[MORRISON, CO, November 25, 2023] – Before Dr. Martin G. Lockley set his sights on studying the footprints of dinosaurs, the scientific field known as paleoichnology attracted little respect. The tall talkative paleontologist with the English accent, Welsh birth certificate, and lifelong afternoon tea drinking habit was instrumental in changing that. Lockley passed away from cancer on Saturday, November 25, 2023 at the age of 73.
For more than 40 years, Lockley identified and mapped ancient trackways around the globe. His insights substantially increased knowledge about dinosaur activities including courtship, parenting, migration, and herding behaviors.
“I’ve asked other leading paleoichnologists about Martin’s standing and there’s no debate that he stood alone,” said Dinosaur Ridge Executive Director Jeff Lamontagne. “As one colleague put it, Martin was the gold standard for identifying dinosaur tracks.”
Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, Colorado was ranked by Lockley and colleagues as the #1 dinosaur tracksite in North America. In 1989 he co-founded the nonprofit Friends of Dinosaur Ridge (FODR) to protect the iconic sloping tracksite on the hogback 20 miles west of Denver. Lockley co-founded other nonprofits, research institutes, a Dinosaur Track Museum, and led efforts to establish UNESCO World Heritage sites to protect trackways in several locations.
FODR will rename its Martin G. Lockley Discovery Center building near Red Rocks Amphitheatre the Martin G. Lockley Discovery Center as a tribute to his work, and display items from the scientist’s personal collection on a rotating basis starting in spring 2024.
Lockley moved to Colorado to take a teaching position at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) in 1980. That’s when his work interpreting how the dominant creatures of the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods behaved began to attract professional attention and public excitement to the less popular branch of paleontology.
Lockley was fond of pointing out that fossil bones can’t demonstrate how animals lived the way tracks can. He made the case in a 2022 TEDx Talk.
During his 30 years at UCD, Lockley traveled to hundreds of remote geological sites around North America, Asia, Europe, South America, and East Africa. When he wasn’t in the field or teaching he was an avid writer, publishing more than 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 17 books. Lockley received several awards including most recently the Korean Presidential Citation for Contribution to Cultural Heritage Protection in 2020. He was the first non-Korean to receive the award.
Growing up in Wales (he was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1950), Martin was influenced by his father the renowned ornithologist and prolific author Ronald Lockley. Martin Lockley was a star athlete twice winning the All England Schools championship in shot put. He never became an American citizen, but chose to live in the Colorado foothills in a country home he filled with souvenirs from a lifetime of world travels. He is survived by two children, four grandchildren, a nephew, sister, and a woman he affectionately referred to as his long-term partner.