One of the great traditions of the Alf Museum is the Freshman Peccary Trip, when all Webb freshmen try their hands at fossil collecting. The rocks in the Barstow Formation, exposed in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, CA, date back to roughly 15 million years. Back then, the area was greener and cooler, populated by a variety of ancient horses, camels, elephants, dogs, and more. Webb and the Alf Museum have over 75 years of collecting at Barstow, and ours is an important collection frequently used by Webb students, Alf staff, and outside researchers. Over the past two weekends (first with the VWS trip and then the WSC trip), our crew continued to add to this rich record of California's past life.
Highlights of this year's peccary trips included:
- The discovery of lots of bones and teeth from horses and camels, as well as some rare teeth of what probably belonged to bone-crushing dogs (borophagines - even scarier than they sound). History teacher Mr. Allan found an excellent camel jaw, which most of us had walked right past (me included).
- In the evenings, we enjoyed a campfire with s'mores and time learning the traditions of the museum (including the Peccary Song). Science teacher Mr. Sittig brought out several telescopes, and we had spectacular views near (Saturn, Mars, Venus, and our own moon) and far (the Hercules Globular Cluster, approximately 25,100 light years away)
- The local reptile life is taking advantage of the balmy spring temperatures. Our camp had a surprise visit from a desert tortoise, as well as an exceptionally cute horned lizard!
These trips are organized with the assistance of science teacher Sadie Kingsbury, and museum director Dr. Don Lofgren provides additional paleontological support. Many of the freshman class advisors trekked out also, helping to organize food and gear, wrangle fossils, and more. And most of all, the students provided enthusiasm, adventurous spirit, and collecting efforts!
Andrew A. Farke, Ph.D. is the Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology located on the campus of The Webb Schools.