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Denali Dinosaur Dance-floor: Capturing a Mega-tracksite with Terrestrial Lidar for science, education and preservation

  • Principal Investigators:
    Tony Fiorillo (Museum of Nature and Science), Linda Stromquist (National Park Service)
  • UNAVCO Engineer: Brendan Hodge
  • Dates: August 2011
  • Location: Denali National Park, Alaska, USA
  • Funding Source: The National Park Service

Written by Brendan Hodge


Over two weeks in August, 2011 a team of scientists from three countries and four institutions collaborated on a field expedition to map, collect samples and identify dinosaur footprints and other trace fossils within a Late Cretaceous age outcrop located in Denali National Park. UNAVCO provided, equipment, logistical, and technical support for collecting a terrestrial lidar data set of the exposed dinosaur "dance floor". The site is located on a high relief ridge near Cabin Peak in Denali National Park. Several flights with the NPS A-Star helicopter were required to transport the field equipment, supplies, and personnel to the site. Field work occurred over seven days and required the team to climb to the study site and descend the mountain each day to reach an appropriate camp site near running water. The weather during the filed trip presented challenges to the TLS survey. Rain, sleet, snow and wind gusts up to 50 knots prevented the equipment from opperating on several of the field days.

Paleoecology of
Denali's Dinosaurs [PDF] »

Distibuted by Denali National Park and Preserve


The Cabin Peak "dance floor" is considered by experts as a major find in terms of the quantity of tracks at the site and the preservation quality of the tracks. In fact, some foot prints are so well preserved that dinosaurs skin impressions can be seen in several of the footprints. At the Cabin Peak track site there exists thousands of tracks of a hadrosaur (duck-billed plant eater) and its young, tracks from different-sized theropods (meat-eaters), and numerous plant and animal trace fossils. Trace fossils give information about the paleoecology and climate at the time of deposition.

The Cabin peak site along with several other sites in Denali National Park, are considered by paleontologists to contain a very sigificant resorce of dinoursour fossil information that is rivaled within the Park Service only by Dinousaur National Park. The outcrop contianing the dinosaur footprints has been exposed by an active landslide and is in danger of destruction by another landsliding event. In order to preseve this important site, a TLS survey colleted a three dimensional map of the site at sub-centimeter resolution. The TLS data essentially preserves the study site and will provide educational exhibits and models for researchers and students to study for many years to come.


Last modified: 2020-02-03  20:49:04  America/Denver