We woke up in the Badlands this morning, after playing hacky-sack in the sunset and catching a glimpse of the bizarre looking Starlink satellite the night before. After packing up our tents, eating breakfast, and loading the vans we were on our way to find plant fossils! We began our day at Big Cedar Ridge, 300 acre land run by the government that has a lot of fossil importance. These rocks are made of mudstones and is 73 million years old. It used to be a flood plain that developed as the sea retreated, it was a swamp or beach. The specific rock formation we were looking for plant fossils in was the Meeteetse Formation. We learned the importance of this formation and the evolution of flowering plants (and how they eventually dominated the fossil record). After hiking to the top of rock formation, we began digging to the Meeteetse layer, which was just below the top layer we were standing on. It was extremely muddy from the day before which made this difficult, but we proceeded to dig and break open rocks with our rock hammers. Although this section was not overly promising, we did find one plant fossil. We learned that this area is significant due to the fact that it reveals that there is a taphonomic bias in the plant fossil record. After not having much success at this first digging site, we decided it was not the best conditions to continue our search so we made the hike back to the vans and headed to eat lunch at a park and then to the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center.
After touring the museum and learning about the history of the area, we then headed to our campsite for the night. After setting up our tents we had some time to explore before dinner, and me and another students walked up along the stream. We eventually found a clearing where we found wild onions and pea lupines (which you cannot eat, unfortunately). After burritos for dinner, the whole group went on a hike to watch the sunset on a rock outcrop. We saw a mule deer, marmots, and Wyoming ground squirrels. Finally, we ended the night around a fire for s’mores.