Photogrammetry project to gauge erosion on Dinosaur Ridge underway

MORRISON, Colo., Sept. 18, 2023 ~ The number one dinosaur tracksite in America is facing erosion, but the extent and speed of the damage is unknown. To measure the effects of wind, water, plant life and gravity on the footprints made millions of years ago and uncovered in a 1937 road project between Denver and Red Rocks Amphitheatre, new mapping efforts have been funded.

Photogrammetrist Neffra Matthews was overcome with emotion when Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) Director Tom Hoby announced the funding for the annual project. Matthews, who recently retired from U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has been studying the tracksite for more than 20 years.

Leading mitigation paleontologist Dr. Paul Murphey has devised a fossil track protection plan for this project which will use photogrammetry data to generate a high resolution map of the site as well as create a 3D model that can be used to recreate the track surface in case of catastrophic damage such as a landslide. Drone photography using a digital SLR camera combined with 3D mapping will define and measure the depth of footprints in the sloping rock surface and images will be compared year-over-year to pinpoint even tiny changes.

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The main tracksite at Dinosaur Ridge contains more than 250 individual dinosaur footprints, making it one of the most important sites for paleontologists including Dr. Martin Lockley who will also take part in this effort along with award winning photographer Lance Murphey. In 1973, JCOS took ownership of this land which includes Dinosaur Ridge and it was designated as Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark (NNL) by U.S. Department of Interior that same year. The nonprofit Friends of Dinosaur Ridge (FODR) was formed in 1989 with a mission to preserve natural resources along this roadway that spans Dakota hogback's fossiliferous segment and operates under license agreement with JCOS to provide educational programming.

Erosion is damaging America's #1 dinosaur tracksite but thanks to new mapping efforts, baseline measurements can now be taken to monitor how much wind, water, plant life, and gravity are conspiring to wipe away these ancient footprints over time.
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