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Prehistory of Greater Yellowstone Lecture Series

  • Buffalo Bill Center of the West 720 Sheridan Ave Cody, WY, 82414 United States (map)

Join the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Draper Natural History Museum, at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in beautiful Cody, Wyoming for our annual, three-part lecture series on Greater Yellowstone. Open and free to the public, this year we are bringing an exciting series focused on the prehistory of Greater Yellowstone, as seen through the eyes of three of the world’s foremost experts on the region. Lectures are designed to educate and inspire locals and visitors alike to the wonders of Yellowstone with a particular focus on the Absaroka-Beartooth mountain ranges and the Bighorn Basin. 

The lecture series will be held at the Draper Natural History Museum, the region’s premier resource for scientific knowledge on the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Draper is the ideal venue to explore questions about the prehistory of Yellowstone with the scientists that know it best. Each hour-long presentation will be followed by a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres.

Speaker & Topic

Dr. Bob Carson – The Ultimate Geologic Coincidence


Presentations take place at the Draper Natural History Museum, located at 720 Sheridan Avenue, Cody WY 82414.


6:15 p.m. – Presentation
7:15 p.m. – Cash bar and Hors d’oeuvres


Yellowstone National Park, the Bighorn Basin, Clarks Fork Valley, and the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains have rocks of every geologic period except the Silurian, starting with the 3.4 Ga gneiss at Quad Creek.  The rocks are plutonic, volcanic, metamorphic, and sedimentary, with Cambrian, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic, and Eocene fossils abundant.  Landforms of mass wasting, fluvial, glacial, and periglacial origin are diverse and widespread, together with tectonic, volcanic, weathering, karst, and eolian features.  Geologic highlights include a >2-billion-year nonconformity, tors and patterned ground at Beartooth Pass, Dead Indian Hill’s sackung in the Tensleep Sandstone, subaqueous moraines in Sunlight Basin, jökulhlaups from Glacial Lake Sunlight and other ice-dammed lakes, postglacial gorges, and carbonate breccia and rootless dikes of the Heart Mountain Detachment.  Does anywhere else on Earth have such great geologic variety in such a small area?


Bob Carson was born and raised in Lexington, Virginia. Mountaineering, whitewater boating, and spelunking in Rockbridge County, Virginia and during summers in northern New England sparked his interest in geology, which he studied at Cornell University. Bob earned an MS at Tulane University while employed by Texaco, exploring for petroleum in Louisiana and phosphate in Florida. His PhD research at the University of Washington led to positions with the Washington Department of Ecology and the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources.

Bob's teaching career began at North Carolina State University and then at the University of Oregon. He joined the faculty at Whitman College in 1975. He considers himself a Quaternary geologist. His advanced courses deal with late Cenozoic geologic history and climate change, surficial processes, and landform evolution. He has a half-time appointment in Whitman's environmental studies program, and is particularly interested in resources, pollution, forests, and the oceans. 

Bob has taught on the Semester-At-Sea program twice, and has directed foreign study programs in London, England, and in Asturias, Spain. Most of his research is on Quaternary geology in Washington, northeastern Oregon, northwestern Wyoming, and Mongolia. His books include Hiking Guide to Washington Geology, Where the Great River Bends, and East of Yellowstone. Many Waters, about the natural history of the Walla Walla area, is due out in 2015.