PBS premieres dinosaur documentary in GJ

Dinosaurs the size of a house and clams as big as a dinner table might be a thing of the past in western Colorado, but for a small group of moviegoers at the Avalon Theatre on Wednesday, ancient history came alive.

Rocky Mountain PBS on Wednesday premiered an episode of “Colorado Experience,” its historical documentary TV series that dives into the history of dinosaurs and paleontology in Colorado.

The episode was filmed across Colorado, from Rabbit Valley to Cañon City.

Julia McHugh, curator of paleontology and site manager for Dinosaur Journey, said she enjoyed working with the PBS team and talking about one of the most notorious scientific feuds in history.

Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, who both discovered thousands of specimens in the 19th century, were also longtime competitors and enemies.

“I would compare it to the animosity of the current presidential election,” McHugh said. “Their feud both fueled scientific discovery and ruined them both.”

McHugh was joined by Robert Gay, curator of education at the Museums of Western Colorado, and Jonathan Cooley, a lecturer of geology and biology at Colorado Mesa University, for an informal panel with audience members after the show.

Cooley said that evidence of marine life in the Grand Valley isn’t just in the major discoveries.

“It’s not all giant skulls,” he said. “There’s fish scales that come of out the Bookcliffs or clam shell fragments in cliffs by the Colorado River.”

But the big finds are also thrilling, McHugh said, especially considering that western Colorado has undergone excavation for decades.

“There continue to be amazing discoveries every day in the Morrison Formation, which has been dug in earnest for over 100 years,” she said. “That’s one of the coolest things about this formation — that we’re still discovering those things.”

The most recent western Colorado discovery was the 140-million-year-old skull of an apatosaurus louisae, discovered by an 8-year-old Florida boy in Rabbit Valley this summer.

The episode premieres on Rocky Mountain PBS at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 12.


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