I will begin my adventure at home. I have arranged for interviews two geologists, one who works with the Indiana Geological Survey and one with the Indiana State Museum. Hopefully they can help me with my mysterious soil samples! Next I will pack my bags and drive across the Mississippi to Nebraska’s Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park to observe 12 million year old fossils of rhinoceros, horse, and camel species that died due to dust inhalation from a volcanic eruption. From there I will drive to Dinosaur National Monument to see 138 million year old dinosaur fossils, and then Arches National Park to hike through rock arches that have been eroding since the extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Then I will make a stop in Capitol Reef National Park to witness rock strata spanning 200 million years of time. After making my way through the Rocky Mountains, I will enter Yosemite National Park to observe the results of 25 million years of uplift and glacial erosion and speak with a ranger about Yosemite’s geology. During the hikes in each of these places, I will record and narrate videos of my experiences. I will also record interviews with geologists and paleontologists who can share their expertise in these fields. Upon reaching the western shore of the continent, I will go to the La Brea tar pits where I will walk among ice age mammals that died there 11,000 years ago. A staff member at the Page Museum, has agreed to be interviewed for my blog. Then I will head back east through Death Valley, where I will see rock formations that date back 1.4 billion years, followed by a few days at the Grand Canyon where I will explore even older rocks! On the long haul home, I will make a few quick stops to stretch my legs and learn a little more. One in Carrizozo, NM to observe 5,000 year old lava flows, one at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument to observe how ancient peoples used the rocks in this area, and one at Alabaster Caverns State Park to tour caverns that formed in a shallow sea 200 million years ago. Again, at each location I will make videos and take pictures to document my hikes, and interview the specialists I make contact with this spring.
So, why did I ask the Lilly Endowment to support this journey? I believe that jumping around on the timeline of natural history through this journey will allow me to gain a new perspective through one of my favorite activities: travel. I find that travel can be the source of a great deal of understanding. Making invaluable personal connections with scientists will fuel my passion and increase the depth of my understanding, as well as provide my students access to a resource they currently lack. As a teacher I often have time to travel in the Midwest, but long journeys are expensive. Having the ability to get away for such a long time will allow me to travel much farther than I am accustomed to doing. It would be very rejuvenating to have the luxury of going all the way to the West Coast and stopping at so many of the National Parks along the way to explore the history of the continent. While I am no Einstein, I believe I share one of his traits. He once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Passionately curious is a perfect description of my personality, and receiving this grant will help me follow that passion for a few weeks and then share it with my current and future students to ignite their curiosity.