“The Dwarskill Mastodon Dig and Other Extinctions”

“The Dwarskill Mastodon Dig and Other Extinctions”   

Originally presented on 20 May 2017


View the Slide Show

     In 1974, a mastodon was accidentally discovered along Dwarskill Creek, a small stream in Bergen County, NJ. Over Eastern Week, a team of volunteers, led by three paleontology graduate students from the American Museum of Natural History, recovered many bones. These were brought to the then-existing Bergen County Museum of Arts and Sciences. Over the next few months, the bones underwent cleaning, preservation, and mounting techniques. They were on display in the Museum until it was closed, and are now in storage awaiting acquisition of new facilities.

     This E2C Workshop will include my first-hand account of the Dwarskill Mastodon dig, in part with the original Kodak Carousel slide projector and slides. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage in paleontology in the local area.

View the slideshow (pptx)     pdf

Cuvier’s proof of extinction, of “a world previous to ours,” was a sensational event.


     But the mastodon story is, of course, much bigger. The discovery of these huge bones at many locations across the globe led inexorably to our first understanding of the extinction of species. Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Kolbert described early discoveries and the role they played in changing our world view to encompass the reality that lifeforms can entirely disappear–even in the “Perfect World Created by God”–in The Sixth Extinction We will explore concepts presented in this important work along with what we should teach about extinction and evolution in courses aligned with the NGSS and State Standards.  



Selected Resources

“The Lost World” by Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker)

Extinctions: Georges Cuvier

“Dwarskill Mastodon–Northern Valley’s Oldest Resident” (Northern Valley Press, Feb 6, 2017)

Selected Classroom Activities

“Creating a Model Geologic Time Scale”

“Dox Rox Time Travel Activity”

“Mammoth Extinction” (AAAS)

“Mass Extinctions” (PBS)

The Paleobiology Database: Diversity and Extinction in the Phanerozoic (as viewed through the eyes of a bivalve)

“Pleistocene Extinctions: The Death of an Ecosystem” (Elin Whitney-Smith)

[Additional resources coming soon]

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