Episode 55 – Making Space for Fossils

An interpretive hike guide at the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds in 2016.

In this episode, we travel to the Burgess Shale: a set of incredible fossil beds in Yoho National Park, preserving 500-million-year-old soft-bodied sea creatures. Today, it is part of a huge World Heritage Site: it has expanded to encompass all of Yoho National Park here in BC, Jasper and Banff, Kootenay, and three BC provincial parks. But back in 1980, the Burgess Shale sites at the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds and the Walcott Quarry became the first little nucleus of that World Heritage site.

We find out how these fossil sites ended up on that list, what kind of information and evidence and argument were used to lobby for a spot, how it changed this space, and what it all means.

This episode is a recording of a short talk Chris gave on March 25, 2022, called Making Space for Fossils: How the Burgess Shale Claimed a Spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The presentation was part of the University of Alberta History, Classics, and Religion Graduate Students’ Association’s annual conference. This year’s theme was Recovery: Promises and Pitfalls.

two men talk on a lot of loose shale on a mountainside
Chris and Finn hiking on the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds (Photo: Kyla Tichkowsky)

Some parts of the talk refer to pictures and videos, which you can find in this PowerPoint Presentation with all the slides.

Ovatiovermis fossil feeding motion – Royal Ontario Museum
(A visualization of the fossil organism whose second specimen was found by a visitor on a Burgess Shale hike)

Further Reading:

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