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Richard Lund

I have been excavating and studying, the fishes of the Bear Gulch Limestone since 1969. I have also worked extensively in the Pennsylvanian and Permian of the Pittsburgh region. For more information about my professional background and contributions see my Curricullum Vitae

Richard LundTwo inspirations serve me as guides:

The first is that when you split a rock, open it up, and see a beautiful fish before you that has not seen the brilliant light of a Montana day for three hundred and twenty million years, the sight is breathtaking and the feelings are of awe, transcending all else.

The second, and much more my personal goal, is put into words by an inscription on a bust of Henry Fairfield Osborne at the American Museum of Natural History in New York:

"To Make The Dry Bones Come To Life
And the Dust of Ages Past
Rejoin the Pageant of the Living"

The process of finding fossils is deceptively simple to summarize. One finds an outcropping of sedimentary rock, and splits the rock until there is nowhere left in which a fossil can hide. If there is an identifiable fossil, it is kept. If not, the rock is tossed down the slope to accumulate as talus. When the talus pile rises up to meet the layer being worked down, and one gets to the point of throwing rock up out of a pit, it’s time to find another spot to dig. As far as telling what’s identifiable, when one starts a new dig just about every scrap and spot is kept for examination back in the laboratory, but if one keeps digging long enough, and learning, one gets more selective. A hand lens is an absolutely necessary piece of equipment in any fossil dig, but because of the peculiar nature of the Bear Gulch Limestone fossils, we always need to keep a microscope handy in camp. Things that didn’t definitely turn out to be something recognizable but still looked interesting came back to camp for examination under the scope, and got to be called scopers.

When you first split a rock on the outcrop there is a thin film of moisture between the layers that makes it very easy to see whatever fossil is there, however delicate and faint it may be. When the moisture evaporates the fossil tends to fade from view. While bony fish are not a problem because you can see the bones dry or wet, and large sharks are not a problem because they have fairly conspicuous features, delicate little things preserved as pigments or skin impressions disappear from sight as the moisture dries. Our immediate solution on the crop was to lick them to try to see again what was seen the first time. My first exposure to this phenomenon came when Bill Melton handed me a dark grey rock on which he swore there was an eel-like fish. I could see nothing but grey, but when I poured water on it a very delicate shark appeared.

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email: rdicklund3@gmail.com

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(* denotes committee chairperson/PI.)

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Public Outreach

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Talks, Meetings

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Papers from the Laboratory

RL: rev. 11/16/2005

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