Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dinosaurs along the Silk Road

Another Paleo trip to China for those who might be interested.........

Dinosaurs along the Silk Road

May 30 (Saturday) – June 10 (Wednesday), 2009 (12 days)

Type of Trip: Geotour (Paleontology)
Location: northwestern China
(cities of Beijing, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, and Dunhuang)
Scientific Leaders: Drs. Matt Lamanna, Jerry Harris, and Hailu You
Minimum Number: 5
Maximum Number: 15

Geotour Overview:
Sinofossa Institute is proud to offer a unique opportunity to experience the cultural, historical, and geological wonders of the People’s Republic of China while following professional paleontologists Dr. Matt Lamanna (Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA), Dr. Jerry Harris (Director of Paleontology, Dixie State College, St. George, UT), and Dr. Hailu You (Director, Sinofossa Institute and Senior Researcher, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing) to explore for Cretaceous-aged dinosaurs (both avian and non-avian) in the Changma Basin and other spectacular paleontological sites in Gansu Province, northwestern China.

Following in the footsteps of Marco Polo, your tour directors and their colleagues have recently made several extraordinary and scientifically significant dinosaur discoveries along the ancient Silk Road in Gansu. Among them are: Gansus yumenensis from the Changma Basin, the oldest-known close relative of modern birds (which was published in the prestigious journal Science and featured in the Science Channel’s 2006 documentary Rise of the Feathered Dragons and the History Channel’s 2008 series Evolve), Lanzhousaurus magnidens from the Lanzhou Basin, the largest-toothed herbivorous dinosaur in the world, and Auroraceratops rugosus from the White Pagoda Basin, a primitive relative of famous horned dinosaurs such as Triceratops. Participants will tour and conduct paleontological fieldwork at these three sites, in addition to visiting well-known cultural and historical attractions along the Silk Road, including the western end of the Great Wall at Jiayuguan City, and Dunhuang, an oasis city famous for the Mogao Grottoes (“Caves of the Thousand Buddhas”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While in Beijing, our group will also tour the Chinese Paleozoological Museum and the Beijing Natural History Museum. Moreover, in Lanzhou, we will visit the laboratory of Gansu’s foremost dinosaur paleontologist, Dr. Daqing Li of the Gansu Provincial Bureau of Geo-Exploration and Mineral Development, to see fossils of several of the amazing dinosaurs that he, You, Lamanna, and Harris have discovered and formally named in recent years.

Who Should Attend?
Persons interested in dinosaurs and fossil birds, and who desire a unique, natural history-oriented experience in China.

Tour Fee, Deposit, & Payment:
US$ 2,800.00/person (double occupancy)
US$ 3,300.00/person (single occupancy)
Deposit: US$ 200.00
Deposit Deadline: March 30, 2009
Full Payment Deadline: April 30, 2009
For terms and conditions, please visit

Included in Tour Package:
All transportation within China, including transfers between airports and hotels.
Deluxe accommodations in Beijing and clean, comfortable accommodations in Gansu.
All meals and beverages.
All tickets for sightseeing attractions throughout the trip.
Permits required to explore for and excavate dinosaur fossils.
All tools for fossil excavation, including rock hammers, gloves, brushes, and chisels for individual use, and equipment (e.g., pickaxes, shovels, spades, generators) and supplies (plaster, glues, burlap, etc.) for group use if necessary.
English-speaking, professional leadership.
Full pre-trip information and assistance.

Not Included in Tour Price:
Passport and visa fees.
International airfare.
Travel insurance.
Optional two-day pre-trip sightseeing excursion in Beijing (see below).

Scientific Leaders:

Dr. Matt Lamanna
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Matt is Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s first curator committed to dinosaur paleontology since the early 20th Century. He received his B. S. from Hobart College in 1997, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and 2004, respectively. He has extensive field experience in the western United States, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, and China. In 2000, he co-led a research team that discovered Paralititan stromeri, one of the most massive dinosaurs that ever lived, in Egypt’s Bahariya Oasis. A film on the expedition, The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt, debuted on the A&E Network in 2002 and has been repeatedly re-aired by that network and the History Channel. In 2006, Matt, Jerry, Hailu, and their collaborators announced the discovery of dozens of beautifully-preserved fossils of the 110 million-year-old bird Gansus yumenensis in northwestern China. These specimens provided fresh evidence of how and when modern-style birds evolved from their dinosaurian ancestors. Matt recently served as the lead scientific advisor to Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s $36 million dinosaur exhibition, Dinosaurs in Their Time. The first phase of this exhibition opened in November 2007, and the second and final phase debuted in June 2008.

Dr. Jerry Harris
Dixie State College, St. George, Utah
Jerry’s long-standing interest in dinosaurs began its transformation into a career as a vertebrate paleontologist in 1991 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Jerry went on to earn degrees from the University of Colorado (B.A.), Southern Methodist University (M.S.), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.). He has studied fossils in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, and Texas, and is currently involved in projects in Utah, Argentina, and, of course, China. Jerry’s research has focused on Mesozoic archosaurs, including sauropod and theropod dinosaurs (including Gansus yumenensis) and pterosaurs, as well as their footprints. He has been involved in naming eight new dinosaurs and dinosaur footprints.

Dr. Hailu You
Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing
Hailu’s extensive knowledge of vertebrate paleontology, especially dinosaurs, was gained through six years of Ph.D. study at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania, as well as more than fifteen years of field and laboratory work on vertebrate fossils. Recently, his research has focused on two main projects: exploring northwestern China for new dinosaurs, ancient birds, and other vertebrates from the Early Cretaceous, a critical time in the evolution of land ecosystems, as well as the evolution of primitive horned dinosaurs, in collaboration with colleagues from Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the University of Pennsylvania, Dixie State College, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and various Chinese institutions. Hailu has named nine new dinosaur genera since 2003, placing him among the most prolific dinosaur paleontologists working today.


Day 1, Beijing: arrival and welcome.
Feel free to arrive at any time of the day. We’ll meet you at the Beijing Capital International Airport, and transfer you to your hotel. We’ll celebrate your arrival with a welcome reception in the evening.

Day 2, Beijing: Beijing Natural History Museum and Chinese Paleozoological Museum.
Today, we’ll visit the Beijing Natural History Museum in the morning, and the unparalleled fossil collections of the Chinese Paleozoological Museum of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) in the afternoon. IVPP is one of the largest paleontological institutions in the world, and a global leader in the study of vertebrate fossils.

Day 3, Beijing > Lanzhou: Fossil Research and Development Center.
Today, we’ll fly to Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu Province, in the morning, and in the afternoon, visit the unique dinosaur collection of the Fossil Research and Development Center of the Gansu Provincial Bureau of Geo-Exploration and Mineral Development.

Day 4, Lanzhou: Liujiaxia Dinosaur National Geopark.
Today, we’ll visit the Liujiaxia Dinosaur National Geopark. Here, a diverse and well-preserved assemblage of dinosaur (meat-eating theropod, long-necked sauropod, and plant-eating ornithopod), pterosaur, and bird tracks have been recovered from Lower Cretaceous-aged rocks exposed along the Yellow River. Several bizarre new dinosaurs have also been recently found in the same geological horizons, including the huge ornithopod Lanzhousaurus magnidens and the gigantic sauropod Huanghetitan liujiaxiaensis.

Day 5, Lanzhou > Jiayuguan.
Today, we’ll drive 700 km (435 mi) to Jiayuguan City, located at the western end of the Great Wall, taking in the scenery along the way.

Day 6, Jiayuguan > Yumen: White Pagoda and Great Wall.
Today, we’ll travel north, into the Gobi Desert, to visit fossil quarries in the White Pagoda Basin, where numerous new dinosaur species have recently been discovered, including the earliest-known large therizinosaur, Suzhousaurus megatherioides, and the primitive horned dinosaur Auroraceratops rugosus. We’ll also visit the western end of the Great Wall, and travel to Yumen City, which will serve as our base for the next three days of fossil hunting in the Changma Basin.

Days 7-9, Changma: discovering fossil birds and more.
Nestled in a mountain valley at the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, the Changma Basin has recently been the site of many remarkable Early Cretaceous fossil discoveries. Here, since 2004, You, Lamanna, Harris, and their collaborators have uncovered nearly one hundred partial to nearly complete skeletons of 110-million-year-old birds, most of which pertain to a single species: Gansus yumenensis, the oldest-known close relative of living birds. Our group will spend three days splitting mudstones in the Changma Basin, in many of the same quarries that have yielded fossil birds, in search of additional specimens of Gansus, other archaic bird species, and the plants, freshwater invertebrates, insects, fishes, amphibians, and reptiles that lived with them*.

Day 10, Yumen > Dunhuang: Mogao Grottoes.
Today, we’ll drive to the oasis city of Dunhuang and visit the Mogao Grottoes (also known as the “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas”), a UNESCO world heritage site.

Day 11, Dunhuang > Beijing.
Today, we’ll fly back to Beijing. If time allows, we’ll go shopping. We’ll enjoy Peking Duck for dinner.

Day 12, Beijing: fond farewells.
We’ll take you to the airport, guide you to your terminal, and share a final lunch together if you depart in the afternoon.

*According to Chinese laws, all fossils belong to the nation. Any and all specimens we collect will be permanently reposited in Chinese institutions.

Optional Pre-trip Two-day Sightseeing Excursion in Beijing:
To participate in this optional sightseeing excursion (which is not included in the tour prices listed above), please arrive in Beijing on Thursday, May 28, 2009.

US$ 400.00/person (double occupancy)
US$ 500.00/person (single occupancy)

Day 1, Beijing: The Great Wall and Ming Tombs.
We’ll drive north, to visit the Great Wall and Ming Tombs for the entire day.

Day 2, Beijing: The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Temple of Heaven.
We’ll visit the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in the morning and the Temple of Heaven in the afternoon. In the evening, we’ll join our other participants for dinner.

Questions? Please Contact:
Dr. Matthew Lamanna (
Dr. Jerald Harris (

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