A brief history of how the Denver
Basin Project came to be.
In the 1980s, Bob Raynolds was in the
Himalaya, reading the rock record preserved in the foothills to
learn how the mountains grew. Meanwhile, Kirk Johnson was studying
the evolution of plants in western North America with a particular
focus on the effects of the cataclysmic event that wiped out the
dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. As time passed, Kirk expanded
his research efforts, joined the Denver Museum of Natural History,
and traveled the globe learning more about the last days of the
Cretaceous. Bob worked with oil exploration companies, moved to
Denver, and maintained his interest in the geological record of
These paths were set to converge as Bob studied the geological record
of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in his backyard and realized
that he needed to know more about the vegetation that mantled the
ancient landscapes; at the same time, Kirk was burrowing deep in
the trenches being dug for the new Denver airport and finding fossilized
remains of rainforests. How many rainforests were there? How long
did they persist in the Denver area? How old were they? Bob had
some answers to Kirk's questions and Kirk had some answers to Bob's.
As so often happens in scientific research, the whole can be greater
than the sum of the parts when the parts are effectively merged.
Later, as Kirk and Bob developed the research program that would
help them jointly answer questions about the Denver Basin, they
realized that the same rocks they were studying contain the water
resources being used by the residents of the rapidly growing area
south of Denver. Stan Robson from the United States Geological Survey
had spent many years working on the groundwater resources of the
Denver area and was intrigued by the questions being posed by Kirk
and Bob. He encouraged them to consider studying the groundwater
aquifers and suddenly found himself on board the project coordinating
the water research efforts.
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