Southern Utah News Articles
Presentation at Best Friends - 'From Dinosaurs to Birds'
Twenty or 30 years ago, few people would have thought all modern birds evolved from dinosaurs.
Next Saturday, November 11, at 2 p.m. at the Best Friends Visitor Center in downtown Kanab, paleontologist Dr. Frankie Jackson will recount her journey to the far reaches of the globe, seeking to unravel the origin of birds and their unique reproductive biology.
Dr. Jackson has played a significant role in uncovering compelling scientific evidence by excavating and studying fossilized dinosaur eggs all over the world.
As a little girl, Jackson roamed the Alabama hills with her geologist grandfather, hunting fossils.
In 1988, she and her husband, family physician Dr. Robert Jackson, were living in Montana. One day she took their six-year old son to a dinosaur dig offered by the Museum of the Rockies. She never imagined Egg Mountain, the place where the class was held, would become the starting point of a lifetime career.
Soon, she was teaching university classes. She got involved in research and started publishing articles about dinosaur eggs. Even before earning her PhD in paleontology from Montana State University, she had already dived headfirst into the search for the origin of avian reproduction.
With paleontologist Luis Chiappe, the world’s foremost expert on the evolution of birds, she co-authored a paper published in the scientific journal Nature. On a six-week research trip to Argentina, led by Dr. Chiappe, she recalls they “mapped out about six miles of egg clutches.” For five years, she spent winters in Argentina and summers digging up eggs in Montana. Studying the eggs of small theropod dinosaurs, they found extraordinary similarities with birds.
The wealth of fossils discovered in China contributes to its appeal as a research destination. On the first of her many trips there, the National Geographic sponsored expedition encountered unexpected problems. After five and a half weeks of exploration in the Uyghur autonomous region of far western China, their team returned from work one afternoon to find their hotel surrounded by police and themselves placed under house arrest! There seemed to be a problem with their paperwork. But all’s well that ends well. Their confiscated passports and cameras were returned to them.
They never take specimens out of China. The fossils they discovered are housed at one of the foremost geological museums in Beijing, and research is conducted there in conjunction with Chinese paleontologists.
In Spain, and closer to home in Nevada, Washington, Florida and Georgia, there were studies of modern bird and crocodile nesting sites and further exciting dinosaur discoveries.
In recent years, a graduate student, now Dr. Mike Knell, discovered a fossil turtle on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument’s Kaiparowitz Plateau. Along with monument paleontologist, Dr. Alan Titus, they described this rare discovery – a fossilized female turtle from the Late Cretaceous period, with eggs inside.
Dr. Jackson notes, “The Kaiparowitz Formation is amazing and extremely important for fossil research, especially dinosaurs.”
Dr. Frankie Jackson has published over 50 papers in paleontology and geology and co-authored a website on dinosaur eggs for the University of California Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley.
Although she continues as a research professor at Montana State, she and her husband live in Kanab eight months out of the year. Over the years, Dr. Robert Jackson has helped with field work, become quite knowledgeable about geology, and has even co-authored papers.
Weather permitting, everyone is invited to a birding event near the Jackson Flat Reservoir following Dr. Jackson’s talk. This will be led by Teresa Rounds, who has been an inspiring, avid birder for 30 years. There will be scopes set up. Bring your binoculars if you have them. Expect to see beautiful, elegant waterfowl and migrating birds!
Please mark your calendars for 2 p.m., next Saturday, November 11, at the Best Friends Visitor Center in downtown Kanab, 235 South 100 East.
Dr. Jackson’s talk and slide show, “From Dinosaurs to Birds,” is a Wild Kane County presentation – a search for the ancient links between dinosaurs and the birds we know today.