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Denver W. Fowler

Museum of the Rockies
600 W Kagy Blvd
Bozeman MT, 59717
Phone: (406) 994-3170
Fax: (406) 994-2682



Welcome to Denverfowler.com. I'm a British Palaeontologist (and adventurer!) working towards my PhD under Prof. Jack Horner at the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana USA. I specialise in field palaeontology (especially dinosaurs, see my field photos), and research on dinosaur paleobiology. Another of my interests is public access and awareness of scientific knowledge, encouraging wide-appeal museum displays or media projects, and making time for non-professionals with interests in the sciences. I try to write my articles with minimal amounts of jargon.

IN THE PRESS: "Circle of life" SVP2013 talk in The Economist

Our recent Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting presentation has made some press:
click to read article in The Economist


Professional Affiliations:
Research interests:


A list of publications & presentations, with abstracts, pdf downloads, and enlarged figures, can be found here.

My research focuses in two areas: palaeontology and stratigraphy. I try to take a novel perspective on solving problems, utilising the Unified Frames of Reference (UFR) methodology encouraged at the Horner paleo lab. This involves a "total approach", taking into account the often overlooked effects of stratigraphy and ontogeny.


My palaeontological research focuses on dinosaur palaeobiology: gleaning information from the fossil record that can reveal how dinosaurs lived. Some specific research areas include:

Claws- A series of recent projects investigated claw morphology and function in dinosaurs. This includes an initial investigation of claw use in living birds of prey (Fowler et al., 2009), leading to our suggestion of a new predatory behaviour model for dromaeosaurid dinosaurs (Fowler et al., 2011), which includes proposal of the "flapping first" model for the origin of flight. Another project (Fowler & Hall, 2011) investigated nest excavation behaviour in sauropod dinosaurs by comparison to claw morphology and nest excavating behaviour in modern tortoises. A few follow-ups are in preparation, including testing functional hypotheses of sauropod and baryonychid claws.
Sauropods- Our recent article (Fowler & Sullivan, 2011) describes new material of the sauropod Alamosaurus from New Mexico, revealing it to be the biggest dinosaur from North America, and as large as some of the giants found in Argentina! Coauthorships include a recent undergraduate project demonstrating how neural spines bifurcate through ontogeny in diplodocid sauropods (Woodruff & Fowler, 2012), and papers describing sauropod material collected when I worked in China for the Sino-German expedition (various; see publications). Works in progress include description of rebbachisaurid and titanosauriform material from the Isle of Wight, UK, and further research on neural spine bifurcation.
Ceratopsids- As part of the Hell Creek Formation project, I have been working with John Scannella to plot the stratigraphic distribution of Triceratops, revealing morphologic trends through time (NAPC 2009 abstract). Hell Creek fieldwork has also turned up many new specimens of Triceratops which I am helping describe, including a large sample of toothmarked bones (similar to a specimen I described from New Mexico; Fowler & Sullivan, 2006). I am also describing two new taxa of chasmosaurine from New Mexico (which I presented at SVP 2010).
New Mexico- For many years I have worked with Dr. Robert Sullivan describing Late Cretaceous vertebrate fossils that I have helped collect from the San Juan Basin of New Mexico (in fact, in 2010 Dr.s Sullivan & Lucas were kind enough to name a dinosaur after me; Ojoceratops fowleri from the Naashoibito Mbr of the Ojo Alamo Fm). In addition to the new ceratopsid remains alre ady mentioned, we have described new pterosaur (Sullivan & Fowler, 2011) and ankylosaur (Sullivan & Fowler, 2006) material from the Kirtland Formation. I've also coauthored on the controversial stratigraphy of the Naashoibito (Lucas et al., 2009; Koenig et al., 2012)

My stratigraphic research constructs chronostratigraphic frameworks within which to study dinosaur paleobiology.

Continental scale- Since 2005 I have been working on a comprehensive stratigraphic chart of all fossiliferous North American Late Cretaceous (Santonian-Maastrichtian) terrestrial units (an expansion of my New Mexico work with Dr. Robert Sullivan). The chart encompasses recalculated radiometric dates, high-resolution magnetostratigraphy, and invertebrate biostratigraphy in order to plot stratigraphic ranges of dinosaurs and other terrestrial vertebrates (I intend to add all taxa eventually). I presented a preliminary version of this chart at SVP2006 (see publications). This project will eventually be published, and become a chapter of my PhD thesis.
Regional scale- Another large component of my PhD concerns the stratigraphy of the Hell Creek Formation, Montana, and regional equivalents, using sequence stratigraphy and biostratigraphy to interpret relative age (see NAPC 2009 abstract). With a high resolution chronostratigraphic framework in place we are better able to place fossil specimens stratigraphically, which has already helped explain some of the morphologic patterns we see in Hell Creek dinosaurs.

Research co-authors include: University of California Museum of Paleontology (Berkeley CA, USA); State Museum of Pennslyvania (Harrisburg PA, USA); New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Albuquerque NM, USA); New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources (Socorro NM, USA); Appalachian State University (Boone NC, USA); Black Hills Institute of Geological Research (Hill City SD, USA); United States Geologial Survey (Denver CO, USA); University of Oregon (Eugene OR, USA); Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology (Drumheller AB, Canada); Southern Methodist University (Dallas TX, USA); Universität Tübingen (Tübingen, Germany); Universität Bonn (Bonn, Germany); Humboldt-Universität (Berlin, Germany); Johannes Gutenberg-Universität (Mainz, Germany); Jilin University (Changchun, China).

Peer reviews conducted for: Paleobiology; PLoS One; Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology; Palaios; Bulletin of the Yale Peabody Museum; Journal of Ornithology; Ibis; Ornithological Science; Anatomia, histologia, embryologia; Indiana University Press, Bulletin of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.



A lot of my research has its origins in field observations, gained over 20+ years experience in various formations. I have specialised in prospecting and identification of terrestrial vertebrates, especially dinosaurs, which I have been digging up since about 1993. Fieldwork is a good way to develop an appreciation of diversity and completeness of the fossil record that is not obvious from studying museum collections.

Click here for lots of photos of my fieldwork, including fossils and geology




I have been significantly involved in a couple of TV projects on dinosaurs, and have given scientific consultation on other programmes:

    Feb-Dec 2005: specialist researcher for Impossible Pictures (London , UK) on Prehistoric Park (ITV1 / Animal Planet). [more information]   2001: Digsite leader on Live from Dinosaur Island (BBC1): a week-long series of live broadcasts from the Isle of Wight , UK. [more information]  

I also co-manage the Horner Paleo Lab Facebook page, and help prepare press materials. I dabble in scientific illustration, with a couple of drawings published (you can see some of my drawings here), and have worked freelance as a scientific editor on a series of children's books on dinosaurs.

Send me a dinosaur postcard!

Museum work :

EXHIBITS- From 2008-2009 I helped renovate and redesign the geology & fossil exhibits at Makoshika State Park visitor center (Glendive, eastern Montana; Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks), for which I recieved this awesome thank you letter from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. The new exhibit opened summer 2009 and includes lots of new fossils from the park (mainly Hell Creek Formation, hence my involvement).


COLLECTIONS- During my time at the Museum of the Rockies (2007-) I have performed various duties in collections, including curation, proper storage & preservation, and the design and implementation of a new SQL database. I also have main responsibility for collection and arrangement of field data for the Hell Creek Formation crew.


PREPARATION-I trained as a preparator at the Dept. Earth Sciences, University of Bristol (2000-2001). Aside from my work at Bristol, I have prepared specimens for Dinosaur Farm Museum, Isle of Wight (1996-2006), Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman MT; Sandown Museum (now Dinosaur Isle), Isle of Wight; the Sino-German expedition to China; and the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg PA.

See 'Fossil Preparation' for more details.


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