The following individuals are participating in the Castle Rock rainforest site.  You will find numerous volunteers on the project.  The Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) boasts the largest volunteer staff and total volunteer hours of any museum in the country.  This allows the DMNS to undertake research efforts out of reach to other museums who rely only on government funding, grants, ticket sales and membership.

Dr. Kirk Johnson, DMNS chair of the Department of Earth Sciences, curator of paleontology
Education: Ph.D. in geology and paleobotany (1989), Yale University; M.S. (1985), University of Pennsylvania; M. Phil. (1987); and B.A. (1982), Amherst College

Motivation/Goals: Joined the Museum in 1991.  Best known for his research on fossil plants, which is widely accepted as some of the most convincing support for the theory that an asteroid impact caused the extinction of dinosaurs.  During his tenure at the Museum, he has been instrumental in the planning, content and construction of the Museum's award-winning exhibition Prehistoric Journey. He has co-authored two books, "Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth" and "Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the past 300 million years of the Colorado Front Range."

Project Role(s): As DMNS chair of Earth Sciences and curator of paleontology, Dr. Johnson oversees many paleontology projects.  His recent research focuses on the fossil plants of the Denver Basin, and he has supervised excavations at more than 50 Denver area fossil sites, including the Castle Rock Rainforest, Denver International Airport and Coors Field.  He has authored papers on the findings at Castle Rock which appeared in publications such as the journal SCIENCE [1].  He's also been actively involved in presenting the Castle Rock findings to the scientific community at the Geological Society of America (GSA) [2] and other conferences.

Contact Information: Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Department of Earth and Space Sciences, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205-5798, phone: 303-370-6448, e-mail:

Beth Ellis, DMNS, Castle Rock Project Supervisor
Education:Coming Soon....

Motivation/Goals: Began volunteering at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in 1993 after completing the Museum's Certification Program in Paleontology. Working as a microelectronics engineer by day, she fulfilled her lifelong passion for research and fossils through field experiences with dinosaur bones, early mammal bones, trilobites and fossil leaves. 

Project Role(s): Project supervisor of the Castle Rock team.  Part of the original Castle Rock excavation team in 1994, Beth curated and performed the early analysis of the fossil collection. A recent trip to the Amazon gave her a first-hand look at a modern rainforest floor and provided comparison data for the Castle Rock fossils. Currently she leads the team of paleontologists and volunteers excavating and analyzing additional quarries at the Castle Rock site.  She co-authored a paper that was published in the journal SCIENCE [1] and presenting the team's findings to the scientific community at the Geological Society of America (GSA) [2].

Michele Reynolds, DMNS staff
Education: Coming Soon....

Motivation/Goals:  Became tired of her career in human resources.  Completed the DMNS paleontology certification program and volunteered at the museum for years before joining the staff of the Earth Sciences Department.

Project Role(s): Fossil excavation, cataloguing, morphotyping and research.

Contact Information:

Regan E. Dunn, DMNS staff
Education:  B.S. in biological sciences (1995) Colorado State University; M.S. in botany (expected graduation: Dec 2002) University of Wyoming 
Motivation/Goals:  Three and a half years ago, Regan joined the Denver Basin Project at DMNS as a geologic intern working on the Kiowa Drilling Project.  Since that time, she has dedicated herself to the study of Paleocene floras from the Hanna Basin in south-central Wyoming, and the coeval Castle Rock Rainforest.  Her primary research interests are biological evolution, biostratigraphy, ecosystem reorganization following extinction events, evolution of tropical rainforests, stratigraphy and sedimentology. 

Project Role(s): Stratigraphic/geological research, fossil excavation, and research.

Contact Information:

Steve Wagner, DMNS Volunteer
Education: M.S. in systems management (1989), University of Southern California; B.S. in computer science & mathematics (1985), Southwest Texas State University, Certificate in information systems (1989) from USC, Certificate in paleontology (in work) from Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Motivation/Goals:  Steve has had a lifelong interest in fossils and began the DMNS paleontology certification program in 2001.  He inquired about volunteer efforts in paleontology to explore his interests while on a "sabbatical from the working world" where he runs Wagner Database Solutions, Inc., an Englewood database consulting firm.  He jumped at the opportunity to work on the Castle Rock rainforest.

Project Role(s): Fossil excavation; trimming & wrapping; digital imaging; developer of this Castle Rock website.

Contact Information: paleo-at-paleocurrents-dot-com

Susan Echt, DMNS Intern Volunteer
Education: Working on B.S. at Colorado College.
Motivation/Goals: Susan is an intern at DMNS, while completing he education at Colorado College.

Project Role(s): Fossil excavation; trimming & wrapping; cataloguing

Contact Information:

Steve Wallace, paleontologist with CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation)
Education: B.S. in Geology (1975), College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia;  M.S. in Geological Sciences (1980), University of Colorado, Boulder.

Motivation/Goals: There has been a full-time permanent, in-house paleontologist at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) since 1979.  Steve joined CDOT as archaeological/paleontological survey supervisor in November of 1979 and has been the staff paleontologist since August of 1984.  He is a vertebrate paleontologist, and as a specialist in Eocene extinct odd-toed ungulates and late Pleistocene ground squirrels, has no use for dinosaurs.  Through his work with CDOT and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, he has, against his better judgment, learned to love plant fossils.

Project Role(s): CDOT paleontologist, discovered site in 1994, participates in fossil digs, directs excavation with CDOT backhoes, liaison between CDOT and DMNS.

Contact Information:

Rich Barclay, DMNS staff
Education: B.S. (1996), Western Washington University; M.S. University of Florida

Motivation/Goals: Fossil plants are amazing treasures. Denver Basin fossil plants may play a key role in understanding the dynamics of the K-T boundary extinction for the interior of the United States. The Denver Basin sediments and their entrapped fossils provide a unique window onto the landscape during this exciting interval of massive extinction 65.5 million years ago. Rich's ongoing research tries to uncover how the Denver Basin plant ecosystems fared in this global biological catastrophe.

Project Role(s): The Castle Rock rainforest is one of many fossil excavation sites Rich has been involved in with the Denver Basin project.  He participates in fossil excavations and research.

Contact Information:

Nicole Boyle, DMNS staff
Education: Coming Soon...

Motivation/Goals: Coming Soon...

Project Role(s): Fossil excavation.

Contact Information:

Jim Sundine, DMNS volunteer
Education: Coming Soon...

Motivation/Goals: Jim has had a long-time interest in fossils.  His daughter was one of the key designers of the Prehistoric Journey exhibit at DMNS.  He completed the Paleontology Certification Program at DMNS and is a very active volunteer.

Project Role(s): Wrapping fossils at the quarries, unwrapping and storing specimens in the DMNS collections.

Contact Information: Coming Soon...


1.  "A Tropical Rainforest in Colorado 1.4 Million Years After the Cretaceous-Tertiary Boundary", Kirk R. Johnson and Beth Ellis, SCIENCE, Vol 296, 28 June 2002.
2.  "A 64.1 MILLION YEAR OLD TROPICAL RAINFOREST FROM CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO", (ELLIS, Beth and JOHNSON, Kirk R), Session No. 188, October 30, 2002, Colorado Convention Center: A105/107 Geological Society of America (GSA), 2002 Annual Meeting & Exposition

For more on Castle Rock Rainforest related publications and presentations, see "Scientific Papers & Related Links".
[Created 08/02/2002]
[Last Updated: 03/22/2003]