New ‘Valley of the Mastodons’ exhibit coming to Western Science Center in August

The Western Science Center natural history museum staffers are busy getting ready for a contingent of internationally known scientists who will be coming to the center in August to learn more about the huge mastodons that once roamed Diamond Valley and the surrounding area in the Ice Age.

Not only will the scientists be attending, but invited local students and the public will have an opportunity after Aug. 4 to view the new “Valley of the Mastodons” exhibit and talk one-on-one with the noted visiting scientists about the huge creatures that once made the Valley their home.

The “Valley of the Mastodons” will not only be an exhibit at the Western Science Center, 2345 Searl Parkway, in Hemet, but a workshop where science study will be done in real time in front of the public. The public opening Aug. 5 will follow a reception for the scientists and researchers in the fields of paleontology, archeology and related fields on Aug. 4.

The scientists will study the mastodons in the museum collection. Hundreds of bone fragments of Ice Age mastodons and other creatures, some amazingly intact, were found by contractors excavating the land in Diamond Valley in preparation for the building of Diamond Valley dam and lake from 1996 to 1999.

“The Western Science Center has an amazing collection of mastodon fossils that I had a brief opportunity to study last summer.” Dr. Kathyln Smith of Georgia Southern University said. “While studying them, I began to realize how different they were in size and shape from mastodons from other regions of the country.

“I’m thrilled to find out what new ideas and research opportunities this meeting of the mastodon minds’ will produce, and am delight to share the research process and interact with members of the public through this exhibit.”

Other participating researchers include Chris Widge of East Tennessee University, Jeremy Green of Kent University, Dr. Grant Zazula of the Yukon Department of Tourism & Culture, Eric Scott of Cogstone Resource Management, Gregory Smith of Vanderbilt University, Dr. Bernard Means of Virginia Commonwealth University and Kathleen Springer of U.S. Geological Society. The exhibit will feature artwork by paleoartist Brian Engh.

Members of the public will be able to talk with the scientists during museum hours. Local students will be invited to the “Valley of the Mastodons” workshop to hear lectures from the researchers.

“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,” Dr. Alton Dooley, executive director of the Western Science Center, said. “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.”

“Valley of the Mastodons” is sponsored in part by Bone Clone, Golden Village Palms RV Resort, Abbott Vascular and California Imaging & Diagnostics. A special exhibit reception for Western Science Center members and VIPs will be held Aug. 4 at 5:30 p.m. with light refreshments served. The exhibit will open to the public Aug. 5.

Admission to the Western Science Center is $8 for adults, $6.50 for seniors age 62 plus and students age 13-22 with ID. Admission is $6 for youth age 5-12, children under 4 years old are free and active military with ID are also free. The exhibit will run until early 2018.

For more information, contact Brittany Stoneburg, marketing and event specialist, at (951) 791-0033 or email bstoneburg@westerncentermuseum.org.

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