Your Project is Good Enough for a Talk: Green Chile Edition

Just shy of 2 years ago I wrote a post about the gender breakdown of speakers in the dinosaur sessions at the SVP annual meeting. In 2016, out of the 28 dinosaur talks that I considered, only 2 were presented by women. How did we fare this year in Albuquerque?

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This year’s SVP in Salt Lake City was chock full of exciting dino stuff. My first visit to the Natural History Museum of Utah since its move to a brand-new building (I last visited in December 2008, just prior to its move) during the conference’s opening reception was a real treat. Utah has such a great fossil record for dinosaurs, and it was awesome to see new takes on old classics like this Ceratosaurus – take note of the osteoderms running down the midline of the spine! Continue reading

SVP Report 2: La Brea Tar Pits

Next up in the post-SVP report: the La Brea Tar Pits! This is one of those classic localities that I’m sure is on many a palaeo must-see list. I didn’t get a chance to see this on the pre-conference field trip, but a couple of us from the UofA made time to head over before our flights home.

Several of the excavations have viewing stations where you can watch palaeontologists and volunteers hard at work. Pit 91 is the largest of the excavations, but digging is on hiatus while they work on another project.

It is both so similar and so different compared to my experiences digging dinosaurs. The tar pits, or tar seeps as I think they are more accurately called, are kind of a sandy, semi-consolidated sediment with Ice Age vertebrates and asphalt. Excavators lie on the boards across the surface, and work in marked out grid squares.

Here’s another shot of the quarry to give a sense of how deep they have gone. Pit 91 has been excavated almost continuously since the 1970s.

Work halted at Pit 91 a few years ago for a new dig, called Project 21. A construction project (for a parking structure, I think) down the road encountered several tar seep deposits with fossils. Instead of holding up construction for years and years, the team at the Page Museum simply scooped up the entire seep deposit and brought it over to the park to work on. The result was 21 large crates which are ‘excavated’ above ground. Apparently this is much nicer for the diggers since it isn’t quite as wet and sticky, as the tar can drain out the bottom of the crates.

Another, slightly smaller crate waiting to be worked on.

The sediment is saved in large barrels, so that technicians can look for microvertebrates – things like birds, snakes, lizards, small mammals, etc.

Smilodon wheelbarrow!

Just outside the entrance to the museum is the largest of the pits, the Lake Pit. There wasn’t originally a pond here – rainwater has filled in an old pit mined for asphalt. The pit bubbles and gurgles away, which is quite amusing.

Next time: the Page Museum!

Waking up from hibernation.

And by hibernation, I mean grad school. The last few weeks have been pretty busy here in Edmonton and I’ve found myself without a lot of time to blog about interesting things that have been going on. Thankfully, that busy-ness is a result of research productivity and teaching, which are both good things! So, over the next few days, as we head into the (still somewhat cold) field season here in Alberta, I’ll try to cover a bit of what’s been happening for the last couple months… Continue reading

Nanaimo Group Field Trip

I’ve just returned from the Canadian Paleontology Conference, which was held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. I participated in the field trip to Vancouver Island, where we explored Nanaimo Group outcrops. Gwawinapterus was collected from Nanaimo Group rocks on Hornby Island, and although we didn’t get out to Hornby, we did check out several other formations and localities. Here’s a few highlights from the trip!

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All work and no play….

giphy (2)

Here’s a short video showing just how long the tail of the Carnegie Apatosaurus is. It just keeps going and going and going…

giphy (3)

Each year the SVP hosts a benefit auction to support society activities. And each year the auction committee has a fun theme that they dress up to – previous years have included Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond, and Monty Python. This year we got Star Trek! So an already nerdy bunch of nerds got even nerdier. I was rather excited by the presence of tribbles.

Tribbles are dangerous and should be avoided by people who like to collect stuff.