Scientists have called it a “murder mystery,” and an IUP faculty member—along with IUP students—are part of the research that may help to solve the
crime. For the past five years, Jonathan Warnock, a paleoclimatologist in the Department of Geoscience, has done research at the Cleveland-Lloyd dinosaur
quarry near Price, Utah, in conjunction with colleague Joseph Peterson from
the University of Wisconsin.
Scientists consider the area as having one of the
densest concentrations of bones ever found, but don’t understand why or how
this group of carnivorous dinosaurs came together. Scientists have also found
that the number of carnivorous dinosaurs are three times the amount of
plant-eating dinosaurs found there, based on bones already excavated.
This past year, Warnock took nine
IUP undergraduate students to the site for 10 days of excavation and scientific
work in June. The student travel was funded by a IUP Senate grant and geoscience
A “dinosaur kid,” interested in dinosaurs since his youth, Warnock joined
the IUP faculty two years ago. This is the first year he has taken IUP students
to the site, a “bone bed” that has dinosaur bones dating to the late Jurassic
“It’s not just about finding bones; we’re doing a lot of science at the
site, both traditional and new,” Warnock said. “This summer, our students were
part of the ongoing work of trying to figure out the ‘why’ of so many dinosaurs
there, getting a better understanding of the Jurassic period, and doing work
related to climate change. We’re asking question like, ‘was there one big event
that caused these dinosaurs to die,’ and ‘why are these bones in the same
direction?’ Answering these questions involve a lot of chemistry, for example,
analyzing the bones and the sediment. It was a great opportunity for me to help
the students experience geology and doing science in the field.”
This summer’s group did have a major find—the largest bone yet
discovered, a four-foot shoulder blade from a Camarasaurus, a dinosaur with a
long neck. The group also found several new sites to excavate, he said.
As part of the field experience, the students went “behind the scenes” at
the Salt Lake City museum that houses all of the bones recovered at the site.
While that museum owns all bones unearthed in the quarry, Warnock is
permitted to take bones out “on loan” for study at IUP.
The Cleveland-Lloyd quarry is open to the public, so Warnock and the
students also had the opportunity to meet and talk with visitors to the site.
Work at the quarry has drawn the interest of National Geographic.
Representatives from the organization visited the quarry this summer to film
Warnock and Peterson. Warnock will be featured in the online educational game
for children, Animal Jam, in a “Scientist Selfie.”
Warnock and Peterson have developed a five-year plan, approved by the state
of Utah and the Bureau of Land Management, to continue the study at the site,
so there are future opportunities for IUP students to be part of the work.
At IUP, Warnock is studying diatom-based silica cycle reconstruction and
environmental reconstruction in the Southern Ocean and Baltic Sea via novel
proxy development, which offers opportunities for collaboration with his
“Indiana is different from the large cities where I have lived, but I
really like IUP and the commitment of the IUP faculty to undergraduate
learning,” he said.