2022-05-14 George Mustoe, WWU Bellingham:  The Chuckanut—Not just another good brewpub

Washington’s fossil footprints—Tracking birds and beasts of a bygone era


The Lecture

The Chuckanut Formation is one of North America’s thickest sequences of non-marine sediment.  It was deposited by a meandering river that flowed westward across Washington at a time when the Cascade Range had not yet been created. The strata accumulated to a thickness of at least 6,000 meters (20,000 ft). The oldest beds were deposited in the late Paleocene, but most deposition occurred in the early Eocene.
The warm early Cenozoic climate allowed subtropical rainforests to flourish. Abundant plant fossils in the Chuckanut include fronds from palms, tree ferns, and diverse array of other plants. Beginning in the 1990s, tracks of birds and animals were found in its outcrops in the Mount Baker foothills east of Bellingham, Washington. Twenty years of collecting has resulted in the discovery of a multitude of fossil tracks that were produced by birds, reptiles, and mammals. This presentation will describe and illustrate these discoveries.

The Speaker

George Mustoe was born and raised in Nevada, arriving in Bellingham with his family at the formative age of 15. After some years at WWU getting educated as a geochemist, he eventually made a switch to paleontology as his main research interest. George has published close to 100 peer-reviewed journal articles that span a range of geoscience topics—a publication record that he cites as evidence of wide-ranging scientific interests or maybe just a short attention span. Following his retirement in 2014, George became a Geology Research Associate at WWU where he continues his pursuit of paleontology.

Goldfarb, Ben

Ben Goldfarb is the author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and named a best book of 2018 by the Washington Post. His environmental journalism has also appeared in the AtlanticScienceThe New York Times, Outside Magazine, High Country News, and many other publications. His next book, on the science of road ecology, will be published in 2022 by W.W. Norton & Company. Ben lives in Spokane, Washington, with his wife, Elise, and his dog, Kit — which is, of course, what you call a baby beaver.

Ben spoke about his beloved beavers in Feb. 2021. (Updated Oct. 2021)


Kieffer, Sue

Susan Kieffer is a geologist and planetary scientist in international renown.  She is known for her research on fluid dynamics of volcanoes, geysers and rivers and for her model of the thermodynamic properties of complex minerals.  She has also contributed to the scientific understanding of meteorite impacts.

Susan Kieffer received her B.S. in physics/ mathematics from Allegheny College in 1964 and is an alumna of Cal Tech, receiving both an M.S. (1967) in geological sciences and Ph.D. (1971) in planetary sciences. She worked with the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona (1979–1990) and was affiliated with both Arizona State University (1989–1993) and Cal Tech (1982). She went on to head the Geological Sciences Department at the University of British Columbia (1993–1995). She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a 1995 MacArthur Fellow. She was awarded the Penrose Medal by the Geological Society of America in 2014 and is currently the Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Professor Emeritia at the University of Illinois.

Susan recently moved to Whidbey Island where she is retired, but still actively engaged in scientific writing, research and education. Her most recent book, entitled “The Dynamics of Disaster,” was published by W.W. Norton in 2014.  Dr. Kieffer hosts a popular blog called Geology in Motion.

Sue gave an explosive presentation entitled “Geologic Nozzles” to the QGS in Oct. 2016.  (Updated Oct. 2021)