Thursday, July 30, 2009

Come chill in the Prep Lounge

This is a blog I am glad to see has finally arrived in the PaleoBlogoSphere - the Prep Lounge! Written by my friend Matt Brown, this is a blog that will be talking about working in a paleontology prep lab, and all of the fun things associated with that (and probably guns, trucks, and weather, but not politics). Check out some of his recent post on his new digs at the University of Texas at Austin/Texas Memorial Museum.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Threadless Thursday

I have been keeping up with the Threadcakes competition, and this design from the t-shirt store was recently submitted. I thought it was pretty awesome, so I had to share it...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty at the Maryland Science Center

I was contacted recently by the Maryland Science Center and asked to share with you all the news that they are hosting the traveling exhibit "Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty" at the Maryland Science Center. I saw this exhibit at the Field Museum a few summers ago.

Below is a press release about the display. Hope some of you have a chance to visit!

"This summer, the Maryland Science Center brings parents an exhibition of “pre-historic proportions.” Tens of millions of years in the making, Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty, the largest touring exhibition of authentic Chinese dinosaur fossils in the world is open daily through Monday, September 7 in the Legg Mason Gallery of the Maryland Science Center.

Visitors to Chinasaurs will encounter an exotic assortment of more than 20 full-size prehistoric fossils including mammoth herbivores and ferocious meat-eaters like the Dilophosaurus, and the huge 27-foot Szechuanosaurus (picture to left, at the Field Museum exhibit) that would have given the Tyrannosaurus Rex a run for his money. Just as rare and equally as impressive are the massive fossils of the 70 foot long planet-eater Mamenchasaurus, and exotic dinosaurs like a feathered flying, 40-foot Pteradon.

Chinasaurs is unlike other dinosaur exhibitions with the introduction of seven animatronic dinosaurs. The Maryland Science Center echoes with the grunts, growls and roars that scientists theorize shook the Asian continent millions of years before man could have quivered in terror.

Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty is open through Monday, September 7, 2009. The Maryland Science Center is located at 601 Light Street at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For information and tickets, visit or call the 24-Hour Information Line at 410-685-5225."

And an entertaining video that informs us that Mamenchisaurus may have been one of the stupidest dinosaurs(!) - lol.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Time to vote!

The Casper Star-Tribune has an online poll today to vote for either a full time, part time or closed Geological Museum. My friend Thomas brought this to my attention today and we all need to show the administration at the University of Wyoming what we think of their recent decisions. So head on over to the Casper Star-Tribune website and scroll half-way down the page and vote!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shut up and leave us alone!


By now you may have heard that the administration at the University of Wyoming has decided to reopen the Geological Museum, part time, using private funds. The museum will reopen on August 24 for public visitation under the supervision of the security guard. That’s right - a security guard.

Now, I don't know about you, but I do not go to a bank and expect the security guard to complete my transaction. I do not go to the mall and expect the security guard to check me out when I purchase something. I do not go to a baseball game and expect the security guard to play all the positions in the game.

It is not their job to do so.

So how exactly is a security guard going to answer questions asked by museum visitors? How will they ring up and purchases, should someone decided they would like a Big Al t-shirt? How will they clean and maintain the exhibits? How will they train volunteers? How will they make sure the information present in exhibits is up to date? You get the idea................

So this is the way I see this whole thing playing out in UW President Tom Buchanan's mind (and remember, this is all just in my imagination - I have NO idea what is going though this mans head): he is inundated with letters, emails, calls, and investigations into the closing of the museum. People start to bring up his inflated salary. Question his reasoning behind the decisions. Question his devotion to science education. He is getting alot of bad press and the Board of Trusties (who are also feeling the pressure) tells him to "fix" the situation. His solution - reopen the museum, with private money, but only on a shoe string budget, and without the staff the museum deserves. Why? Because, frankly, he just does not care (once again, just my opinion and view - he is welcome to correct me). He does not understand why the museum is important to anyone other than little kids. He does not understand that science is important. He does not understand how a museum operates and what sort of staff it needs to do so. So he decided to do all of this and (at least this is how I see it) is telling us all to "Shut up and leave us alone already!"

The flaw in all of this is that they are still missing the point. I am sitting here at my computer and frankly saying "WTF - do they not get it!" It is not just about having the museum open. It is about caring of the collections! It is about doing good science and fulfilling the universities core missions of teaching, research, and outreach (all things the museum has done for years under the guidance of their curator!). I am sure the president of the university does not appreciate my concern and probably is thinking that nothing he does will make any of us happy. But I really do not feel like they have any interest in ever letting the museum have a curator again. They do not seem to understand the importance of having an individual in this position. They so not understand what they do and why it is important. It is simply infuriating! Basically it makes as much sense as this does:

I guess we just have to keep on them [UW Administration] and let them know why it IS important to have a curator!


New links:
University of Wyoming Press Release
Laramie Boomerang
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Billings Gazette (thanks for the heads up MDR)

Blog links:

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster, "Jesus and Dinosaurs" from the internet, no idea who created it (not me!). Just google "Jesus Dinosaur." Paul Blart: Mall Cop is © Columbia Pictures and I urge them to consider making the sequel about a museum security guard - oh, wait, is that idea already taken (Night at the something-er-other) because I think the scenario taking place at the University of Wyoming will be MUCH MORE funny (and disastrous!)!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fieldwork Friday #11

Continuing my post from last week on work we were doing down in the Moab area (where we got chased off by alot of rain the entire week), I thought I would post about the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail (also managed by the BLM). This is a trail similar to what we have in Rabbit Valley here in Colorado - The Trail Through Time – an in situ displays with interpretative panels. Pictures are below:

It is a nice trail, short and ways to walk. Unfortunately bone has been stolen from the trail over the years and ATV/dirtbike/mountain bike/motorcycle riders cut down the fence and/or ride around the gate in an area where they are not allowed and generally tear the area up.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster. Please see the "
Field Work Friday Rules" about the work I do and collection practices.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

1/12th Scale Apatosaurus Model

An awesome wedding gift we got from some friends is a 1/12th scale Apatosaurus skeleton model. John has been working on putting this together for a few months now and we are happy to now have it displayed in our house. This thing is so cool - the finished skeleton is 6’ 11” long, 16” high! It was sculpted by Phil Platt and I have heard stories about the original making appearances at SVP over the years (pictures from 2001 below).

Below are some pictures from our building process and the final results.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Concretionary fun

There was a recent article in the Colorado Springs Gazette about fellow paleoblogger Anthony and his adventures in concretion land. As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of identifying fossils for the public we all know for every real fossil someone brings in you usually get a barrel full of concretions that people also brought in. I have found that having separate concretion and fossil examples that you can show to the public helps them to understand what they have and why it is not a dinosaur egg/heart/eye, fish, plesiosaur paddle, turtle, ect......sometimes it is an easy mistake to make, especially when you do not see fossils on a daily basis. Some of these concretions can be pretty cool looking and are interesting rocks/minerals on their own (without needing to pretend to be a fossil). And there are usually some pretty interesting storied that accompany most concretions.

I thought I would share some of the fun items we have in our lab that have been brought in and donated over the years:

Not sure what someone thought this one could be.

A variety of "eggs and/or turtles"

"Its a ceratopsian horn!" - No, its not. Sadly.

And this one is not a concretion, but I threw it in to see if anyone is paying attention. Any guesses on what it is (and there are at least two people out there who better know this):

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fieldwork Friday #10

A few weeks ago we were working down in the Moab area, most unsuccessfully due to daily rainstorms, which made digging a bit difficult. So we had to bail on the quarry work for the most part and stuck to prospecting and checking out a few track sites in the area.

We prospected a section of Chinle Formation, where we found some wood (picture below) and isolated, indeterminate bone. Nothing to spectacular, unfortunately. And we, inevitably, got chased off by rain. A while down the road the rain blew out and we stopped to prospect a Paleozoic outcrop (I can’t remember the age, Penn. maybe). We found quite a few brachiopods, some crinoids and bryozoans - your typical invertebrate fun (I forgot to take pictures!).

We checked out quite a few track sites while we were over in the area, including the Poison Spider Mesa and Copper Ridge track sites (both in the Jurassic age Entrada Sandstone) that are managed by the BLM.

The tracks at Poison Spider Mesa are interesting because not only are they awesome tracks but also mudcracks, ripple marks and a ton of petroglyphs! These petroglyphs are from the Fremont culture. Some are really great and weird, and many of them have been vandalized by others who feel the need to leave their mark right next to these marks or some even modifying and marking over the petroglyphs. So sad and illegal!

Pictures from the Poison Spider Mesa Track Site:

Pictures from the Copper Ridge Track Site:

So, even though this is more of a paleosite visit trip than fieldwork, I thought I would include it in the series. Hope you enjoy it and have a chance to visit these sites some day!

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster. Please see the
"Field Work Friday Rules" about the work I do and collection practices.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A message from the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum

A statement from the Friends of the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum:

Statement from the Friends
On Tuesday, June 30 at 5:00 p.m. the University of Wyoming Geological Museum closed its doors. It was a sad moment for all of us who care about the museum. The museum was closed as a result of budget cuts announced by UW President Tom Buchanan on June 4, 2009 that included the museum’s small operating budget and the salary of the long-time director Brent Breithaupt and his part-time office assistant Jennifer Durer.

The outpouring of support for the museum from both the paleontological community and the general public has been overwhelming. Through on-line and paper petitions, Facebook and MySpace groups, blogs and emails, and newspaper articles and letter writing efforts, the President and Provost of the University of Wyoming as well as the Board of Trustees and the Governor are now very aware of the importance of the museum to the people and its role in research and in the education of everyone from children to college students to seniors.

Although the UW administration has not reversed the decision to close the museum, the overwhelming support shown for the museum has allowed the Department of Geology and Geophysics to begin to work with the administration to move towards new ideas for the permanent funding of the museum. These ideas include the establishment of an endowment that would fund the museum operations, including the salary of a director/curator. Obviously setting up and funding an endowment will take time and of course money, but we are hopeful that through these efforts the museum will re-open as a stronger and even more vital part of the Wyoming community.

We want to thank everyone for their support and hard work in helping us reach this point – it could not have been done without you! We will be continuing to gather support through this citizens group, the Friends of the S. H. Knight Geological Museum. There are links to the other on-line support activities on this blog, and we will keep it updated with the latest news about our efforts.

Now is the time to keep our efforts visible – we don’t want to lose this great momentum we’ve gained. If you signed the petition, now write a letter. If you’ve written letters, write more. And keep letting people know about our situation and how important the museum has been to you!

Again, thanks so much for all your support!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Who wants to go on a dinosaur dig?

Anthony over at the RMDRC paleo lab is looking for volunteers who are interested in going on a dinosaur dig in Montana at the end of the month. If you are interested read more of his post here.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Monday, July 6, 2009

Carnegie Museum in the news

This article is making the rounds on the vertpaleo list server, and I thought I would post the link here in case you might have not seen it. It makes one point that is really sticking out in my mind:

"Funding agencies will not give money to an institution that isn't investing in its research," said Jody Martin, chief of the division of invertebrate studies at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which also is struggling to balance its staffing while balancing its budget. "If you're not serious, why should they give you money?"

Such a GREAT point!! I only wish more museums and administrations realized this! I can't count the number of times I have heard about someone leaving a position at a museum (or the museum loosing someone due to death, ect...) and the position never being filled, the position being filled but only temporarily, or the positions money being absorbed and used for other purposes. All of these things suck! In the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology there are over 500 student members right now. And all of these students (myself at one time) assume/think/hope that they are going to be able to get a job in typically a) an academic setting or b) a museum. If museums keep up this behavior of not filling positions what are all of these future paleontologist going to be doing with themselves...... (I hear Don Prothero addresses this in his newest book - Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs - which I have not had a chance to see yet, but I look forward to it!).

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fieldwork Friday #9

Yesterday John and I had a chance to visit with Dr. Jim Kirkland (Utah State Paleontologist). Jim worked in Fruita in the 1990's as the lead paleontologist for Dinomations International Society, in the same building where Dinosaur Journey is currently located. He found and participated in many important paleontological discoveries in the western Colorado area during this time. These include a Dryosaurus nesting site in the Morrison Formation, a bird skull from the Green River Formation, the first Jurassic Ankylosaur - Mymoorapelta maysi (below), along with numerous other dinosaurs from the Morrison Mygatt-Moore Quarry.

While Jim was in town we took the opportunity to have him show us some of the classic sites he has worked, including the Dryosaurus nesting site. We hiked out the site and were happy to be able to find some additional bones.
(above) Jim and John at the site, (below) John and I at the site (picture by Jim Kirkland)

I was very excited to find a nice Dryosaurus coracoid, partial femur (pictured below) and two phalanges (toe bones). John found several small bone fragments and Jim found a nestling Dryosaurus vertebra (very small! I wish I had taken a picture of it).

Jim believes that this site was raided by mesosuchian crocodiles, which would eat the eggs/hatchlings and yearlings known from this site*. We also found a few pieces of egg shell at the site (pictured below).
This was only the second time I have seen egg shell in the Morrison Formation. The first time was at the Young Egg Site, also in Colorado (pictured below).

We continued on to prospect and locate another known site from the area (see below). We hope to be able to go out today to visit additional sites and have a chance to prospect some (if the rain will hold off).
Additional bone found in a Morrison Formation channel sandstone while prospecting.

* Kirkland, J. I. 1996. Predation of dinosaur nest by terrestrial crocodiles. Pages 124-133 in K. Carpenter, K. Hirsch, and J. Horner, editors. Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, Cambridge University Press. [free online here]

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster. Please see the "Field Work Friday Rules" about the work I do and collection practicies.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How can I go on a Dinosaur dig?

This is one of many questions I get asked often (by non-paleontologist, typically). Below are a few non-commercial outfits that offer day digs and extended dig oportunities to the general public. All of the fossils collected on these digs go to museums and you have a chance to work along side paleontologist. If anyone else can think of others, please feel free to let me know.