Paleontologists from across the country gathered this past week at the Western Science Center in Hemet to take a closer look at the many well-preserved fossils of Mastodons that once roamed Diamond Valley and found during the Metropolitan Water Districts reservoir excavations in the 1990s.
It was at the opening special event for new Western Science Center Museum’s “Valley of the Mastodons” exhibit at 2346 Searl Parkway in Hemet and an opportunity for many scientists, researchers and educators from across the country to take a close look at fossil bones one of the largest ice age fossil collections in the nation.
It was a special day for the visiting researchers who had a chance to carefully examine the fossilized tusks and jawbone from a very large mastodon found in a Diamond Valley dig in 1998 affectionately called “Stevie.” It was of particular interest, Stevie being different from other mastodon fossils found in North America. Stevie’s fossilized bones remained in and enclosed display box in its field jacket for over 10 years until opened just for the visiting paleontologists, said Dr. Alton Dooley, WSC executive director.
The exhibit is now open to the public and students to learn about the mastodons and other huge creatures that lived 40,000 years ago in the Diamond Valley of Hemet.
While at the opening of the “Valley of the Mastodons” exhibit Aug. 2-4 students, local scientists, teachers and others interested in the ice age mammals had an opportunity to hear from paleontologists about their latest discoveries and advances in their studies of the mastodons and mammoths of North America.
“The Western Science Center has an amazing collection of mastodon fossils that I had a brief opportunity to study las summer,” said Dr. Kathlyn Smith, Georgia Southern University paleontologist. “While studying them, I begun to realize how different they were- in size and shape – from mastodons from regions of the country. She was one of the participating researchers who attended a Valley of the Mastodons three-day workshop before the official grand opening of the exhibit Saturday, Aug. 5. “I’m thrilled to find out what new ideas and research opportunities this ‘meeting of the mastodon minds’ will produce and am delighted to share the research process and interact with members of the public through this exhibit.” Dr. Smith will remain at WSC for the summer on leave from the university.
Other participating researchers included Chris Widga from East Tennessee University, Jeremy Green from Kent State University, Eric Scott from Cogstone Resource Management, Gregory Smith from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Bernard Means from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kathleen Springer of the USGS and Dr. Grant Zazula from the Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture.
Springer applauded the WSC workshop for researchers and the public noting “It was sort of a Renaissance of interest in this collection and doing research on this subject. It brings together a bunch of like-minded thinking about mastodons, mammoths and elephants. It may answer different questions and the different facets of their lives.”
Springer was one of the first USGS researchers called to the Diamond Valley reservoir excavation when the fossils were found and has since kept track of the research into the thousands of fossils found at the site.
Dr. Dooley said, “The Diamond Valley Lake fossils are having a major impact on our understanding of ice age California, and mastodons are a big part of that story. WSC’s mastodon collection is the largest on the West Coast and one of the largest in North America, and we’re proud to have this opportunity to advance scientific and public knowledge of these interesting animals.”
In addition to the many fossils on display during the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit it will feature artwork by paleoartist Brian Engh.
The Valley of the Mastodons is sponsored in part by Bone Clones, Inc.; Golden Village Palms RV Resort, Abbott Vascular and California Imaging & Diagnostics.
Cost to visit the museum are: $8 for adults 13 and over; $6.50 for seniors 62+, $6 Youth 5-12, $6.50 students 13-22 with current ID. It is free for youth 4 and under and active military with current ID. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Kent State University Paleontologist Dr. Jeremy Green very carefully uses a cotton swab to rub off the coating the fossilized tusk of a huge Mastodon, scientists like to call “Stevie” during the opening of the “Valley of the Mastodons” Aug. 2 at the Western Science Center Museum. The new exhibit, now open to the public, brings paleontologists from across the country to study the many mastodon fossil bones and other extinct creatures that once roamed the land. The fossilized bones were found during the construction of the Diamond Valley Lake dams in the late 1990s. Tony Ault photo
Dr. Kathlyn Smith, a paleontologist from Georgia Southern University, takes the opportunity to get a close look of a mastodon tusk found during the excavation of MWD’s Diamond Valley Lake. Dr. Smith was a guest speaker at the exhibits’ opening Aug. 3. Tony Ault photo
It was a rare opportunity for these paleontologists, scientists, educators, science writers from all over the nation and Western Science Center staff to meet and trade notes on the lifestyle of the mastodon herd that roamed Hemet’s Diamond Valley area in the late ice age and has become one of the largest ice age fossil bone finds in the nation. Shown here in front of a mural of “Max” one of largest mastodon fossils ever found, are the visiting scientists, writers with the Western Science Center Museum staff members, from left to right: Brittney Stoneburg, WSC marketing and events specialist; Jeanne Timmons, freelance writer, Dr. Kathlyn Smith, Georgia Southern University; Christina Olsen, poet and professor; Dr. Andrew McDonald, WSC curator/educator; Dr. Bernard K. Means, Virginia Commonwealth University; Michael Pasenko, Environmental Planning Group; Brian Engh, artist; Jeremy Green, Kent State University; Chris Widga, East Tennessee University; Eric Scott, Cogstone Resource Management; Dr. Grant Zazula, Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture; Gregory Smith, Vanderbilt University; Kathleen Springer, USGS; Dr. Ashley Leger, Cogstone Resource Management; Brian Switek, freelance writer; and Dr. Alton Dooley, WSC executive director. Tony Ault photo
Looking over a Mastodon fossil and checking on its history are, left, Michael Pasenko, Environmental Planning Group; Gregory Smith, Vanderbilt University; and Doug Shore, avocational paleontologist. The trio were invited guests at the opening of the Western Science Center Museum Opening of the “Valley of the Mastodons” exhibit. Tony Ault photo
Kathleen Springer, USGS geologist from the Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, is pleased with the opportunity for a group of paleontologists and scientists to meet at the Western Science Center Museum Aug. 2-3 to study the many unique Mastodon and other ice age fossils found in Diamond Valley. Springer was one of the first scientists called to examine the thousands of fossils found during the excavation of the Diamond Valley reservoir in the 1990s. Tony Ault photo
Dr. Kathlyn Smith, Georgia Southern University paleontologist examines one of the finer ice age Mastodon tusks found in the Diamond Valley Reservoir project excavation. Dr. Smith, invited to the WCS museum for the summer and the Aug. 4 opening of the museums “Valley of the Mastodons” exhibit, is trying to determine the ratio of male and female mastodons that once roamed the Valley. She is a guest lecturer at the WSC. Tony Ault photo
Paleontologist Chris Widga, East Tennessee University, at the opening of the Western Science Center’s “Valley of the Mastodon” exhibit Aug. 3 uses a structural 3D scanner to scan this Mastodon tusk and jawbone fossil found in Diamond Valley whose image he will take back to his university for study. Tony Ault photo
The Western Science Center Museum at 2346 Searl Parkway in Hemet has opened its “Valley of the Mastodons” exhibit has many attractions for the entire family for view one of the most complete collections of ice age fossils in the nation. Children delight in watching cartoons depicting the study of paleontology and other earth sciences and have an opportunity for “hands on” experience with fossils and other natural history items at the museum. Cost to visit the museum are: $8 for adults 13 and over; $6.50 for seniors 62+, $6 Youth 5-12, $6.50 students 13-22 with current ID. It is free for youth 4 and under and active military with current ID. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Tony Ault photo
The Western Science Center logo. Tony Ault photo
Valley of the Mastodons’ sign. Tony Ault photo
A crowd of visitors to Hemet’s Western Science Center Museum peruse a mural in the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit. Tony Ault photo