NPS Paleontology Research Abstract Volume


Rick Harris
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve
Nome, Alaska 99762

The fossil resources of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve are largely unknown. Coalified wood, isolated bones of Pleistocene mammals, leaves and insects have been observed during baseline survey work in the region. Thaw lakes and volcanic maars have been studied for plant microfossils and fossil pollen deposits. Most reports of fossil material from the preserve consist of isolated finds along rivers or beaches. Indications from other sites in the region are that of the fossil record protected in the preserve should be significant. Concentrations of mammal bones have been found nearby on private land. The northern Seward Peninsula, where the preserve lies, has not been glaciated for at least 100,000 years and the potential for preserved materials is high.

A series of volcanic eruptions have taken place over several million years and have left thick deposits of tephra to cover much of the preserve. The few areas where rivers, lakes or the ocean have eroded banks to expose potential fossil deposits remain largely unexplored. Limited work has been done with fossil pollens, but other reports of fossils are largely footnotes to other types of research.

As we complete baseline work on biological resources over the next few years, we will begin a specific survey to locate and document the paleontological resources of the preserve. The challenge is enormous. Of the 2.69 million acres of federal lands inside our boundaries, approximately 70% has potential for fossil resources. We have no roads for access and very few locations where a fixed-wing aircraft can land. Our initial efforts will be focussed on river courses and selected lakes and it will be decades before we have an adequate data base and appreciation for what we have.

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United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service