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Help Publish "Dinosaur Frontier!"

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We are raising money for a popular book about Utah’s Lower Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation (working title: Dinosaur Frontier: Utah at the Dawn of the Cretaceous). If you’ve heard of Utahraptor, you already know a little about the formation, but there is a lot more to it than one dinosaur. This one formation alone is responsible for producing nearly half the known dinosaur taxa from Utah, which preserves the best record on the planet of this 45-million-year period in Earth history. The CMF is of enormous importance in helping us understand the evolution of many dinosaur lineages. It contains an extensive record documenting the evolution of landscapes, climate, and ecosystems in the region during a time that spans nearly a third of the Mesozoic. The Lower Cretaceous of Utah is the keystone to understanding the paleogeography of the northern hemisphere, and Utah’s dinosaurs help us date both the opening of the Atlantic Basin and the origins of Alaska.

Despite its importance, the Cedar Mountain Formation has really only been published on in scientific journals. Other than magazine and newspaper articles focusing on specific species, there is no popular literature about this formation and its fossils.
The timing couldn’t be better for this book. The public’s interest in dinosaurs is at an all-time high. Utahraptor State Park will be opening soon near Moab, UT, and one of the dinosaurs from the formation is being featured in the newest Jurassic Park film.
Author and paleontologist, Christa Sadler, MS, will write the book, with Dr. James Kirkland from the Utah Geological Survey as technical advisor. Sadler ( is the author of several popular books about the paleontology of the Colorado Plateau and the Southwest, including Life in Stone, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Where Dinosaurs Roamed.

Dr. Kirkland is the Utah State Paleontologist and has worked in and supported research in the Cedar Mountain Formation for more than three decades.

This book will follow a similar vein as Sadler’s other books: designed for an interested public, with diverse and plentiful graphics to illustrate the topic, and technically accurate and scholarly enough to be of interest to students and researchers in the field.
There are several potential publishers for this work, including University of Utah Press and Indiana University Press, both of which have put out numerous publications on the dinosaurs and paleontology of the region. We will, however, need to submit at least several chapters for consideration, if not the entire manuscript. We anticipate the manuscript will take roughly a year to complete.

How do you fit in? We will need money for the graphics that will make this a beautiful, fun, and educational book for the public. We will be contracting artwork for the book to bring the story to life. Paleoartists such as Jeff Martz, Brian Engh, Ron Blakey, Andrey Atuchin, and James Kuether have lent their considerable talent to several paleontological publications for a good reason: they are some of the best in the business. Their work is certainly an example of the importance of graphics in earth science publications—a picture is truly worth a thousand words when talking about geology and paleontology.
We have included for information in this campaign the original proposal for the book, with a preliminary table of contents and some examples of potential graphics.
Proposal for book about the Cedar Mountain Formation
Working title: The Dinosaurs of Cedar Mountain
Author: Christa Sadler MS, with James Kirkland PhD
Utah is celebrated for Mesozoic sedimentary rock layers and the fossils—especially the dinosaurs—they have yielded for more than a century. Particularly famous are the Jurassic fossils from places like Dinosaur National Monument and the Cleveland Lloyd Quarry, and the Late Cretaceous fossils of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Largely untold is the story of the Early Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation (CMF). In recent decades it has yielded a treasure trove of fascinating and exciting dinosaurs—this one formation alone is responsible for nearly half the known dinosaur taxa from Utah. The CMF is of enormous importance in helping us understand the evolution of many dinosaur lineages, and also contains an extensive record documenting the evolution of landscapes, climate, and ecosystems in the region during a time that spans nearly a third of the Mesozoic.
Figure illustrating the dinosaur taxa known from Utah before studies in the Cedar Mountain Formation on the left (1993) and at present (2017), on the right.
The Cedar Mountain Formation is distributed throughout eastern Utah and into westernmost Colorado, draping around Arches National Park, looping around the San Rafael Swell into Capitol Reef National Park, and in the area of Dinosaur National Monument. The formation was first defined by Utah geologist William Stokes in 1944 and 1952. It was originally believed to be part of the underlying Jurassic-age Morrison Formation; it wasn’t until the 1990s that geologists recognized its importance as representing the Early Cretaceous. Terrestrial rocks of this age are extremely rare; to be able to fill in this large gap in the Mesozoic history of North America has been truly exciting.
Dr. James Kirkland has been researching the formation for more than three decades, joined in this region by more than a dozen academic institutions and museums from across the country. Their research has revealed that Utah preserves the world’s best record of dinosaurs from this time period—spanning roughly 45 million years, from 142 to 97 million years ago. The results coming from the CMF have helped us piece together an extraordinary story of extinction, evolution, migration, and ancient geography and environments during a significant time in the history of life.
Paleontologists have found dozens of dinosaurs, including many new species and genera, in the Cedar Mountain Formation. Some of these include the oldest ornithomimid in the world (Nedcolbertia), the earliest member of the hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) lineage in North America (Eolambia), the oldest therizinosaur (sickle-claw dinosaur) in the world (Falcarius), and one of the oldest known troodont (bird-like theropod) dinosaurs in the world (Geminiraptor). The formation preserves the three oldest “raptor” species in the world, including the most celebrated: Utahraptor, a giant dromaeosaur most famous for vindicating Hollywood’s enormous Velociraptor in the initial "Jurassic Park." This fame, as well as the fascinating story of Utahraptor’s discovery (and the fact that it is only known from Grand County, Utah), instigated the creation of the new Utahraptor State Park near Moab, which will be opening in 2023.
There are a minimum of six distinct dinosaur faunas recognized from the formation; the changes in these faunas over time track the geographic connections between North America, Europe, and Asia throughout the Early Cretaceous.

In addition to dinosaurs, the CMF has also yielded fossils of a wide range of plants and other animals that help us understand the environments of the time. As an example, one member of the CMF contains one of the most diverse Mesozoic faunas in North America, with more than 100 taxa of different organisms identified thus far. According to a researcher from the Smithsonian Institution, samples from another member of the formation are yielding the most “exquisite pre-angiosperm Cretaceous pollen and spore assemblages” she has ever seen, which is a first for terrestrial strata in North America.

It is the perfect time for this book. The abundant findings from three decades of research have generated great interest in this time period. Add to that the creation of Utahraptor State Park and the development of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite (the most diverse dinosaur tracksite in North America), and the interest that Hollywood has taken (and continues to take, with CMF dinosaur Moros soon to be a star in Jurassic Park 3), and we have a perfect storm of information and interest in the story of Utah’s Early Cretaceous landscapes and faunas. We have the information, the public is intensely interested in all things dinosaur, and we have the ability to create extraordinarily detailed, accurate, and beautiful artwork and maps to bring this story to life.
We envision a book for the general public and for the educated layperson, one that could also be of interest for high school or college students. These audiences are not mutually exclusive; non-technical, clear writing along with accurate illustrations, maps, and photographs provides important information for all levels of training and understanding. This is a book that can be sold in visitor centers, museums, and bookstores throughout the region, including at the new Utahraptor State Park, Dinosaur National Monument, the Natural History Museum of Utah, Capitol Reef National Park, and elsewhere.
Dinosaurs of Cedar Mountain (working title)
© Christa Sadler
Introduction: Background in terms of geographic setting, original research in the Cedar Mountain Formation, introduction to locations, more recent researchers and research history, naming and importance of the formation, etc.
Home to Dinosaurs: An introduction to the region, the Colorado Plateau, and Utah’s importance in Mesozoic paleontology.
The Tools of Paleontology: Geologic Time, Rocks, Fossils and Fossilization: This chapter will provide general background information for the reader to help them understand geologic time and where the Early Cretaceous fits in that span; sedimentary rocks; and fossils and fossilization.
Paving the Way: Plate tectonic and paleogeographical setting of the Cedar Mountain Formation and, where necessary, reference to Jurassic and even Triassic events and life forms to orient the reader.
Life in the Cedar Mountain: moving from oldest (lowest) to youngest (highest)
o Yellow Cat Member: faunas, floras, environmental setting, important research and localities. This includes the two oldest Cretaceous dinosaur faunas in North America, which only exist in Grand County, Utah. The same processes that helped form Arches National Park were at work during the Cretaceous as well, creating a basin that didn’t exist anywhere else in North America. This means that these dinosaur faunas will never be found anywhere outside Grand County.
o Poison Strip Member: faunas, floras, environmental setting, important research and localities. This member documents the last land connections between North America and Europe.
o Ruby Ranch Member: faunas, floras, environmental setting, important research and localities. This member represents North America as an island continent.
o Mussentuchit Member: faunas, floras, environmental setting, important research and localities. This member is unique to Emery County, Utah, and documents the origin of what is now Alaska, a land connection between North America and Asia, and the origin of North America’s Late Cretaceous dinosaur faunas.
What are We Looking At? The overall importance of the Cedar Mountain Formation in understanding the story of the evolution of life on our planet and continent, and in adding to Utah’s (and the region’s) paleontological story. This chapter will include:
o Lessons from the Cedar Mountain Formation: what have we learned?
o Into the Future: How the CMF sets up for the Late Cretaceous and the Cenozoic
In addition to the chapters above, the book will include sidebars/smaller sections on specific species or localities of interest, and researchers and their work. Potential topics include:
Utahraptor and Jurassic Park
• The Suarez sisters
• Jim Kirkland
• Early Cretaceous plants and angiosperms
• Lindsay Zanno
• On raptors – types, sizes, lifestyles, why are they named “raptors,” etc.
As many researchers as possible will be interviewed and their voices incorporated into the story. Among others, these include: James Kirkland, Rob Gaston, Lindsay Zanno, Celina and Marina Suarez, Don DeBlieux, Rich Cifelli, Ken Carpenter, Pat Makovicky, Scott Madsen.
There are several exceptional illustrators and photographers whose work can be used for this book. The graphics are of particular importance; these will bring to life the fossils and the setting. Some possibilities include:
Ron Blakey – paleogeographic maps
James Kuether – reconstructions of scenes, animals and plants
Jeff Martz – reconstructions of individual animals, family trees, simplified geological diagrams, etc.

 Jim Kirkland – maps, simplified stratigraphic columns, etc.

Brian Engh – reconstructions of animals and scenes – doing some artwork for the new Utahraptor State Park
AUTHOR: Christa Sadler, MS trained as a paleontologist at the University of California Berkeley and Northern Arizona University. She has worked at the Museum of Northern Arizona and with several groups doing paleontology in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, and California. She has a Master’s degree in Earth sciences from Northern Arizona University and is the author of several books, including: Life in Stone – Fossils of the Colorado Plateau; Dawn of the Dinosaurs – The Late Triassic in the American Southwest; and Where Dinosaurs Roamed – Lost Worlds of Utah’s Grand Staircase.
TECHNICAL ADVISOR: James Kirkland, PhD received his doctorate from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1990. He has been the Utah State Paleontologist since 1999. He has worked for more than three decades on the Cedar Mountain Formation, conducted research in every national park on the Colorado Plateau and throughout the southwestern United States, Mexico, Asia, and Europe. He has been responsible for finding and naming 23 new genera of dinosaurs and has authored nearly 100 professional papers.


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Fundraising team (3)

Christa Sadler
Flagstaff, AZ
James Kirkland
Team member
BJ Nicholls
Team member

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