|Oregon Paleo Lands Institute Field Center is located in their new Field Center, designed by Pan Abode Homes, in the town of Fossil, at the heart of the John Day River area in Central Oregon. The tributary network of the John Day River Basin has cut the high desert terrain
exposing millions of years in layers of geologic history. In 2003, a group of Paleontologists discovered part of a large skull in Cretaceous-period rocks near Mitchell, Oregon. It belonged to a Plesiosaur ~ a 25-foot long marine reptile that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs, about 80 to 90 million years ago. It was the Tiger of the Cretaceous Seas. It was one of the top predators of the ocean, and among the fastest swimmers. This fossil, while a reptile not directly related to dinosaurs, is the most charismatic animal of the Age of Dinosaurs found in Oregon or the Northwest. At the time that this creature existed the high desert of Central Oregon was the
seabed and shoreline of the continent.
Rural schools have an extraordinary opportunity to
engage their students with the ancient and living
landscapes just outside their doors. Their small class sizes and multi-generation connection with the land
provide good incentive to bring the classroom outside and to connect curricula with the real world through
multi-disciplinary approaches to learning.
OPLI saw an opportunity to engage the imagination and energy of the K-12 Mitchell School classes in creating a display for the Field Center and a book to be published that would bring the toothy predator to life, as well as connect students with regional geology and
paleontology. OPLI worked with the Mitchell School classes to bring “Plessy” back to life in the development of a book, and an exciting exhibit built by the school, with the help of OPLI, artists and scientists. The result is a highly professional and educational presentation of the life and habitat of the Plesiosaur on display at OPLI.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit central Oregon, it would be a tremendous experience to explore Oregon’s geologic and natural heritage with Oregon Paleo Lands Institute. You can connect with OPLI at their “home base” in the town of Fossil, Oregon, at the center of the John Day River Basin. Visit the OPLI web site at www.paleolands.org or call them at (541) 763-4480.