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.