Dr. Don Brinkman, Field Experience Program Coordinator, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
The Royal Tyrrell Museum undertook five weeks of field work in Dinosaur Provincial Park in 2000 as part of the Field Experience Program. This program enables interested members of the general public to work along side Tyrrell Museum scientists in their studies of the paleontology of Dinosaur Provincial Park. During the 2000 field season 25 participants and eight students joined the Tyrrell Museum staff in the field work in the park.
One of the exceptional finds of Field Experience 2000 was a locality that had two specimens of the large turtle, Basilemys, preserved together. One was preserved at about 90 degrees to the other. Both had limbs with the fully articulated toes. One of the specimens had a depression on the shell that looked like a hadrosaur had stepped on it. A layer of volcanic ash was above the shells, separated by a thin layer of plant material. We won't know what their story is until we prepare the specimens, but it looks as though these individuals met an untimely end from some traumatic event.
Collecting the specimens was technically challenging because they were preserved in fine-grained rock that falls apart easily. However, that type of rock is also easy to dig in, so we were able to go well below the specimens before turning them over. Basilemys is one of the largest turtles in the Late Cretaceous, so having two of them together made for a rather large turtle block. We got the specimens out of the badlands by putting them on car hoods (two, one overlapping the other) and having everyone available pulling on ropes. These specimens, as well as providing a unique taphonomic story, will add to our understanding of the genus. A few complete shells have been collected in Dinosaur Park, but none by the Tyrrell Museum previous to this. This specimen is now under preparation at the Tyrrell Museum.
Two large meat-eating dinosaurs were collected during the summer. Matt Vickaryous finished collecting a specimen begun last year. This specimen consisted of the scattered remains of a single individual, including ribs, vertebrae and hind limb elements. On the north side of the river, Phil Currie collected a new specimen of a large meat-eating dinosaur including parts of the skull. Teeth were preserved in the jaws. He identified this dinosaur as Dasplaetosaurus. He also continued work on a specimen initially collected in 1994. Most of the skeleton was collected that year, but he suspected that more was to be found. However, this required considerable effort digging before the more detailed work of uncovering any bones present could begin. This year, the detailed work will be undertaken.
Michael Ryan and Darren Tanke, with the help of almost every participant that came through the program, continued the Tyrrell Museum's long term study of
ceratopsian bonebeds by excavating a new site in the core area of the park.In the summer of 1998, then Field Experience Coordinator Mike Getty located a new ceratopsian bone bed a short hike from the bus tour road. Exposed on the surface were a great number of adult-sized skull bones and a variety of limb elements. Of interest to the Field Experience Program was the fact that the bone bed appeared to be very close to the contact of the Oldman and Dinosaur Park formations. We had collected the remains of a new ceratopsian from just below this contact previously and hoped that by excavating this bone bed we would find something that was intermediate between this new ceratopsian and the closely related genus Centrosaurus. This material has been prepared in the Field station over the course of the winter by volunteers working with Michael Ryan as part of the volunteer preparation program. Early indications are that material from BB 168 comes from Centrosaurus, but several skull bones appear to have some usual features.
This year, as usual, we had a number of students working with us in Dinosaur Park. Sara Derchard from Carleton College in Washington spent the majority of her time in the field station photographing and describing ceratopsian material previously collected by the Field Experience Program. Sara is going through the process of designing a public display that will present the results of work done on the ceratopsian bone beds of Dinosaur Park. Her goal is to design an exhibit that will present information on systematics, taphonomy, and the biology of horned dinosaurs as once living animals in a way that is both engaging and informative.
Dr. David Krause, from Boston University in Boston, was with us for a week to collect teeth for his work on the diet of herbivorous dinosaurs. David was collecting teeth for a study of the wear surfaces. He is hoping to find microscopic fragments from the walls of plant cells embedded in the wear surfaces of dinosaur teeth. This has been done with younger fossil mammals, but hasn't yet been accomplished with dinosaurs. If he is successful, he will be able to determine exactly what kinds of plants different dinosaurs are eating.
Two technicians from France, Yves Dutour and Michel Desparoir, also joined us. At home, they are excavating a large bed of sauropod eggs located in the center of town that was uncovered during excavations for a new train terminal. They used their time in Dinosaur Park to learn more about field collecting techniques.
The year 2000 saw the formal establishment of the Field Experience Speaker Series. Talks were given, usually twice a week in the auditorium at the Field Station, on subjects ranging form rattlesnakes, lady bugs, dinosaurs, dinosaur art, fossils and nature photography.
In 2001, the Field Experience Program will be operating in Dinosaur Provincial Park for six weeks. One of the first excavations will be a dissarticulated ceratopsian from a locality in the east end of the park. We will continue to survey for new fossils and collect significant specimens. With one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur fossils anywhere in the world, and with the high erosion rates present in the badlands, exciting new discoveries are bound to be made.