Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cincinnati Museum Center's next adventure!

We arrived in Cincinnati safe and sound on Saturday and unpacked gear and field jackets. While the crew is catching up on their sleep, we are preparing for Cincinnati Museum Center's next adventure...
An Excursion to Ecuador
January 10-20, 2010! Join Herman L. Mays, Jr., Ph.D., Curator of Zoology on a birding expedition of a lifetime in the Ecuadorian rain forests. Space is limited, adventure seekers wanted.

For more information, please visit our website:

Hope to see you in Ecuador!

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Plesiosaur has landed

The Plesiosaur has made it safely onto the trailer! This was the largest of the field jackets removed from the site. There were a lot of crossed fingers but everything went according to plan.
Now, with one site closed, the entire crew will tackle the Mother's Day site tomorrow. Before we close for the season, the following still needs to take place:
  • Two bones need to be jacketed
  • The edges of the site must be contoured with fill to prevent looting and erosion
  • Haul all the tools and supplies off of the site
  • Strap the remaining field jackets to day packs for the trip down to camp
  • Carefully pack the van and truck using up every available space
  • Strap down everything that rests on the trailer
  • And then, just then, will the site be closed for the season
If all goes well, we will leave Wednesday bright and early and arrive in Cincinnati on Friday and unload on Saturday.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hold your breath and flip

When you find a bone in the quarry you become the "protector" of that bone, taking every caution and even tuck it under a tarp every night. Each hour in the quarry, you get closer and closer to that dreaded moment when you actually have to flip the top of the field jacket. When you flip, the bone and the matrix below should come out as one unit. Even if you have done everything right, there is always the fear that the actually flipping of the bone will go horribly wrong. It is like flipping a bundt cake onto a plate. You cross you fingers, take a deep breath and hope you greased the pan well enough.

On Friday, I flipped a beautiful humerus that I had been fretting over. The matrix stayed in the ground exposing the perfect bone. It was a proud milestone.

Later that day, a vertebra was not so lucky. When you trench, you guess how far the bone goes into the ground. This trench wasn't deep enough and after the flip, half was in the jacket and half was still in the ground. When this happens you fly into surgeon mode armed with glue and a chisel. We eventually got out the remainder and enclosed it in toilet paper, aluminum foil and then plaster. It will be pieced back together in the lab.

We still have a few more jackets to go before we can officially close up the site for the season and head back to Cincinnati Museum Center.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Plesiosaur skull has been found!

Yes, the Plesiosaur skull was found today and the whole crew couldn't be happier! The joy was short lived for it was followed shortly by hail...

The youth volunteers returned to Cincinnati last night and now we are in crunch mode to remove all the fossils that are exposed at both sites within the week. It may sound like an easy task, however, the curse of the Mother's Day Site is to find a bone, expose it, trench around it and then discover another bone in your way. Our crew now consists of very few members but we are determined to close up the site in good time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Plesiosaur Update!

Dr. Storrs, William and Sharon worked the Plesiosaur site this week. The black shale that houses the skeleton is very dense and is the same color as the bones. A large, clear sheet of plastic has been laid over the site and each bone will be outlined and numbered to map their location. Removal of the bones has also started, large sections will soon need field jackets.Today, a professor from the University of Houston visited Mother's Day to evaluate the sediment for future ground penetrating radar analysis! This will occur after we close the site for the season and if it works, it would be a tremendous help in locating bones in the coming years. Fingers crossed!!!

A picture can say a thousand words

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The youth are coming! The youth are coming!

Apologies for the gap in posts. As of Sunday, I'm camping back at Mother's Day and livin' off the grid. Take note: wi-fi can not be achieved by harnessing the speed of Montana jack rabbits and solar power.

Youth moms and dads rest easy, your daughters arrived safe and sound on Sunday with their chaperones (pictured below) and have been a joy in the quarry. So far, they have carefully removed a rib and as I type they are undercutting and flipping a field jacket containing a cervical vertebrae and two ribs!Youth volunteers are a vital part of Cincinnati Museum Center. From running hands-on-demos in all three museums to interpreting exhibits for visitors, they are a wealth of knowledge. So, if you ever meet one at Museum Center, take a moment and let them "wow" you. I had the privilege to work with this group of young adults during my first year and I'm still proud to call them staff.

If you know a tri-state teen who would like to join our Youth Program next summer, please visit our website for more information.

Pictures from Week 2

Week 2 group outside the main lodge at YBRA.

Betsy starting her field jacket.

Dinosaurs Unearthed product placement. Thanks Brian!

Future paleontologists enjoying the pig races.

The Dino Wheel. Part gurney, part muscle.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Between a rock...

Week 2 participants have been unearthing fossils left and right! Don't worry Week 1ers, you paved the road!

Recently, we've hit calcite dykes and hard limestone in the struggle to trench around fossils. But with a little elbow grease and help from our trusty air hammers, we'll show those hard areas who's boss.

By this picture alone, you can see that we are well on our way collecting many specimens both large and small from Mother's Day. So far we have extracted gastroliths, ribs, cervicals, a femur, and a radius, just to name a few.

We are still discovering more new fossils each day and Week 2 participants are working steadily to get as far as they can during their last day in the quarry. Tomorrow, they will depart YBRA for the real world and we will welcome a few young ladies from Cincinnati Museum Center's Youth Volunteer Program for a week of learning and discovery.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Field Jacketing 101

Many ask how we transport our incredible finds safely home to Cincinnati. Well, here is your chance to discover the magic that happens behind-the-scenes and in the field!

How to Field Jacket your fossil:
1-Find your fossil!
2-Carefully uncover it

3-Create a trench around the fossil

4-Map the fossil's location in the quarry and record your notes
5-Apply wet toilet paper completely covering the top

6-Layer strips of burlap and plaster to create a temporary cast

7-Mark your jacket with the site code
8-Undercut the matrix below your fossil, flip and repeat steps 5-7

9-Crack the remaining plaster off your hands and clothes

Tada! You have gathered, recorded and unearthed a fossil!

Our fossils are then transferred to the labs at Cincinnati Museum Center to await careful prep from staff and volunteers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Pictured above is the Plesiosaur cast located in Museum of Natural History & Science at Cincinnati Museum Center. The cast represents a skeleton in excellent condition, with all the bones accounted for and in a wonderful position for exhibition. Fossils at Mother's Day Site our not found in such a simple way. They are unearthed in a "Pick Up Stick" fashion with pieces missing here and there.

Pictured below is our new Plesiosaur Site. Each green marker indicates bone and our crew is uncovering more each day. We are still in the early stages of uncovering this area and hope to collect the fossils before we leave. We have also found ammonites. Their spiral shape is undeniable and they are sprinkled in pockets on the local farm.

We are very lucky to have two sites running at once and it is a true credit to our participants and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to assist us. Thanks to all!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Welcome Week 2 Participants!

This is the lovely sign that greeted the Week 2 Participants last night. Yes, we have had multiple black bear sightings at YBRA. The bear has only tried to enter the kitchen and not anyone's personal cabin. It has even announced its arrival by ringing the dinner bell outside the main lodge a few nights ago! Not to worry, no one has had any close encounters.

This experience also allows you to enjoy the flora and fauna of the area. At YBRA, you can see: black bears, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, the occasional moose and more all from the comfort of your rocking chair on their large, cozy back porch.

From the Beartooth Plateau you witness this amazing 360 degree view of Montana & Wyoming. However, just under foot is some quaint but beautiful flowers, as well as orange lichen!
The Field School is more than unearthing dinosaur bones, it is about experiencing things that can take your breath away, learning new skills and creating memories.

Dinosaur Field School - Week 1

Everyone hard at work in the quarry

Joey & Paul creating a trench around their fossils

Week 1 Participants with the Field Crew

Farewell Pig Races

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Crew's New Dinosaur Tattoos

Just kidding!

To celebrate our Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit, Cincinnati Museum Center printed out thousands of temporary dinosaur tattoos for young and old visitors alike. I brought some out to Montana and the crew applied them last night during our big Friday night dinner. The Stegosaurus's belly is the facade of Cincinnati Union Terminal! I know, you want one too.

The crew would like to say "hi" to their moms. And don't worry, the tattoos will fade before they come home...or will they?

(Above, crew member Sharon McMullen proudly shows off her new ink)

A Plesiosaur & More...

Dr. Storrs has just been given permission to unearth a Plesiosaur skeleton in Montana! A local rancher will allow Cincinnati Museum Center Field Crew to uncover and remove the Plesiosaur from his property to be prepped, studies and displayed in Cincinnati. Plesiosaurs were aquatic reptiles from the Cretaceous. This carnivore currently is under a few inches of dirt and plant roots and is embedded in shale. In our Museum of Natural History & Science, there is a replica of a Plesiosaur skeleton, which can be found in our exhibit, Creatures of the Ancient Seas. I will ask a museum staff member to take a picture of the cast, so we can post it on the blog. We will bring the group out today to see our new fossil!

Officers from the Bureau of Land Management visited the Mother's Day site yesterday. They were given a tour of the quarry and photo documented the area. They also mentioned that they may install cameras around the site to monitor it in the off-seasons. Their office falls under the U.S. Department of the Interior, which issues our excavation permit every year. If our Plesiosaur happened to be on Federal land, we would also have permission from their office to remove it, for the Plesiosaur is located in the same county as our permit.

Today, is the last day our Week 1 participants will work in the quarry. There were sad looks at breakfast this morning, for most want to stay on and keep digging. For their last night in town, we will take them to a time honored Montana tradition...pig races!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dinosaurs are loose in Cincinnati!

Cincinnati Museum Center is looking for our missing dinosaurs!!! Visit our website to join the search:

Happy Hunting...

Dinosaur Field School is in full swing!

Currently, I'm borrowing wi-fi from a tiny cafe near the site because our connection at YBRA has been to slow to add new posts or pictures.

The first week of Field School participants have arrived and they are having a great time!

Sunday - Everyone arrived safely in Red Lodge and settled into their cabins at YBRA and enjoyed the great view from the main lodge before dinner.

Monday - After breakfast, we headed up the the scenic Beartooth Highway and crossed into Wyoming. There, Dr. Storrs gave a geology tour on the Beartooth Plateau at 10,000 feet! The view was incredible and everyone could not stop taking pictures. It is so cold, that we parked our van next to a glacier!!

Tuesday - We headed back into Wyoming and took the group to Clark Fork Canyon to see it's amazing geological features. The shear size of these outcroppings are breathtaking. A variety of formations are exposed and pushed up into a almost vertical position.Then the group was able to get their hands dirty for their first day in the site. Each paired up with a crew member and started to expose bones.

Wednesday - It was a great day for digging. Cloudy and breezy, the site felt to be in the mid-70s. We were baffled, for the weather is never this kind to us. Each participant found their special place in the site and spent the day uncovering their bones. Making huge progress, Janice, D.M. and Mike got to field jacket the first bone of the season. When it was time to leave for dinner everyone wanted to stay and keep digging!

Thursday - I just dropped the group off at the site and we expect to map and field jacket more bones today.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

10 years at Mother's Day!

We kicked off Fourth of July with a bang by opening the Mother's Day Site for the 10th year in a row! Very view sites can still uncover so many great specimens year after year, so we consider ourselves very lucky.

First order of business is to cover the site, which is easier said than done. It is an intricate quilt made of tarps, bungees, rope and metal stakes. This will keep our site shaded while we work. Once the tarp was patched, we tied the edges to large rocks and inserted rods and PVC pipe to keep the tarps above our heads. We dubbed it "the big top" for it's massive circus tent appearance.

Then...we dig!!!

The site was covered with feet of fill and we had to move a lot of dirt, filling 5 gallon buckets, one at a time. The key is to careful skim the surface to make sure we do not split a fossil in half with your shovel or trowel. We made huge progress yesterday and I am very proud of the crew. Bones were flagged and more should be uncovered later today.

(Right: Crew member Lamont Meadows searching for fossils)

Friday, July 03, 2009

We have arrived!

Yes, we made it safely into camp last night. Dale Gnidovec, Collections Manager & Curator at Ohio State University also arrived in camp to be part of our crew. After a slight run in with a deer he still beat us to camp. Don't worry, Dale is fine, but his car will need some TLC. He will be prospecting for new fossil sites while in Montana. We will eventually run out of fossil specimens and will need to relocate our efforts, whether we like it or not.

This morning, Pat, our cook, triumphantly entered camp and will start cooking tonight. Then the crew unloaded our trailer and started opening the site, not an easy task. Every year we have to recover the site completely to prevent looters and/or exposure to the elements.

Today, Dale, William, Dr. Storrs and myself went up to YBRA (Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association) to collect field items that we had stored away last year. We filled our van and truck with buckets, field toilets, coolers and more. After trying with no luck to establish Internet connection at YBRA we headed into Red Lodge for lunch to get better wi-fi. An added bonus is the annual Red Lodge 4th of July parade is happening right now outside our cafe. You know you're out west when every parade participant is on horseback.

I will post pictures Sunday!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Home Away From Home

I'm just posting to let everyone know that the crew has safely arrived at the dig site, as of about 6:15 p.m. Mountain Time (8:15 p.m. Cincinnati time) on July 2. From what I've heard it was an uneventful trip and everyone is chomping at the bit to get started. I'll let Lauren fill in the details when she gets a chance.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Montana, here we come!

We departed Tuesday for "Big Sky Country" in pursuit of research and fossils! Our crew includes: Sharon, Mike, Lamont, William, Mark, Dr. Storrs and myself. Additional crew will meet us at Mothers' Day Site.

Our caravan headed west through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Until we hit Iowa, the drive was very, very flat. In the end, it made everyone appreciate Cincinnati's seven rolling hills.

Last night, Lamont took his first stab at Indian cuisine and then we stopped and camped in Rock Creek State Park in Kellogg, Iowa. It is a beautiful camp site that overlooks the creek. The crew happily poured out of the van when we arrived, glad to stretch after 9 hours on the road.

To all crew moms and dads, everyone is safe and we have only been nurturing our addiction to books on tape and gas station snacks.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Load Day"

"Load Day", the careful dance between safety, necessity and engineering. To pack properly, we store all provisions in waterproof containers. Instant mash potatoes and plaster will be worthless to us in Montana if they get wet on the way out, so everything needs to have a dry home. Then add in your Tetris and Lego skills from your childhood and "poof", you can conquer any load out.

We picked up our rental van this morning and will load it Tuesday with crew and luggage. The truck and trailer were also brought out of storage today and we used spiderweb bungee cords and tarps to secure everything in place. Dr. Storrs will be driving the truck with the trailer and I will drive behind in the van watching to make sure our supplies don't become offerings to the highways' shoulders and median.

We will depart bright and early on Tuesday from Geier and will drive for three days. I will post updates once we arrive in Montana.

This is going to be a wonderful expedition and we hope to bring back many quality fossils. We are also looking forward to meeting our new Dinosaur Field School participants!

Wish us luck!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunday, a day of rest

Sunday, is the last full day of rest before we ship out. I, myself, now have a moment of clarity to see what personal affects that I need to bring. But no matter how much you plan or make lists, it can hit you while driving through South Dakota that you forgot your cell phone charger! So, with some forethought, family reminders and Post-its, you pack until your duffel bag is bursting at the seams and your spouse has to hold the sides, while you wrestle the zipper closed.

I image the crew is eating at their favorite native nook one last time, being with their family and possibly taking a nap. A combo that I too will follow shortly.

(Above: Michael Papp, field crew volunteer, exhausted from uncovering a previous find.)

Dinosaur Field School Locker

Today, most of the field crew met at Geier, Cincinnati Museum Center's off-site Research and Collection Facility to prep for our departure. Some crew were pardoned from attending this annual event, due to their distance away from Cincinnati. But all can be forgiven when they haul their weight in plaster up to the quarry (insert wink).

Matt from Britain will be joining the Field School again this year, but as a new crew member! I can happily report that he landed safely in NYC on Wednesday, after crossing "the pond" and grabbed a flight out West. This time he opted not to take the Greyhound bus cross country. We'll see you soon Matt! Safe travels.

Our goal today was to drag everything out of the Dinosaur Field School Locker and decide what to bring, replace and/or purchase. This was a rehearsal for "Load Day" which happens Monday. One always forgets how much stuff is crammed in this tiny locker. It baffles me to watch us unload it, for it is a clown car in disguise. It's cargo fills a truck bed and a 10-foot long trailer to their limit. For the crew, it is like opening a forgotten toy chest. They pull out the treasured contents with glee and say, "I remember that!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Food, Glorius Food

Ever wonder what the crew members eat in the field when we don't have our beloved cook, Pat Monaco? Well, today is grocery day! I will battle the grocery store aisles to purchase the following in bulk:

  • Spam
  • Pancake Mix & Syrup
  • Sardines
  • Devilled Ham
  • Gatorade
  • Powdered Mash Potatoes
  • Canned Chicken & Tuna
  • Pasta Noodles & Sauce
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Chips
  • and more...Gatorade

Some of these items might not please your palate, but in the field, these items travel well, stay fresh and can be eaten out of the can or be prepared on a camp stove. After a long day in the field, the last thing on your mind is cooking a gourmet meal.

So...we are super pumped that Pat will be our field cook again this year! She hauls her kitchen trailer all over the country to different dig sites and cooks for the hungry, tired masses. For two out of the five weeks that we are in Montana, she makes every meal feel like Dinner Theatre. From Pat's entertaining antics to awesome cuisine, she does a great job. I actually feared a mutiny from the field crew if she couldn't join us again. Welcome back Pat!

(Pictured above is our pint-sized Grocery Store located in the Duke Energy Children's Museum.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NAPC at Cincinnati Union Terminal

The 9th North American Paleontological Convention (NAPC) is being held in Cincinnati this month. Many of Cincinnati Museum Center's very own Curators are part of this great gathering, leading workshops and field trips to some of the tri-states' paleo hot spots. It has been an honor to have this Convention in our city, and tonight, the NAPC will host their banquet at Union Terminal.

If you ever find yourself in the Cincinnati area and have not visited Union Terminal, please stop in and see our beautiful Art Deco structure that is home to Cincinnati Museum Center. While you are there, you can visit three amazing museums, catch a film in our new renovated OMNIMAX theatre, or enjoy a special exhibit. We recently launched a new website to ensure the preservation of this national landmark. Please visit: to be a star for Union Terminal and share a memory.

Dinosaurs Unearthed is now open through September 7, 2009. It is the first exhibit in the world to have full size, feathered-covered dinosaurs!! The exhibit also houses one of our Paleontology Prep Labs that showcases fossils from Mothers' Day Site! A fantastic exhibit for every dino lover in your family.