The Aspen Institute Presents In our Backyard:Unearthing History of Mammoth Proportions

June 13, 2011

Contact: Cristal Logan
Director, Aspen Community Programs
The Aspen Institute
970-544-7929 |

Aspen, CO, June 13, 2011 –– The Aspen Institute presents “In our Backyard: Unearthing History of Mammoth Proportions” featuring Kirk Johnson, PhD, vice president and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the lead scientist on the Snowmastodon Project (TM) near Snowmass Village in Colorado. This event takes place on Thursday, June 23 from 4:30 to 5:30 pm and again, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, at the Aspen Institute’s Paepcke Auditorium. Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for those 18 years old and under and are available for purchase at or at the door. 

Dr. Johnson and his colleagues on the Snowmastodon Project have been unearthing Ice Age fossils in what has become one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries in Colorado history. The project’s site, rich with remains, was discovered in October 2010 when a bulldozer operator at Snowmass Village’s Zielger Reservoir saw unfamiliar bones tumble over the top of his bulldozer blade. Within two days, scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science were onsite to begin excavation. On May 14, the Museum re-opened the dig, which will continue through July 1. To date, Museum scientists and volunteers have recovered more than 2,000 bones of mastodon, mammoth, camel, giant bison, deer, and ground sloth. The Snowmastodon Project is the Museum’s largest-ever fossil excavation and its Ice Age fossil site is the best of its kind in all of North America.

Kirk R. Johnson received his PhD in geology and paleobotany from Yale University in 1989, and did postdoctoral research in the rainforests of northern Australia before coming to Denver in 1991, where he directed the installation of the museum’s Prehistoric Journey exhibit. His research focuses on fossil plants, the environmental effects of the dinosaursmiting asteroid, and the birth and death of biomes. Johnson also works with artists to create accurate and plausible paintings, murals, and dioramas of prehistoric landscapes, several of which are on display in the Colorado Convention Center. Johnson is the author of Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway and Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth and Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the Past 300 Million Years of the Colorado Front Range. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

For more information on the Snowmastodon Project, visit the Denver Museum of Science & Nature website at

Event details subject to change. Please visit for updates or call our events hotline at 970-544-7970.


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