EVENT: To the Roof of Isla Monserrat--FREE!

Posted by Adventure 16 | 03.30.2016


Join Dr. Markes E. Johnson in celebration of the release of his latest contribution to scientific literature regarding the natural history of Mexico’s Sea of Cortés region. Gulf of California Coastal Ecology: Insights from Present and Patterns from the Past, co-authored with Johnson’s field partner, Jorge Ledesma-Vázquez, was published by Sunbelt Publications in January. 

Johnson will take the opportunity at Adventure 16 to recount one of his most harrowing adventures in pursuit of scientific knowledge in a presentation titled, “To the Roof of Isla Monserrat: Climbing for Science in Baja California.”  The talk will not only narrate the obstacles and sense of excitement surrounding the expedition, but also impart important observations that tie into a greater understanding of the ecology and geology of the entire region.  


PRESENTATION TOPIC: “To the Roof of  Isla Monserrat: Climbing for Science in Baja California."

Isla Monserrat is in a remote part of the Sea of Cortéz, a far reach by boat due to its location off one of the most rugged (and roadless) sections of the Baja California peninsula fronted by the Sierra de la Giganta (Mountain of the Giant). Only 7 square miles in area, the island has a rugged topography befitting its name derived from the original Latin (mons serratus) for "jagged mountain."

Legends traced to 1535 during the earliest arrival of the Spanish around present-day La Paz, describe that area formerly occupied by native Guaycura peoples as the "Domain of the Amazons." From a scientific perspective, the island has remained one of the most mysterious due to the fact that so few naturalists have visited there.

This talk relates the author's obsession with the island -- driven by observations via an aerial survey -- that a vast limestone plateau once covered much of place, remnants of which are elevated up to 656 ft (200 m) above sea level. The task of finding a suitable landing place is enough of a challenge due to seasonal winds and sea-swells that buffet Monserrat, but the climb to the roof top requires a resolve to conquer steep slopes with dangerous scree. The ultimate reward comes with discovery of unusual fossils that dominate the plateau -- and an understanding of how the plateau relates to the powerful tectonics that shaped (and continue to shape) the Gulf of California, today.


Monday, May 16:  A16 San Diego Store, 7pm






Markes E. Johnson is the Charles L. MacMillan Professor of Natural Science, Emeritus, at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he taught courses in historical geology, paleontology, and stratigraphy in the Geosciences Department over a 35-year career.

His undergraduate education in geology concluded with a BA degree (1971) from the University of Iowa and his advanced training in paleoecology culminated with a PhD degree (1977) through the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. With 25 years of field experience in Baja California, Johnson has been a semi-annual visitor to the frontier states of Mexico where he habitually led field courses and supervised thesis projects for students from Williams College.

He is an authority on the geology of ancient shorelines and the evolution of inter-tidal life through geologic time based on studies conducted around the world from Western Australia to China’s Inner Mongolia to the fringe of Arctic lands across Siberia, Norway, and Canada, as well as comparatively young island groups such as the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and the Cape Verdes in the North Atlantic. Whether on explorations near or far away, this traveler has always been drawn back to the wild islands in the western Gulf of California and their associated peninsular shores.

The author lives with his spouse, Gudveig Baarli, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where they maintain an active and mutually supportive schedule of ongoing research and writing projects.