Dr. Don Brinkman, Field Experience Program Coordinator, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
In 2003, fieldwork in Dinosaur Park began in the second week of May. Our initial project was to uncover a large section of a ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) bone-bed to collect material for an in situ exhibit as part of an exchange with the Australian Museum in Sidney. Work continued through mid-July with dinosaur excavations - a hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) and an ankylosaur (armored dinosaur), prospecting, and sampling vertebrate microfossil localities. Both of these were found the previous year, and both include the skull. The hadrosaur is of particular interest because it is preserved in an ironstone nodule, and is uncrushed. It is one of the crested hadrosaurs, and the crest is fully preserved. One of the microvertebrate sites that we collected is located in marine beds at the top of the valley. It preserved a diverse assemblage of sharks, rays, and other ocean fish.
One particular question that was addressed this summer was the distribution of plesiosaurs in Dinosaur Park. Dr. Betsy Nicholls, curator of marine reptiles at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and her student Tomaki Sato, have been studying the plesiosaurs from the area in an attempt to determine whether these are remains of a fresh-water plesiosaur or juvenile individuals of a typically marine species. A visit to Dinosaur Park established that many of the plesiosaur specimens were deposited in rivers far upstream from the shoreline and probably a distinct kind of long-necked plesiosaur that lived in fresh water.
For the summer of 2004, the Royal Tyrrell Museum will have a small group working in Dinosaur Park, collecting from microvertebrate sites, recording data on localities, and continuing the survey for scientifically significant specimens. The main Field Experience Program will take a hiatus this year to give staff a chance to focus on completing other outstanding work. A crew from the Australian Museum in Sydney will be joining us June 15-July 15 for the final field season as that three-year joint project moves towards completion. Royal Tyrrell Museum curatorial and technical staff will return briefly on-site from mid to late August to complete some prospecting and final clean-up.