Public Release: 

A rainforest in Denver? Kirk Johnson debuts new findings on city's natural history

American Association for the Advancement of Science

DENVER, CO--Local celebrity-scientist Kirk Johnson, of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) will give a topical lecture discussing his surprising discovery of a 64.1-million-year-old rainforest that grew in the Denver Basin, following the demise of dinosaurs. His findings, which may help Denver urban planners and researchers to manage groundwater, are expected to debut during his lecture on Sunday, February 16 at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

The Denver Basin Project, funded by the DMNS and the National Science Foundation, has already made numerous notable discoveries, including those of fossil sites at the Denver International Airport and Coors Field, and a partial Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at a suburban house site. His latest discovery of the rainforest, arguably one of the oldest-known on earth, will provide answers to key questions concerning ancient landscaping, and will be instrumental in aiding scientists to predict both the location and amount of groundwater available to the expanding population.

A series of 13 paintings of the vanished landscapes uncovered by his research, collectively known as Ancient Denvers, are now on display at the DMNS. These paintings are accompanied by a Web site (available at: and the popular book, of which Johnson is lead author, Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the past 300 million years of the Colorado Front Range.

Johnson also served as lead author of Prehistoric Journey: A history of life on Earth. He is best known for his research on fossil plants that supports the hypothesis that an asteroid impact caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Currently, Johnson is the curator paleontology and head of the Department of Earth Sciences at the DMNS and is collaborating with artist Jan Vriesen to create a series of ten 8 x 10 foot paintings of ancient Colorado landscapes for installation in the new Colorado Convention Center in 2004.

Press Briefing with Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum
Rainforests, Dinosaurs and Denver's Drinking Water: The Odd Urban Geology of the Denver Basin

Monday, February 17, 2003 11:30 AM

Colorado Convention Center, Denver CO
Room C110-112


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