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Season’s Greetings from HWF!

It’s hard to believe that the end of the year has arrived! 2018 is less than two weeks away, and as the close of this season approaches, we at the Havasi Wilderness Foundation find ourselves in gratitude for the many hands that helped us make 2017 such a spectacular year!

2017 with the Havasi Wilderness Foundation

The foundation has had a busy year and we want to express our gratitude for the individuals that helped us fund raise through our various programs: Planet Green where we collected ink cartridges and small electronic devices for recycling and the Ralphs Community Program for those that shopped and gave their reward points to our foundation. Thanks to Telos Capital Management for helping us with our investment portfolio to bring in additional funds so we can help the next generation. At home, we recycle plastic bottles and the money collected goes back into funding the goals of this nonprofit. Because of these generous contributions we are able to educate youngsters and the general public about wildlife and our shared ecosystem.

Many blogs in 2017 were posted by Makena Crowe and we want to express our thanks to her for some well-written informative blogs. She has gone on to further her career in the legal field and we take this opportunity to wish her success and happiness in this choice.

In mid-March, we went on a National Geographic Around the World by Private Jet trip and  gathered action still-shot photos and videos of wildlife from 11 countries. We were blessed to visit 10 World Heritage sites and learned so much about cultural practices and diverse ecosystems on these travels. Shortly after our return, Alex Havasi compiled our photos into DVD format and we have given presentations at two bird clubs to share what we have learned. We thank the Ventura County Bird Club and the Conejo Valley Audubon Society for inviting us to be their guest speakers.

In the Spring, we attended the 9th Annual SAGE Student Research Conference at California State University Channel Islands. The Havasi Wilderness Foundation nonprofit funds the research program at Santa Rosa Island and this has given us the opportunity to meet each of the university students and learn more about each research project. In addition, we were able to recognize student efforts with a Havasi Wilderness Foundation Scientific Study Participant medal. We hope to continue our work with Cal-State Channel Islands and the Santa Rosa research station and support the next generation of environmental leaders.

Sage Conference at CSUCI.

Sage Conference at CSUCI.

In May,  we welcomed Lola West as our current Media Specialist. She creates the blogs that you read on a regular basis and updates our social media. Thanks to Lola for a job well done. Your enthusiasm and love of nature shows in your posts and we appreciate your work with us to help bring awareness and education to our audience of nature lovers.

Lola West, our new Media Specialist.

Lola West, our new Media Specialist.

In late May, we were invited to visit with the students at the Reményik Sándor Hungarian School in Reseda, California that features an educational program that we annually sponsor. The students performed Hungarian dances, sang songs, and presented us with an album about their educational activities for the semester. The students expressed their gratitude for our financial help of the program and we look forward to offering continued support.

In the summer, we visited the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita, California and met Gabriella Skollar, the director. Our media specialist accompanied us and followed up with a very nice blog about gibbons.

For the past 7 years, we have sponsored an educational program at the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. This program has continued to grow and we met in June and in September to visit with the outgoing director of the program, Stephen Vodantis and the incoming interim replacements, first Danielle Alvarez and currently Kelly Kazmirchuk. Elementary schools who wish their students to learn more about the Malibu Lagoon, Topanga State Park, and the Sepulveda Basin wildlife connect with our program so that specially trained instructors can share and teach the various aspects of wildlife and plants at each location.

Our blogs have touched on subjects about dinosaurs, whales, and even outer space adventures and we want to thank Lola West for bringing our year to a close sharing some of her latest voyage experiences and writing such wonderful stories.

At the conclusion of 2017, we wish all of our supporters and visitors a Merry Christmas, Happy Kawanza, Happy Hanukkah, and as they say in Hungarian–Kellemes Karácsonyi ünnepeket kivánunk!

Sandor “Alex” Havasi and Marilyn Fordney

 

 

Walking With the Dinosaurs: An Exploration of Dinosaur Ridge

One of my favorite things about working for the Havasi Wilderness Foundation is that they share my love and curiosity of all things wild. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and adventure for me. From the goliath mountains in Zion National Park to the prehistoric fossils in Morisson Colorado, there has been little time to rest in the presence of such giants.  Follow our upcoming blog and journey together with me through Utah, Colorado, Tulum, Mexico and the ruins of Chichen Itza.


This week’s adventures begin in Morisson, Colorado: home of the Dinosaur Ridge National Natural Landmark. Located west of Denver and approximately 1 mile from the acclaimed Red Rock Amphitheater, Dinosaur Ridge is one of the world’s most celebrated fossil districts.

Just off of highway C-470, a sign advertising dinosaur footprints caught my eye.  The dinosaur-lover in me prompted a mission to explore the area more thoroughly. The visitor center offered my partner and I a free map and told us that we could either pay to be driven up the mountain or climb it ourselves. Welcoming the opportunity to stretch our legs, we chose the latter.  I was met with a seemingly inconspicuous road and a slow incline of dirt-colored rock that betrayed none of its priceless contents at first glance. As I began the journey up a steep, paved path, my gaze slid over a patch of rock that rippled with a ribboned pattern.  A nearby sign indicated that lines were an impression of preserved microbial mats in which microorganisms turned the sediment layers found in the supratidal zone into spongy, pock-marked mats on the ocean floor.  According to the park, some form of rapid burial helped preserve the wavy shape of the microbial mat while millions of years hardened the sand into stone.  I swung around to study the incline of the mountain on which I stood and paused to reflect on its past-life as an ocean floor.

Microbial mat at Dinosaur Ridge. Photo Credit: Lola West.

Microbial mat at Dinosaur Ridge. Photo Credit: Lola West.

My eyes traveled across the rock to an imprint larger than my head. The deep three-pronged grove was smooth, shaded in black and reminded me of the mark a seagull makes as it walks across wet sand.  I turned to a posted sign nearby and discovered that the print was likely made by an an ostrich-sized carnivore like Ornithomimus.

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Alongside this print were more than 330 other prints comprising 37 different trackways. A trackway is a succession of prints made by an individual dinosaur. In addition to the bird-like three-pronged print, I saw a more bulbous print made by an herbivorous duck-billed dinosaur such as an Iguanodon. Each of the dinosaurs lived in the Cretaceous period (145.0 million to 66 million years ago).

There are over 37 different trackways at Dinosaur ridge.

There are over 37 different trackways at Dinosaur ridge.

Ornithomimus fossil

Ornithomimus fossil

 

While fossils tell the stories behind the way that dinosaurs died, the tracks reveal important information about the way they lived. Colorado has been a hub of dinosaur exploration since 1877, when Arthur Lakes, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, spotted an enormous vertebra embedded in a block of sandstone at Dinosaur Ridge.

As I came to the middle of the rock exhibition, I noticed the layers of rock beginning to peel away. The sign posted implored us to look closely at deep scars hewn into the surface of the stony landscape.  I studied the scars and a 45 million-year-old story began to take shape.  In contrast to the dinosaur footprints the scars on this rock were jagged and long and took the appearance of being scratched from a large, clawed animal. The Deinosuchus was far larger than any modern crocodile or alligator and at 35 feet, this apex predator was likely capable of hunting large dinosaurs. As the crocodile passed its body through the shallow waters of the prehistoric marine environment, it pressed its claws deep into the sand leaving behind an enchanting story.

Prehistoric crocodile markings. photo credit: Lola West

Prehistoric crocodile markings.
photo credit: Lola West

Prehistoric Crocodile

Prehistoric Crocodile

 

How were these prints preserved?

Though now a sprawling mountainside, Dinosaur Ridge was once an area of marshlands located near a beach. The topography of the marshlands was composed of thick layers of mud-covered sand. As dinosaurs and crocodiles walked through the mud, their prints were depressed into the sandy layers below the mud. The mud hardened into mudstone and millions of years of erosion eventually exposed the sandstone layer that maintained the shape of the footprints. Since Colorado experiences all four seasons, these prints are often exposed to unkind weather conditions. Each time snow covers the prints and melts away it endangers the print itself. In 2010, the community surrounding the Dinosaur National Monument began a campaign to protect and preserve these precious pieces of our prehistoric puzzle.

 

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