“Golden eagle nests are typically clustered along prominent cliff faces adjacent to large, open foraging areas,” says Geologist Gretchen Hurley, the speaker at the next Draper Natural History Museum Lunchtime Expedition. The free lecture, titled From Ancient Rivers to Silent Cliffs: The Geomorphology of Golden Eagle Nesting and Hunting Habitats in the Bighorn Basin, takes place Thursday, April 5, 12:15 p.m. in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Coe Auditorium.
In her talk, Hurley explores recent research into the geological nature of sandstone cliffs preferred by golden eagles of the Bighorn Basin for nesting habitat, hunting, and as reconnaissance perches. Geomorphology—the study of the characteristics, origin, and development of landforms—looks at the formation of, and changes to, sandstone cliffs over time. Factors include geologic events like tectonic processes and the shaping of the landscape by wind and water.
“Golden eagle nests are typically clustered along prominent cliff faces adjacent to large, open foraging areas,” says Hurley. “These cliffs and sandstones also provide important habitat for other wildlife such as cottontails and other prey species, and result from a series of geological events which took place millions of years ago.”
The timely topic of Hurley’s talk ties in with the extensive golden eagle research conducted by the Draper Museum’s Dr. Charles R. Preston, Willis McDonald IV Senior Curator of Natural Science and Founding Curator-in-Charge. Curatorial Assistant Bonnie Smith has also studied the importance of sandstone cliffs as canvases on which ancient Native American artists have depicted wildlife, including Thunderbird forms. The Draper’s new exhibition on the golden eagle, Monarch of the Skies, opens June 10.
Hurley earned her bachelor’s degree in National Science and Mathematics, with a major in Geology, from the University of Wyoming in 1981. Her primary interests lie in environmental geology, botany, wildlife, and ecology. Over the course of her career, she has worked in synthetic fuels research for Western Research Institute in Laramie, in mining and reclamation in the Hanna and Powder River basins, and in oil and gas exploration throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
In the past, Hurley has served on the boards of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and the Wyoming State Board of Professional Geologists. In addition to her work as a geologist for the BLM’s Cody Field Office, she owns Hurley Geological Consulting.
The Lunchtime Expedition lecture series is organized by the Draper Natural History Museum and supported in part by Sage Creek Ranch and the Nancy-Carroll Draper Foundation. Learn more about the Center’s natural science programs at centerofthewest.org/explore/greater-yellowstone-natural-history, or contact Bonnie Smith at [email protected] or 307-578-4020.
The next talk in the series takes place May 3, when Preston presents The Eagle and the Rabbit—Predator and Prey in the Sagebrush Sea. Find the Center’s full calendar of events at centerofthewest.org/calendar.
Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For more information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s Facebook page. #100YearsMore