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Mammoth Opportunity For Paleontological Enthusiasts

Courtesy The Mammoth Site

Volunteers for The Mammoth Site Excavation and Preservation Program are in Hot Springs this month. Participants lend their assistance to the continuing scientific efforts at the world’s largest concentration of mammoth remains. SDPB’s Jim Kent stopped by to visit with two women who have been searching for bones at the active paleontological dig site for years.

Today’s South Dakota weather report says we’re expecting several days of very warm, humid weather, with heat indexes over 100 degrees.

If you’d like to work on an active paleontological dig site, but you’re not fond of heat and you’re looking for creature comforts…The Mammoth Site is THE place to go.

“I mean I’ve dug in Thailand…and Cambodia …at the top of a hill in central Rome.”

Credit Photo by Jim Kent
Excavation and Preservation Program volunteers Ruth Clemmer (l.) and Elizabeth Storms (r.) have each made discoveries at The Mammoth Site.

That’s former field archeologist Elizabeth Storms.

“And so to have air-conditioning and a building and the ability to have flush toilets nearby,” she observes, “it’s absolutely luxurious.”

But paleontological luxury isn’t the only reason Storms has been digging at The Mammoth Site since 2012 as part of the Excavation and Preservation Program.

“I love it,” Storms continues. “I love to dig. But the people here…it’s very much like a family.” 

Credit Courtesy The Mammoth Site
Mammoth Site Excavation and Preservation Program volunteer Elizabeth Storms discovered a tooth (in between the two pieces of aluminum foil) embedded in a skull at The Mammoth Site this year.

Director Jim Mead says the program staffed with volunteers has been offered at The Mammoth Site for decades.

“And what it is,” Mead explains “...is a way to get people who have other lives…they may be retired…they might be…who knows what kind of discipline that they were in. But now they want to spend a couple of weeks a year doing something totally different in looking at paleontology. So we’re available for that. And the neat thing is we don’t care what your background is…we don’t care what training you have or haven’t had…you’ll get it here. It’s on the job training.”

You may even get the opportunity to discover something and get your name in the scientific record books…just like Ruth Clemmer.

“In 2009,” Clemmer recalls, “on the last day of the dig…I discovered a skull. And I don’t even like to garden. So my last name being Clemmer….”

The new mammoth was christened “Clem”.

The retired auditor isn’t claiming to be a bone magnet but says she’s already found 11 ribs this year. Both she and Elizabeth Storms plan to continue digging for more year after year.

Related links:

The Mammoth Site


Smithsonian Magazine (April 2010) referencing Ruth Clemmer's discovery of "Clem"