The winter term draws to a close, the fossils come out of hiding one last time.

We are very fortunate at the University of Alberta to offer several courses in Palaeontology (and not just through zoology or biology – they get their own PALEO course code). PALEO 418 and 419 cover vertebrate palaeontology in lecture and lab format, PALEO 414 focuses more on invertebrate paleontology and functional morphology, and PALEO 400 is a field school held right in Edmonton at the Danek hadrosaur bonebed.

Lucky for me, I got to TA the PALEO 419 labs this semester. PALEO 418 covers the origins of vertebrates, fish, early tetrapods, turtles, lepidosauromorphs, and marine reptiles. PALEO 419 covers the synapsids and archosauromorphs. And that means I get to teach people about dinosaurs!

The archosauromorph lab exam was held this week, and most of the specimens were out for review. It made for a pretty impressive sight when you walked in the lab.

Because a variety of instructors have taught this course over the years, we have a pretty good collection of teaching casts and specimens that covers a fair amount of archosauromorph diversity. Most of the specimens are casts, but we do use some original material that’s relatively sturdy and/or abundant (things like ankylosaur osteoderms, hadrosaur limb elements, teeth, etc). The U of A also has a small but excellent palaeontology museum in the Earth Sciences building, and students are expected to check out certain specimens there throughout the semester. Because we have a variety of ceratopsian specimens from Dinosaur Park and Grande Prairie being prepared in our prep lab, we also did a ‘field trip’ there during the ceratopsian lab. Prospective students: the U of A is a good place to be for palaeontology!

But today the students wrote their exam, which means the semester is over for me (except for marking, of course)…and perhaps spring is on the way?*

*spring doesn’t happen until June in Edmonton. Oh well.

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