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UW-Madison: 480 foot trilobite corn maze
10/4/2017

MADISON - Right now, in a field in rural Wisconsin, you can get lost in a trilobite.

Bug-like and armored, with as many as 100 legs, these now-extinct marine creatures once cruised the planet's seas, including those that covered Wisconsin. Wiped out more than 250 million years ago, the trilobite today is the state fossil. It is also the defining feature of this year's award-winning Treinen Farm Corn Maze in Lodi.

"I consider myself an artist and my medium is corn, with a 15-acre field as my canvas," says Angie Treinen, designer of the maze. Each spring, as her husband Alan plants the corn, Treinen is busy scheming the next creative labyrinth. This year, for the first time ever, she accepted an outside idea for the maze. It came from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Geology Museum.

"We are trying to teach people about science and geology via a corn maze," says museum director Richard Slaughter. "People already know about T. rex and mammoths. Trilobites are the sweet spot."

From a social media hashtag - #TrilobiteTuesday - to trendy tattoos, trilobites have something of a cult following, Slaughter says. But when he and Geology Museum assistant director Brooke Norsted proposed the idea of a giant trilobite at the center of the maze, Treinen had to give it some thought.

"I knew a lot of people would look at me blankly if I told them (the maze) was a trilobite," says Treinen, who holds a bachelor's degree in zoology and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from UW-Madison. Typically, she designs mazes that are unique and challenging, but with designs that are immediately recognizable to visitors.

"A lot of people know it's a fossil, but they may not recognize it's a trilobite," she says. "But at least it also looks like a disgusting ugly bug!"

Beginning this weekend and continuing each weekend through the end of October, representatives from the museum will be at the farm to talk about trilobites. They will also have specimens, activities and more surprises. On display there for the first time will be a cast of the actual largest trilobite fossil ever found - 28 inches long - made specially for UW-Madison by the Manitoba Museum, which houses the specimen.
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