Journey to the Jurassic: Exploring the Morrison Formation: Western Interior Paleontological Society holds 10th Founders Symposium

by Susan Passmore, Western Interior Paleontological Society

“Journey to the Jurassic” logo and art was created by WIPS member, writer and illustrator Gary Raham


The Jurassic Morrison Formation was the focus of the Western Interior Paleontological Society (WIPS) Founders Symposium on March 4 and 5, 2017 at the Colorado School of Mines. Held every other year, the WIPS Founders Symposium honors the Society’s founders, Jordan Sawdo and the late Bryan Cooney, and all the individuals who guided WIPS in its early years. The idea to hold a WIPS symposium began with paleontologist Dr. Lou Taylor, who moderated the 2017 event. First organized in 1999, the Founders Symposium has been held biennially ever since.

One of the goals of the symposium is to promote the exchange of information and ideas between the amateur/avocational and professional paleontological communities. It is an educational event open to anyone who’s interested in learning more about paleontology and earth science, bringing together fossil enthusiasts, scientists, and artists. Proceeds from the Founders Symposium help fund WIPS’ grants and scholarships to support research and education in paleontology.

The 2017 speakers took participants on a journey through the Morrison Formation, from its geology to its dinosaurs. Speakers and their presentations were:

Dr. Robert Bakker was one of the keynote speakers

BLM paleontologist and symposium speaker Brent Breithaupt with BLM exhibit

Denver Museum of Nature & Science paleontologist Dr. Joe Sertich speaking to the crowd

Robert Bakker, PhD (keynote), Houston Museum of Nature Science, Stegosaur Martial Arts: a Morrison Formation Allosaur Stabbed and Killed by Stegosaurus

Brent Breithaupt (keynote), Regional Paleontologist, Bureau of Land Management, Big Wonderful Wyoming: The “Lost World” of Jurassic Dinosaurs

Christine Turner, PhD (keynote), Emeritus, US Geological Survey
Paleoclimatic, Paleohydrologic, Paleoecologic, and Sedimentologic Reconstruction of the Extinct Ecosystem of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation: How Dinosaurs Thrived in a Dry Climate

Joe Sertich, PhD, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Extreme Theropod Richness of the Morrison Formation and the Unusual Theropod Specimens of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Martin Lockley, PhD, Emeritus, University of Colorado-Denver, A Review of Vertebrate Tracks from the Morrison Formation, Western USA

James Kirkland, PhD, Utah Geological Survey, The End of the Jurassic on the Colorado Plateau

John Foster, PhD, Museum of Moab, The Overshadowed: What Microvertebrates of the Morrison Formation Have Revealed to us about the Late Jurassic

Judith Totman Parrish, PhD, Emeritus, University of Idaho, Reconstructing Plant Ecosystems Semi-arid Paleoenvironments, with Reference to the
Morrison Formation

Matthew Mossbrucker, Morrison Natural History Museum, Revisiting Arthur Lakes’ Lost Quarries: Initial Survey of Undescribed Yale Peabody Jurassic Morrison Fossil Material Collected from Morrison, Colorado (1877-1879)

William Hay, PhD, Emeritus, University of Colorado-Boulder, Rethinking Mesozoic Environments

Erin LaCount, Dinosaur Ridge, The Dinosaur Ridge Quarries of Arthur Lakes

Malcolm Bedell, Western Interior Paleontological Society, Jurassic Podiatry: What Articulated Sauropod Feet Can Teach Us

Christopher Weege & Dave Schmude, Western Interior Paleontological Society, Jurassic Giants of the Powder River Basin, Wyoming: Recent Finds From the Morrison Formation

Beth Simmons, PhD, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Naming the “Morrison Formation”

Elliott Smith, University of Utah, A New Trace Fossil Assemblage Interpreted to be Produced by Social Insects from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Eastern Utah

More than 150 people attended “Journey to the Jurassic: Exploring the Morrison Formation,” which also featured an art gallery with work from more than 20 local natural science artists, exhibits from earth science organizations and government agencies, and displays of fossils from WIPS member collections.

Wayne Itano’s display on Helicoprion: The Spiral-Toothed Shark

The PaleoZone, WIPS’ club for young paleontologists, provided a display of favorite fossils

Dinosaur fossils from Johnson County, Wyoming, complementing the talk by WIPS members Chris Weege and Dave Schmude

An open-topic poster session is also part of each Founders Symposium. The poster session offers a forum for WIPS members to share information about their projects, for students in paleontology to gain experience developing and presenting scientific posters, and for recipients of WIPS Karl Hirsch Memorial Grants to report on their research. This year, The FOSSIL Project provided a poster, “FOSSIL – Social Paleontology Through Amateur and Professional Collaboration.”

WIPS hopes to make its symposium proceedings available online in the future. You can check out some video highlights of the 2017 symposium at:

The next WIPS Founders Symposium will take place in 2019. Watch for updates on the WIPS Founders Symposium Facebook page ( and the Western Interior Paleontological Society Facebook page (

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