Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Irrational attachment to field vehicles

During the summer, we spend a heck of a lot of time in our trucks. Since they're used off road in some pretty rough conditions, we try not to take anything new out there. It sure won't be new when it gets back. You get to know their quirks, and they seem to take on a personality of their own.

Here is my favorite: Dumpy the Suburban. Our oldest vehicle, this wonderful piece of 1991 technology is surprisingly one of the more durable and dependable field trucks we own, even with 220,500 miles on it. Deer kill markings on the drivers side are a tribute to the hazards of remote country roads at night. Dumpy has taken me all over the west over the past 5 years, yet never left us stuck or stranded. It's received scratches on the hood from angry locals, blown out tires and has tried to crush somebody. The huge dent on the door is from a deer at 65mph. Don't ask how it managed to hit the side.

Dumpy needs encouragement going uphill, usually sung to the tune of Aqua's "Barbie Girl". It moans on start up and smokes a little. Then again so do most of our field crew members at one time or another. But luckily, it has seemed to survive the cash for clunkers program (or as we like to call it, the Dumpycaust) unlike many of its cousins. If you see it rolling slowly around, make sure there is a driver in it, and wave. I will miss it when it is gone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Prepping skin on WXT

A jacket of WXT, a huge Edmontosaurus specimen discovered in southern North Dakota 2002, was brought into the lab for preparation this past week. Before I could even begin, I noticed the scale pattern of the skin preserved as a film on one bone. Skin is uncommon but not unheard of in the Hell Creek Formation.
Further poking around showed scales preserved in the sandstone matrix in 3 dimensions. The scales themselves are only a few millimeters thick, and are preserved in a layer that will not separate easily. I'm now determining the extent of the skin present, and what should be done to it to best preserve it. The photo below shows one of the counterparts of the skin impression that was removed from the block.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Call for volunteers

So, you wanna dig dinosaurs?

We're looking for a few volunteers to come with us to central Montana this summer to help scout, recover the rest of our giant Basilemys turtle and begin excavation on a big hardosaur (the tibia is over 4 feet long). Our crew will be leaving from Colorado on July 28th, and will likely stay for 2 weeks. We will be headquartered out of a camping lodge, and there is no cost to volunteers besides transportation and food. All excavation equipment and supplies will be provided, personal tools are to be brought by each person attending. More on that after applications are reviewed.

Applications may be sent to me at and should outline biology or geology experience. This trip is a wonderful way to gain experience for undergrad and graduate students in field collection methods. We will be focusing not only on excavation techniques, but data collection (mapping, stratigraphic sections and correlation, taphonomy) as well as site evaluation.