Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Week One to Week Two: The Transition

The five DFS participants in the first week had what we hope was a wonderful time. Despite the difficult temperatures on Monday and Tuesday, the week ended up to be fairly comfortable in the quarry…after all, it is a dry heat.

By the time everyone left the quarry on Friday, 40 individual bones, possible gastroliths, plant fragments and other pieces had been recorded and mapped. One of the most interesting pieces (unearthed by Slaly and Emily) was an as of yet unidentified fossil which is unlike anything ever recovered in this particular quarry and one which could be a first for sauropods in North America. This piece will be going back to Cincinnati with us in a few weeks for preparation and further study, and we’ll keep you posted as to our interpretations once that is complete.

The pig races in Bearcreek were as exciting as ever, though the crowds were somewhat smaller than we are usually accustomed to. No one won any money, unfortunately, but it was an experience which none will soon forget.

Photos will soon be posted to the DFS page on shutterfly.com (http://dinosaurfieldschool.shutterfly.com) and those in attendance should be posting their photos there as well (nothing embarrassing, I hope).

As for week two, our participants all arrived safely in Billings, though with some additional airline delays. Tom, John, Kim and Bill joined us at the YBRA on Sunday evening for dinner and a little conversation before settling into their cabins. Today (July 30) was their introduction to the geology of the Bighorn Basin and of the Mother’s Day Site. On Tuesday we will be heading first up to the Beartooth Plateau and then again out to the dig site by lunchtime.

We have also been joined by a few more field crew members who are camping out at the Mother’s Day Site. D.M., a high school biology teacher from Newark, Ohio was on the original crew when the site was first opened by Montana State University more than a decade ago. Mike, a geologist and alum of Ohio University, has joined the Cincinnati-based crew each year since back in 1999 when he and Dr. Storrs made the cross-country trek together. Gary, an undergraduate geology/biology double major at the University of Dayton, is an alum of the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Youth Program through which he first attended DFS several years ago. He has definitely traveled the farthest of of any of us to get here, having been in Cameroon (Africa) within days of his arrival in Montana. That brings our total at the camp site to 8 (9 when I’m camping). It’s the largest contingent in years, and their presence is certainly making work go much faster and smoother than it would without them.

An update on the prospecting front…it’s hard work. New fossils are coming slowly, but there are many promising signs and, hopefully, next year should see us opening a new secondary site looking for something other than the massive sauropods found at the Mother’s Day Site. Sara, Mackenzie and Sam have taken a brief respite from prospecting to focus on our current quarry, but may again be heading out on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I will be spending a few more nights out at the Mother’s Day site this week, but will be posting as possible when I am able to get back to the YBRA.

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