Speaker Series

The 2016 Speaker Series lineup is currently being established.  Please check back later for additional programs.


Lisbeth Louderback and Bruce Pavlik

The Archaeology and Conservation of the Four Corners Potato

Saturday, September 24 at 11 AM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

potato imageCould Utah be home to the earliest known domestication of a wild native plant? We have been examining that possibility through archaeological and botanical studies of the Four Corners potato (Solanum jamesii), a species found in southern Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The work has highlighted the importance of collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to complex problems in deep time.

Drs. Louderback and Pavlik predict that at certain archaeological sites there are remnant populations of this species, descended from strains that had once been subjected to domestication processes. With the demise of the cultural groups that originated and maintained them, these earliest crops ceased to exist and reverted back to what now appears to be wild.

Although once ubiquitous in Escalante (which the pioneers called “Potato Valley”), S. jamesii is now hard to find on the landscape. We are partnering with the USDA/ARS US Potato Genebank to incorporate population genetics into a conservation strategy for archeologically associated outposts of the species in the Four Corners region. By establishing the cultural significance and potential agronomic importance of S. jamesii we hope to facilitate conservation through better land management practices and local outreach.

Dr. Lisbeth Louderback is Curator of Archaeology at the Natural History Museum of Utah and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of Utah. Her research interests include archaeology and archaeobotany of the arid western North America. Dr. Bruce Pavlik is Director of Conservation at Red Butte Garden (University of Utah) and Principal Scientist at BMP Ecosciences. His research concerns conservation and restoration of native plants and ecosystems.


Christa Sadler

Deep Time on the Grand Staircase: 25 Million Years in the Life of Southern Utah During the Late Cretaceous

Saturday, September 24 at 3 PM – Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

Christa Sadler

Christa Sadler

Deep Time on the Grand Staircase explores the extraordinary world of southern Utah during the last part of the Age of Dinosaurs. From about 100 million years ago to 76 million years ago, the region was home to a diversity of plants and animals that seems impossible today: magnolias and smothering vines, conifers and sycamores played host to a menagerie of dinosaurs and crocodiles, turtles and lizards—and early members of the birds and mammals. While most of these creatures and plants would become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, at this point in time life was flourishing, and southern Utah appears to have been a cradle of diversity and evolution. Although we see the beginnings of our modern world in this time period, we also may be able to look into the future by examining the past. The extraordinary “greenhouse world” of the Late Cretaceous may have important information for our modern world in the context of a changing climate and changing ecosystems.

Christa Sadler is a paleontologist and educator, author, and wilderness and river guide with an enormous love for all things earth. She calls Flagstaff, Arizona her home base, but pretty much any river, trail, mountain or ocean is home. Her publications include There’s This River… Grand Canyon Boatman Stories (This Earth Press); Life in Stone (Grand Canyon Association); Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Petrified Forest Museum Association); and Deep Time on the Grand Staircase: Dinosaurs, Discovery, and the Late Cretaceous World of Southern Utah (Glen Canyon Natural History Association).  Check Christa’s website for more information: this-earth.com.