloth on!
We’ll be at the Cedar Valley Rocks & Minerals Society Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show this Saturday and Sunday, March 19-20, at the Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids. The theme of the show this year is Treasures From Iowa’s Ice Age. We’ll be showing off our traveling trunk of sloth bone-prototypes from the UI Engineering Design and Prototyping Center, and speaking at 10:00 AM Saturday and 2:30 PM Sunday. For more details
A terrific turnout for our sloth program at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO November 16th. Many thanks to Dr. Adel Haj, Department of Biology and Earth Science, for sponsoring the event. We estimated attendance at 260– including some outstanding geology students and a very charming bunch of excited pre-schoolers. Sadly, university administrators announced in November that they are eliminating the geoscience program. Hard to believe they would rob their students of the opportunity to experience this kind of joy. . . . dave
The Tarkio Valley Sloth roadshow visits the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids Saturday, February 13 with a program entitled: Echos of Iowa’s Sloths. Starting time is 2 PM.
Ground sloths may be extinct but they aren’t dead. The footsteps of these recently departed elephant-sized Ice Age giants continue to echo through Iowa’s woodlands with important implications for today and the future. David Brenzel, former curator at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History and co-principle investigator on the Tarkio Valley Sloth Project will discuss the excavation to recover the only Jefferson’s sloth family ever discovered, including the most complete adult and second-most complete juvenile of the species ever found, and research to-date. MEMBER:$3-NONMEMBER:$4 FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL 362-0664 .
Thanks to Jan Ailes and the Cedar Rapids Indian Creek Nature Center for sponsoring the Things that go Bump in the Night program again this year and the opportunity to tell guests more about ground sloths and their food.
Much fun had by one and all.
Watch the ICNC schedule for a program about the Sloth Project this winter.
More about Honeylocusts and other Ice age orphans. . . . Dave
Over 300 people attended the 1st annual Fossil Fest of Iowa Saturday at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. Many thanks to organizers Don Johnson of the Eastern Iowa Paleontology Project and Bill Desmarais, the staff from the Museum of Natural History and the other presenters for the opportunity to show off the Tarkio Valley Sloth Project again.
More photos in Flickr. . . . Dave
We’re taking the sloth on the road again Saturday, October 24, 2009, 9:30 AM-4:30 PM. This time to Washington High School in Cedar Rapids for the first annual Fossil Fest of Iowa. Dinosaurs are being featured this year with Mike Henderson, Curator of Earth Science at the fabulous Burpee Museum in Rockford, IL delivering the keynote address. Speakers every hour starting at 10:00 AM will highlight a different aspect of Iowa’s rich fossil record. . . the Tarkio Valley Sloth Project will be featured at 1:00 PM. More info.
Holmes and I had a nice time at Drake University Friday night talking to the Central Iowa Mineral Society (CIMS) about the sloth project. We had an audience of about 40 enthusiasts. It’s always nice talking to people who understand the importance of the project instantly. Thanks to Ed Peterson for the opportunity, making the arrangements and hosting us at the Drake Diner before the program. See you guys at the next dig. . . . Dave
Holmes and I will be taking the sloth to Drake University in Des Moines Friday October 2 and presenting a powerpoint program entitled The Life and Death of the Tarkio Valley Giant Sloths. The program starts at 7:30 PM in Meredith Hall Room 101, South Auditorium. We’ll take a few bones to pass around and save plenty of time for questions. The program is sponsored by the Central Iowa Mineral Society and is free and open to all.
Sarah Horgen and I will be at the Story County Conservation Center at McFarland Park near Ames on Tuesday October 6 to repeat the program for their Older, Wiser, Livelier Seniors (OWLS) series. The program begins at 11:00 AM. For registration and information about the O.W.L.S. program, contact the Story County Conservation Center at 515-232-2516 (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday).
Holmes and I showed the sloths to an enthusiastic bunch of high school students last week and talked about paleontology as part of the University of Iowa’s Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP). The 19 students, juniors and seniors, some from as far away as Florida and Texas, were on campus for 6 weeks participating in an intense immersion in science research, with the cooperation of labs all across campus. Thanks to William Swain, Director SSTP and JSHS programs, Division of Continuing Education, for making the arrangements. We’re hoping to see a few of them at our next dig. . . . Dave
About 300 people came to see the toddler skeleton and other special exhibits at the Open House in the Greater Shenandoah Historical Society May 29-30.
Thanks to Harold Decuir, President of the Board of Directors, Sallie Brownlee, Museum Director, and the rest of the museum board and volunteers for hosting us.
We had a mishap downloading the camera, but Tess Gruber-Nelson, Staff Writer at the Vally News/Essex Independent rescued us with these photos.
Tess also provided the story below:
The three giant sloths unearthed in the West Tarkio Creekbed near Northboro got to come home for a visit over the weekend.
The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History brought the sloths to the Greater Shenandoah Historical Society Friday and Saturday in order to show the public what has been found in their backyards over the past three years.
“The first thing people ask is, ‘You found that here?’” said Co-Principal Investigator of the Tarkio Valley Sloth Project David Brenzel.
In addition, a bone from a Paramylodon sloth, also found at the site, was brought.
Brenzel said the bone was found by landowner Bob Athen a couple years ago and was placed in a sloth toe bone drawer until it was recently inspected by Greg McDonald, whom Brenzel described as the No. 1 sloth expert in the world.
“His (McDonald) face just lit up when he saw it,” said Brenzel. “This is a big deal. This is the first record of this (Paramylodon sloth) found in Iowa.”
Both the Paramylodon and Megalonyx were elephant-sized Ice Age mammals that became extinct about 12,000 years ago explained Brenzel.
However, Paramylodon sloths were outfitted with broader, triangular claws for digging rather than the sharp claws of the Megalonyx, which were used for seizing at woody vegetation such as tree branches.
“They are different genus and different species living in a slightly different habitat at the same time,” said Brenzel. “We’re finding these bones where they lived.”
Finding bones of the Megalonyx and Paramylodon helps researchers answer questions about how these animals lived, where they lived, what the landscape was like and how they died.
“There’s a whole ecosystem we’re starting to put together here that nobody in the world has ever been able to do this before because nobody has found a site to where these guys were living.”
Besides the actual bones of the sloths, UI Museum of Natural History researchers also brought along samples of the technology available to them through the University, such as one of the most sophisticated CT scanners in the country.
Researchers can take a bone from the sloth and scan it using the CT scanner. The feed from the scan is then sent to a mechanical engineering student in order to convert the file for rapid prototyping at the College of Engineering, who in turn can have a replica of the bone, both inside and out, made.
“We wanted to make the (Historical) Society aware of the capabilities we have,” said Brenzel. “They need to dream big. They don’t have to settle for poster-boards. They could do a life-sized model of the sloths.”
Brenzel added the University is willing to assist the museum in any way possible.
“We’re missing the boat if we don’t capitalize on this,” said Greater Shenandoah Society President Harold Decuir. “There’s plenty of room at the museum for a sloth display.”
The problem, Decuir said, is how to get the ball rolling for such a big undertaking.
“I honestly don’t know right now,” said Decuir. “I do know we need to find a way to connect with the young people in this community; get them interested in the museum.”
This was the first public display of (all of) the Tarkio Valley Sloths. Brenzel and Decuir both said they were pleased with the number in attendance.
Tess Gruber Nelson, Staff Writer.
Thanks also to University of Iowa Museum of Natural History staff-members Sarah Horgen and Meghann Mahoney, and museum volunteer Aaron Last for their stellar support with the event . . . Dave
An enthusiastic audience at Saylorville Saturday. Thanks to the staff at the Visitors Center, the Iowa Academy of Science for sponsoring us, and Craig Johnson, IAS Executive Director for making the arrangements. We made some nice contacts. Sounds like we’ll be doing a program for the Des Moines rock club soon. . . Dave
The Iowa Academy of Science Speaker Series at the Saylorville Visitor Center begins this Saturday, June 20th at 2:00 p.m. This event is open to the public free of charge and children are encouraged to attend.
Title: The Tarkio Valley Iowa Giant Ground Sloths: Life and Death in the Ice Ages.
Ground sloths may be extinct but they aren’t dead. The footsteps of these recently-departed elephant-sized Ice Age giants continue to echo through Iowa’s woodlands with important implications for today and the future under global warming. Holmes A. Semken, Jr. Emeritus Professor of Geoscience , University of Iowa, and Principle Investigator on the Tarkio Valley Sloth Project and David Brenzel, Co-PI, will discuss the excavation, which has been on-going since 2003, recovering the world’s only Jefferson’s sloth-family, including the most complete adult and second-most complete juvenile of the species ever found, and research progess to-date. Join David Brenzel and Holmes Semken as they tell the story of the Tarkio Valley Iowa excavation. The presentation will include a “show and tell” display of bones that children and adults will enjoy.
The Iowa Academy of Science is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization promoting science research, science education, the public understanding of science, and awards excellence in these endeavors.
We hope to see you Saturday at the Saylorville Visitor Center for this informative presentation. Bring the entire family.
Craig Johnson, Executive Director
Iowa Academy of Science
175 Baker Hall
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0508
More photos taken during Greg McDonald’s visit May 6-9, 2009. These are from his work in the lab May 7, and his special presentation to project volunteers that evening, prior to his public lecture.
Many thanks to Greg for his highly productive visit and exciting presentations–public and behind-the scenes. Watch for lots of follow-up in the near future. Can hardly wait for Greg to return. . . . Dave