Tuesday, July 11, 2006

July 11, 2006

I'm gearing up to head west for our dinosaur project. Although we have been running Cincinnati Museum Center's Dinosaur Field School for seven years now, this is my first attempt at a blog. Mason Milam, our volunteers and trip participants will try to keep you up-dated on just what paleontological field work is actually like. We hope to provide postings and photos that document our progress as we work to uncover and collect dinosaurs from the Late Jurassic, specimens that are approximately 140 millions years old. This is a real research project, not merely a tourist opportunity, so everyone pitches in and learns by doing. As it's a real project, conditions are real too. That is, the weather, the discoveries, the events are also real and thus unpredictable. We will not have internet access everyday, and we may not have the time or energy to post even when we do - but we will do our best. I hope you enjoy reading of our efforts and, hopefully, successes.

A bit of background. The Mother's Day Site, in south-central Montana, was discovered (on Mothers' Day, natch!) in 1996 by Kurt Padilla, a volunteer for the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. The site was worked for two years for MOR by Kristy Curry-Rogers (now at the Science Museum of Minnesota). With other projects in the Cretaceous taking priority, MOR was unable to continue its excavations at Mother's Day and with their blessing (thanks again, Jack!), staff at the Bureau of Land Management asked me to take on the excavations at the site in order to preserve its fossils for the benefit of the American people and the scientific community in general. As with all vertebrate fossil sites on federal land, we work under permit to the BLM and all collected specimens are reposited at Cincinnati Museum Center where they can be accessed by all.

The site preserves thousands of bones of dozens of, mostly young, sauropod dinosaurs. We believe that a single herd of gracile diplodocids, probably Diplodocus, became trapped at a shrinking water hole during seasonal drought about 140 million years ago. The site is thus a monospecific, catastrophic assemblage that provides insight into Late Jurassic environments and paleoecology, and on the paleobiology of a single species of giant dinosaur. Of course, the seven years of work up to this point have given us a better understanding of the site than when we began our excavations. A master's degree under my supervision at the University of Cincinnati by T. Scott Myers (now at Southern Methodist University) has been completed recently on the taphonomy (environmental and depositional history) of MDS and has answered many of our initial questions. Scott and I are undertaking to publish this work now.

Maybe that's more detail than you wanted, but now that it's out of the way, we can get down to the fun of letting you peek over our shoulders as we embark upon a nother season of excavations at MDS. More to come!


Susan Eiswerth said...

Great blog site!! Thanks for the effort to bring this "to the people!"
I have shared your site with a niece who works in Conn. for Robert Ballard and Explore Productions. Kathy Walburn now assists Dr. Ballard (Titanic discoverer) but before that, she spent summers at various bison bone dig sites out West.

Seems all you folks who dig it - really dig it!! Wouldn't be surprised if you hear from her!

Keep those blogs a comin'!!

Susan Eiswerth - Cincinnati

Glenn said...

Susan - Thanks so much! I appreciate your interest. Hope to see you at Museum Center someday. Cheers, G-