For Nanaimo born geologist Derek Cronmiller, the Yukon has been his home since 2016.
“My wife is from here and we decided that this would be a good place to settle down and raise a family,” says Cronmiller.
Now working as a permafrost geologist with the Yukon government, Cronmiller was with students from the University of Calgary on a separate project when he received an unexpected email about the discovery of a woolly mammoth.
“Just as we were loading up the car an email came out from Grant Zazula, the Yukon government’s Paleontologist, asking if anyone was in the region that could possibly come and help,” says Cronmiller.
Turns out that miners excavating permafrost had found the most complete and best-preserved remains of a woolly mammoth in North America.
“It was pretty breathtaking just to see this immaculately preserved baby mammoth that really sort of renders you speechless,” he said.
Cronmiller and his team were tasked with further examining the site where the mammoth was found to help gauge how old the calf was and to paint a picture of the geographical makeup of the area at the time of its death.
“We sent the U of C folks just along the base of the cliff to look for any other fossil material that they might find and we also had them collect samples of different organics in the area,” says Cronmiller.
“We can use radiocarbon dating to find out how old it is…but also you can use it to reconstruct the environment that the mammoth was found in.”
It was a discovery that helped bring together scientists, local first nations and miners alike.
“All of their land uses tend to have some overlap and conflict, so it was actually a really great moment of coming together to sort of celebrate something that’s really unique,” says Cronmiller.