Field Trip To Ione Basin--August 19, 2000

Western Foothills Of The Sierra Nevada

Amador County, California

Collecting fossil plants at the famous Lygodium Gulch locality in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, Ione Basin, western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, California. Right to left: paleobotanist Dr. Bruce Tiffney (professor at the University of California Santa Barbara) splits a chunk of feldspar-rich shale in search of fossil plants; Dr. Jack A. Wolfe (pale green hat, kneeling; retired member of the United States Geological Survey) examines a fossil leaf specimen; paleobotanist Howard Schorn looks over Dr. Wolfe's right shoulder to a fossil leaf; my late father (plaid blue shirt, cowboy hat, an Engineering Geologist) observes the situation. Image was taken on August 19, 2000.

After lunch at the Ione Shopping Center in historic Ione, we headed out for the final leg of the day's adventure--a visit to the Discovery Site in the Middle Eocene Ione Formation, the specific locality where I had first found fossil plants in the Ione Basin back on July 21, 1991. Here, we spent roughly an hour digging around in the Ione Formation. Borrowing Dr. Tiffney's massive miner's-style pick, I helped expose the prime fossil layer, which here yields not only an abundance of leaves, but also numerous well preserved fan palm fronds. At the conclusion of the fossil hunting session, and the day's field trip, Dr. Wolfe decided that, should the National Science Foundation grant come through, as expected (to study the Eocene floras of the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to determine the paleoelevations and paleoenvironment of the ancestral Eocene Sierra Nevada), Lygodium Gulch would be a more productive and easily accessible locality to quarry.

A year later, in the summer of 2001, Howard Schorn informed me that the proposed National Science Foundation study had not gone through. It had failed. I was crushed. I could only imagine how Howard, Dr. Wolfe and the other scientists involved in the project felt. And so I put the Ione Basin project on the proverbial "back burner." Until, that is, the summer of 2002 when I received a quite unexpected and very welcomed email from Howard--it seems that Dr. Wolfe and the other co-leaders of the Eocene Sierra project had retooled and resubmitted the proposal to the National Science Foundation. Finally, after a grueling and truly "nail-biting" review process, the great Sierra Nevada Eocene study had been approved! And Howard wanted my help to quarry Lygodium Gulch. The hunt was back on, indeed...

Please note: All fossil localities in the Ione Formation of Amador County, California, presently occur on private property; explicit permission from the land owners must be secured before collecting fossils there.

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