Friday, August 04, 2006

August 3, 2006

Right! Back to dinosaur collecting. We’ve had several good days in the MDS quarry and things are going OK at “Dodson”, too. Additional vertebrae have turned up, along with paired ulna and radius of a young animal, and an additional small radius (from a 40 foot? juvenile). We have also found some new foot bones, including several ungual phalanges (claws). Each of these will need to be collected (many already have) by plaster jacketing. This is the same process used by physicians who need to set broken bones for mending. Our dinosaur bones are certainly broken – that is full of post-depositional fractures after 140 million years of compression and tectonic uplift.

So, each bone need to have all of it’s pieces immobilized, or held together in place, just as the bones of your broken leg would need to be. First we expose the bone, impregnate it with an archival consolidant (glue), trench around it so it stands on a pedestal of matrix, cover with a separating agent so that the Plaster of Paris used will not stick to the actual bone (we use wet toilet paper – TP is good for many things around camp!), and apply burlap strips soaked in plaster (people fight for a chance to cut up the strips beneath our only shade tree – a rather sad-looking Pinyon Pine). Once dry, we chisel around the plastered block and attempt to overturn it without bits of bone falling out the bottom. We usually succeed at this. The bottom is then capped with TP and plaster and the block readied for shipment home. Of course, field numbers are given the blocks so that they can be matched up with the contextual data that we have recorded for each fossil. Photos of this process are available on this blog., I believe (after my adventure on Monday).

Mike Papp, an environmental geologist in Cincinnati with a master’s in vertebrate paleontology has arrived to join the crew. Mike is a great and dedicated worker and lab volunteer who has been coming to Mother’s Day every year since we started work here in 1999. He also has a very fine sense of humor. Fortunately he and the rest of the gang have not made use of the food coloring at the site this year. No plaster blocks of bone made out to look like giant Easter eggs as in the past. Somehow, this offends my sensibilities as a traditionalist in the field. Never mind, they enjoyed their green eggs and spam – even Sam (-You-Are!).

On the wildlife front, the turkeys are back at YBRA. Down at MDS, plenty of mule deer and rabbits (cotton-tail and jack), and among birds, some prairie chicken, doves, magpies, jays (of some sort), hawks, and a pelican. Yes, a pelican! They do wander about inland and while the Clark’s Fork is nearby, this one seems to have strayed ever so slightly.

As for me I’m going to stray off to bed. I have to write this darn thing late at night after the other work is done. My big accomplishment today was to make my annual visit to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) state offices in Billings to say hi (and inquire about a crane or tractor for lifting my “Dodson” dinosaur – they’ll get back to me), buy 300 lbs. more plaster at the Home Depot, and comparison shop for a dual axle trailer. This might be the best option for hauling back the remaining 14 articulated dorsal vertebrae of the “DD.” We’ll try to estimate it’s final weight first. Although, a trailer would not normally be available, I have an anonymous donor who wants to sponsor the big dinosaur project to get this beast back to Cinti (Thanks! - If he’s reading this blog and has a view to the contrary – he should speak up now or forever hold his piece, etc.).



Joe Gray said...

Excellent choice of pictures Glenn. I'm going to try to have our IT person link our web site to your blog if that is OK. We envy your weather.


Martin English said...

In your next installment you might want to let the public know where they can see first hand, the specimens being prepared in the lab. Can they see finished specimens on display anywhere?
You could also continue this blog from Cincinnati and explain and show photos of specimen preparation step by step on the web.


Glenn said...

Joe - Wallet prints soon to be available! By all means link your site with ours. I'm going to try for some more pics soon. See ya'

Martin - That's a great idea, but I think I'll have one of my lab volunteers have a stab at a continuation. BTW, Mother's Day bones may be viewed under preparation and on exhibit at Cincinnati Museum Center's Museum of Natural History & Science in the the Paleo Lab. Stop by and chat with a real prep tech soon! We have a "bone to pick" with/for you!