A workshop was convened in New Mexico to plan for the Colorado Plateau Coring Project (CPCP) and identify the target site for initial coring. The giant continental and near-shore to shallow marine epicontinental basins of the American Southwest are particularly well exposed on the Colorado Plateau and its environs and contain a rich record of early Mesozoic (∼251–145 million years ago) strata. This time period was punctuated by two major mass extinctions and is notable for the evolutionary appearance of the modern biota and its apparent dramatic climate changes.
Classic studies of these basins, their strata, and their fossils have made this sequence instrumental in framing the context for the early Mesozoic world. Ambiguities in temporal resolution, uncertainties in global correlations with other early Mesozoic strata, and major doubts about latitudinal position still hamper testing of competing climatic, biotic, and tectonic models for the evolution of western Pangea.