Members of the Utah Friends of Paleontology's Gastonia Chapter will be hosting the state group's annual meeting in Moab for the first time from Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 3. [Courtesy photo]

The Utah Friends of Paleontology will rendezvous in Moab for the first time at its annual meeting next month, giving locals an opportunity to explore sites and learn from experts about the dinosaurs that once roamed the area.

The group’s Gastonia Chapter and the Museum of Moab are hosting the April 1-3 event, which features paleontology talks, a poster session, field trips and a members’ banquet with a keynote speaker.

“Our area is so great for paleontology,” BLM Canyon Country District Paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster said. “We have the right-age rock exposed here. We have paleontologists from all over the world that come here to work.”

The conference will take place at the Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West, with presenters starting at 9 a.m.

“We have a good lineup of speakers,” Utah Friends of Paleontology state president and Moab resident Lee Shenton said. “Two-thirds of speakers will be regional-themed folks talking about dinosaur fossils and tracks in the Four Corners area.”

The Utah Friends of Paleontology is a statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1991, by 160 professionals and amateurs dedicated to education, research and preservation of paleontology resources in Utah. Local chapters are in Salt Lake City, St. George, Vernal and Moab.

The conference will kick off on April 1 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Moab with a registration and social gathering for members. Cost for the conference is $20 for members, and $25 for nonmembers, with $5 applicable to the cost of membership.

Earlier on April 1, at 1:30 p.m., there’s a grand opening of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite, 12 miles north of Moab off U.S. Highway 191, on Mill Canyon Road. There are more than 200 tracks at the site. Guided tours will be going on throughout the afternoon, BLM public affairs specialist Lisa Bryant said.

Fifteen professional paleontologists will give presentations on Saturday, April 2. Additionally, eight other professionals will present “poster sessions” throughout the day, with exhibits related to their own research on a broad range of topics – allowing attendees to interact with the researchers, Shenton said.

On Sunday, field trips will start with an optional guided tour of Moab Giants PaleoSafari Museum, about nine miles north of Moab on U.S. Highway 191. Two field trips will explore the Mill Canyon Tracksite before each group splits off to explore both the Chinle Formation, led by John Foster, Rob Gay and Andrew Milner, and the Cedar Mountain Formation, led by Jim Kirkland.

In the Chinle Formation, participants will explore two canyons that contain tracks, petrified wood, and the bones and teeth of archosaurs from the Late Triassic period.

The Cedar Mountain Formation trip will check out several sites west and north of Arches National Park, where fossils of Gastonia and Utahraptor dinosaurs and other creatures have been found.

Various scheduled talks include one about the first dinosaur tracks ever discovered out West – which was in Moab; new dinosaur fossil findings in Nevada; and a paleontologist from Spain who will talk about how dinosaurs there were similar to those that once inhabited Utah.

The local Gastonia chapter, which is three years old, meets on the last Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m., at Zions Bank, 330 S. Main St. The group generally has a short business meeting, followed by a guest speaker talking about various aspects of paleontology related to the region, Hunt-Foster said.

Annual dues are $10 for students, $15 for individuals, or $20 for family memberships. Seventy-five percent of dues go to support local paleontology efforts, and 25 percent of dues are distributed as grants for paleo programs.

Utah Friends of Paleontology to host dinosaur experts in Moab

: “Our area is so great for paleontology … We have paleontologists from all over the world that come here to work.”

When: Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 3

Where: Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West, plus field trips to other locations

Cost: $20 members; $25 nonmembers, with $5 applied toward 2016 UFOP Membership annual dues for people who choose to join the group. $29 for members-only banquet


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