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Stewards Individual Placement Program

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Mammoths, Camels, and Sloths Oh My!

WHSA_2019_GIP_Montoya_Joseph_Photo_5.JPG#asset:906:newsFullMost of the week Joseph gives guided tours of the sand dunes, called Sunset Stroll. In this photo, he is explaining the formation of the white sand dunes. Joseph uses this program as an opportunity to talk about the geology and paleontology of White Sands. Including the research and conservation done on the fossil footprints.


At the edge of the dunes in White Sands National Monument Park, Joseph Montoya feverishly uncovers evidence of beasts who used to roam the American Southwest. These tracks have lasted the test of time, and upon Montoya’s discoveries, they are now a part of learning resources for visitors of all kinds. 

Opportunities to see these discoveries and how they intertwine with the land and the paleo-humans of the Permian era lie at the Table of Wonder. This is an interpretation station that presents the giant ground sloth and paleo-human interactions, as well as a chance for visitors to unearth their very own fossilized footprint (replica) in a sand pit. Visitors can also take a Sunset Stroll where they are guided through an evening full of storytelling and analogies of how animals like the Giant ground sloth, Columbian Mammoth, and Camel used to roam the ancient lake where the dunes now stand. Both opportunities have Joseph to thank for their implementation and growth.  

Joseph has been working to better connect the paleontology and geology departments within the park to help enhance the visitor interpretive experience. From rewriting web documents and articles about the footprints in White Sands, to creating new exhibits for future visitors to enjoy, Joseph has tackled numerous challenges with tenacity. The nature of his position demands constant communication with multiple divisions in the park, and Joseph has excelled at bridging them and creating strategies to do a better job of conserving the footprints for further research.