John Day River


Anne Mitchell 
Oregon Paleo Lands Institute 
541 763 4480 


Thursday November 11, 2010 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM PST

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World Trade Center Portland 
121 SW Salmon Street
Portland, OR 97204

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About OPLI

Our Mission:
Promote, Protect, and Educate about Oregon's ancient and living landscapes including the
Earth's most accessible place to view the past 50 million years of life, while supporting the rural communities of the John Day Basin.
We work to fulfill our mission through three Core Objectives            
Promote Public Awareness of the World Heritage Landscapes of the John Day Basin.
Reconnect Adults, Children, and Families with the Natural World and Natural Resources.
Help to Bridge Oregon's Rural Urban Divide 
Learn more

Oregon's World Renowned Scientific Treasure: The John Day Basin

    thursday, november 11, 2010   

You are invited to a very special symposium and reception 
hosted by the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute.
Please join us for an afternoon of dynamic educational presentations
for educators, students, and the general public on Understanding Ancient Oregon, Learning About Ecological Change, Bridging the Urban/Rural Divide, and Building Educational Tourism in the John Day Basin.  An evening reception will feature fine food and beverage. OPLI Board Chair Kevin Campbell will talk about the mission and work of OPLI , and Dr. Vicki McConnell, Director of the Oregon State Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, will discuss "Geology, Ecology and Economy, and the John Day Basin."  Dr. Robert Lillie will also share a recap of his Keynote presentation, "Oregon's Dynamic Landscapes: Beauty and the Beast."  

3:00 - 5:00 p.m.  Educational Presentations
 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.  Reception & Program  


Featured Presentations   3:00 - 5:00 pm

Keynote: Oregon's Dynamic Landscapes: Beauty and the Beast
Dr. Robert Lillie, Professor of Geology and Certified Interpretive Trainer,

 Geosciences Department, Oregon State University

The same forces that threaten our lives with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis also nourish our spirits by creating the magnificent mountains, valleys, and coastlines of the Pacific Northwest. This talk presents Oregon’s dynamic landscape and discusses the value and need for collaboration in informal educational programs, exhibits and training. It features plate tectonics, natural hazard monitoring programs, and examples of public interpretive programs in the John Day Basin and statewide. Oregon has a wealth of dramatic landscapes—Crater Lake, Cape Perpetua, Silver Falls, Newberry Volcano, the Columbia Gorge, to name just a few—that are preserved and showcased as parks, monuments, and other special places. Such beauty was formed, and is continually modified, by geological processes that also unleash the beast of earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and volcanic eruptions. Interpretive programs and exhibits that incorporate geological features and processes are vital to help the public enjoy Oregon’s scenic destinations, appreciate how geology relates to Oregon’s natural and cultural history, and understand how individuals and communities might mitigate the impact of geological hazards.

Dr. Robert J. Lillie has been a Professor of Geology at Oregon State University since 1984, where he teaches courses in physical geology, oceanography, tectonics, geophysics, geological writing, and public interpretation. He is author of “Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments, and Seashores” (W. W. Norton and Company, 2005) and is a Certified Interpretive Trainer (CIT) through the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). In 2007 he became the Manager of Education and Outreach for EarthScope, a nationwide program of the National Science Foundation ( Bob was born and raised in the Cajun Country of Louisiana. He has a B.S. in geology from the University of Louisiana–Lafayette, and an M.S. in geophysics from Oregon State University. He worked three years in oil exploration in the Rocky Mountains before earning a Ph.D. in geophysics from Cornell University. Bob’s research is focused on the geological evolution of mountain ranges formed by the collision of continents, including the Himalayas in India and Pakistan and the Carpathians in Central Europe. He is also author of “Whole Earth Geophysics: An Introductory Textbook for Geologists and Geophysicists” (Prentice Hall, 1999),
used in college courses in the U. S. and other countries. Since 1994 Bob has collaborated with the National Park Service (NPS) on educating the public in geology. He has been a seasonal interpretive ranger at Crater Lake and Yellowstone national parks and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and he and his graduate students write and illustrate geology-training manuals for NPS sites across the country. Bob has presented seasonal training on geology at many parks, as well as workshops at annual NAI meetings. At the 2005 Geological Society of America meeting, Bob was presented an award from the NPS Geological Resources Division for “outstanding contributions in engaging the National Parks staff and visitors in geoscience.” Bob has done numerous bicycle tours of the U.S., Ireland, the Alps, Central Europe, and Scandinavia, and he is an accomplished photographer and Cajun cook. (

Hot to TROTT: Engaging schools, students, and the public with local landscapes
Dr. Ellen Morris Bishop, Geologist, Author, and Photographer

Geology ranks among the most challenging subjects to teach. Despite its universal proximity, People are generally unfamiliar with basic concepts, terms, and materials, may consider geologic time and evolution as contentious and unproven “theories”, and assume that the stuff they walk on is “just a rock.”   By connecting with the compelling stories of local and familiar formations, geology can come to life.  The HOT to TROTT method (Hands-On Teaching: Tactile, Real, Observational/experiential, Tangible Results, Teachable understandings) engages students and public alike in discovering, constructing, and teaching about the secret lives of stones.  This method also provides support to interpretive facilities, practical, tangible outcomes, and raises expectations for student achievement to real-world standards. Careful planning provides strong links to multiple curricula, reinforcing required learning, and also making abstract subjects relevant.  Examples include the OPLI Plesiosaur Project, and CGCC Discover Gorge Geology curricula.

Ellen Morris Bishop is a geologist, writer, photographer and teacher who has served as OPLI’s Executive Director and Programs Director. She earned a PhD at Oregon State University, and studied photography at the San Francisco Academy of Arts. Her research interests focus on PNW crustal evolution.  An advocate for public understanding and involvement with geology, she has written and photographed award-winning books about the PNW and worked in exhibit/interpretive development & design as well as teaching.  Presently she teaches and develops courses at Columbia Gorge Community College, and is starting a new venture to provide photography and geology-based interpretive services to museums, companies, and individuals: Terranes: Imaging and Interpreting the Earth.;

 The Artful Disciplines of Place and Commons
Dr. Kip Ault, Professor of Education, Graduate College of Education and Counseling, Lewis and Clark College

Sense of place most commonly refers to feelings of attachment, accompanied by the promise of renewal, to particular landscapes and the memories that inhabit them.  Places inspire caring; places hold aesthetic appeal.  Metaphorically, places exist in the mind—places of valued thinking, of understandings well trusted, where imagining and reasoning work in tandem.  The mind seeks these places when confronted with challenge and confusion.  Similarly, knowledge of place inspires the heart to commitment through the vivid depiction of local stories.  Things connect; coherence deepens.   No matter how tiny the thread that crosses a place, it weaves its way well beyond parochial significance.  Disciplined thinking from necessity neglects some things in order to see others more clearly.  What places in the mind may comfortably reduce by analysis, complexities of stories about real places restore to wholeness.  Vividness enabling empathy; particulars connected to universals; coherence from linking feelings to thinking:  these are Elliot Eisner’s criteria of artistry that discipline a sense of place, whether as metaphor of mind or site on the earth.  When joined to a second idea—Elinor Ostrom’s “governing the commons”—place contributes knowledge of what to value and how to achieve these values, for places range from the sacred to the commercial.  Democratic governance requires direction as well as guidance; something cared about as well as trusted knowledge about getting there.  Governing the commons depends first upon caring and secondly upon reliable knowledge, widely shared and artfully disciplined —an essential purpose of public education.

Once an elementary school teacher with a degree in history, Charles “Kip” Ault earned his doctorate in Science & Environmental Education at Cornell University. His dissertation on children's grasp of geological time continues to influence his career--most recently in collaborating with scientists designing a "Trail of Time" along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  At Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School, Kip teaches courses in the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program that emphasize how interpreting landscapes may integrate several fields of inquiry. His interests include the biodiversity of Costa Rica where he has worked with Proyecto Campanario to promote local conservation initiatives. His field-oriented classes have traversed North Central and Eastern Oregon for more than two decades.  He encourages teachers to promote a sense of place while at the same time demonstrating how scientists think about particular problems.  In his most recent work, Kip has explored using whimsical literature to introduce elementary school teachers to the imagery needed to comprehend important scientific concepts.

Integrating paleontology research with higher education:
hands-on-geology in eastern Oregon
Dr. Samantha Hopkins, Asst. Professor of Geology, University of Oregon

The Geological Sciences department at the University of Oregon places a heavy emphasis on field-based education of our undergraduate students, both for geology majors and students taking our classes from other specialties. In my teaching, I use the remarkable diversity of Oregon’s geologic landscape to help students form a concrete understanding of the concepts we deal with in class. My research program in paleoecology of Oligocene and Miocene mammals allows me to integrate these student field experiences with progress on my research, an approach which also helps them to improve their understanding of scientific process.  Teaching students of all levels, from freshman non-science majors to senior geology majors, has provided benefits for the students, for paleontological research at the University of Oregon, and for the administration of fossils on public lands.  These experiences send students out into the world with an appreciation for nature and for “Deep Time,” and with an understanding of the scientific process that is far more concrete than what they would gain from canned laboratory exercises.  The relationship between higher education and Oregon’s public lands offers an excellent venue for improvement of science education for scientists and non-scientists alike at the university level.

The impacts of Cenozoic climate and habitat changes on small mammal communities Dr. Joshua Xavier Samuels, Curator /Paleontologist, John Day Fossil Beds N.M.

Paleoclimatic records show a general trend of global cooling and increased aridity through the Cenozoic. These climatic changes correspond with a large scale environmental shift from predominantly forest to more open habitats. Previous studies of large herbivorous mammals show morphological, ecological, and community structure changes corresponding with environmental changes. Here I use the North American fossil record of small herbivorous mammals, rodents and rabbits, to improve our understanding of the history of terrestrial communities. Rodents with adaptations for burrowing and jumping reflect more open environments, and higher crowned teeth reflect increased aridity and the presence of grasses. The origin and subsequent radiation of rodents with these locomotor and dietary adaptations corresponds with environmental changes. These data suggest that, in contrast to large mammals, smaller mammals responded very quickly to environmental changes.

My primary research interests lie in the broad fields of vertebrate paleontology and evolution. My dissertation research was designed to aid in reconstruction of past ecosystems and in understanding of the evolution of rodents. Rodents are the most species rich group of mammals, live in nearly every terrestrial habitat on earth, and display diverse locomotor and dietary adaptations. Relative to larger mammals, rodents tend to have more localized populations, shorter dispersal distances, and shorter generation times. Consequently, rodents are likely to adapt more rapidly to changing conditions, making them very informative as to the timing and magnitude of environmental changes over the Cenozoic. I am currently working on several collaborative projects in the areas of evolution and paleoecology. These include: 1) the evolution of burrowing and semi-aquatic mammals, 2) the evolution of mammalian body size, and 3) the differing responses of large and small mammals to past and future climate change.
 2001   B.Sc., Biology – College of Idaho
2007   Ph.D., Biology – University of California, Los Angeles
Dissertation: Paleoecology and Functional Morphology of Beavers (Family Castoridae)