A special thank you to all our patrons to celebrate our 100th episode! Plus, a quick recap of the first day of SVP 2016 (Society of Vertebrate Paleontology)
We had a blast creating an epic dinosaur scene with 3D cookies. And we’re very lucky to have such supportive siblings who helped us bake the sugar cookies and decorate them with frosting (and of course, assemble the dinosaurs to make them come alive).
Our fourth and last stop on our epic dinosaur road trip, that was dinosaur related at least, was the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.
The Museum of the Rockies is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a Federal Repository for fossils. It’s located on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. And of course, it has an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils.
The museum changes exhibits fairly regularly, about once a year, so there’s a lot to see.
But one constant is Big Mike, the T-rex who stands out in front of the museum. Big Mike is a bronze cast of T-rex, MOR 555, and was dedicated in 2001 in memory of Dr. Michael P. Malone, the President of Montana State University from 1991 to 1999.
We got to meet Dr. John Scannella, who worked with Jack Horner and is now the interim curator at the museum. Like us, John also had a dinosaur themed wedding, so of course we hit it off right away.
In 2010, John and Jack published research on the growth patterns of 38 skulls (Triceratops and Torosaurus) from the Hell Creek Formation and suggested that Torosaurus was an adult version of Triceratops.
This has caused a lot of debate, and is still considered controversial.
That said, one of the displays we saw was the growth and behavior series of Triceratops, which shows a number of skulls, various ages and sizes, side by side to show just how big Triceratops became. The largest skull is about the size of a car.
Another display had a series of T-rex skulls to show the growth of the “tyrant king.” Though, even the smallest skull was full of sharp teeth and would probably have been quite terrifying in life.
There was also a Burrowing Dinosaurs: Digging Deeper Into Dinosaur Behavior exhibit, which shows Oryctodromeus, the first known burrowing dinosaur.
Some of the dinosaurs on display, such as Oryctodromeus, Tenontosaurus, and Deinonychus, are built so you can see their skeletons and their flesh. One half all you see is their bones, and the other half is covered in feathers or skin.
Our very last stop on our road trip before heading home was Reno, Nevada. There’s not a whole lot of dinosaurs in Reno, but our hotel did have an arcade with the Jurassic Park game. We nearly beat the T-rex level.
Reluctantly, we headed home and ended our epic dinosaur road trip. Our week on the road taught us a lot about dinosaurs, and more importantly, what dinosaurs mean to people. We hope to do more trips like this in the future. In the meantime, we have lots of dinosaur goodies to keep us going.
Thanks for listening, and until next time.
Our third stop on our epic dinosaur road trip was to the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Montana. Two Medicine is in between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, so we made a pit stop at Glacier.
A thick cloud covered a lot of the park, and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. But it was still beautiful.
After, we made our way to Bynum, Montana, to the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center. Bynum is a small town, with, we were told, a population of 37 in the summer and 31 in the winter. Though there may not be many people around, Montana is full of dinosaur fossils. We were told that about 18-20% of dinosaurs have been discovered in Montana.
The head paleontologist at Two Medicine is David Trexler, who also opened the institute in 1995. Two Medicine has the first baby dinosaur bones collected in North America, of Maiasaura, as well as a styrofoam skeletal model of the world’s largest dinosaur (at least in length). The model is of a Seismosaurus, and it’s 137.5 feet long, or 42 meters.
But the best part about Two Medicine is the dinosaur dig. Two Medicine’s mission is to educate people who are interested in dinosaurs, and they do that through a combination of exhibits, research, and letting visitors get hands-on and actually help them dig for dinosaurs.
Garret and I participated in a full day dig, and we learned a lot from the two scientists who facilitated—Cory Coverdell, director of Two Medicine, and Kara, our instructor.
Kara taught us how to find a fossil. Fossils can be all different kinds of colors: red, orange, and even blue. They also tend to have interesting shapes. And when in doubt on whether or not you’ve found a fossil, you can try the lick test. Lick your thumb, press the rock or fossil on your thumb for 10 seconds, and see if it sticks. If it does, that probably means you have a fossil. This is because the fossil is porous in nature.
We also learned that plants like to grow in fossils, again because of the porous nature. Some fossils we saw had lichen on them. Lichen grow about one inch per year, which shows scientists the minimum number of years a fossil has been exposed.
Hadrosaur fossils are abundant in the area, and actually are abundant in general. There are also a lot of nests around. You can tell by the fossilized eggshell whether it belonged to a hadrosaur or another type of dinosaur. Hadrosaur eggshells have a wavy texture, and another unknown dinosaur in the area has eggshells with a bumpy, braille-like texture.
In general, when looking for eggshells, it’s best to look for them in your shadow. This is because eggshells are darker in color than fossils, so your shadow makes them easier to spot. If you’re searching for fossils, you’ll want to look for them in bright light.
We spent the afternoon helping to dig at a nest, and found at least one fragment of eggshell. Cory and Kara set up a Total Station to measure where everything at the nest is. Basically the Total Station allows you to recreate a quarry and know exactly where each fossil was found.
After our successful dig, we spent the night recovering. Turns out, the life of a paleontologist is hard. You have to battle with bugs, sun, dirt, sudden changes in the weather, and occasionally, mice poop. Yes, that’s right. Our nesting site was also the nesting site for some mice, so Kara had to brush out the poop for us before we started digging.
Still, it was worth it. Dinosaurs are fascinating creatures and we can learn so much from them. Plus, we got our first stamp in our Montana Dinosaur Trail Prehistoric passport. If you make it to all 14 dinosaur stops on the trail within 5 years, you get a t-shirt. (Our second stamp came from the nearby Old Trail Museum, in Choteau, Montana, where we stayed.)
The second stop on our epic dinosaur road trip was to the Royal Tyrrell museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
Drumheller is full of dinosaurs, and not just in the Royal Tyrrell. There are 30-31 dinosaur statues placed around the city, and Drumheller is also home to the World’s Largest Dinosaur (at least to climb in).
This T-rex opened to the public in 2001, and at 86 ft (25 m) tall, it’s 4.5 times bigger than a real T-rex. It can also fit up to 12 people in its mouth, as long as those 12 people are willing to climb the 106 stairs to get to the top.
The Royal Tyrrell opened in September 1985, and attracts tons of visitors each year. In 2015 alone, they had nearly half a million visitors, though it’s possible Jurassic World helped boost their attendance. 9 paleontologists work at the museum, so there is always something exciting going on.
The museum is named after Joseph Burr Tyrrell, a Canadian geologist who found the skull of the first known carnivorous dinosaur in Canada, eventually named Albertosaurus. The museum was granted the name Royal in 1990 by Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of its international importance.
The Royal Tyrrell recently updated its exhibits, and the first exhibit we saw when we entered was Foundations, which opened in May of 2016. The idea is to teach visitors about the development of life on Earth, and you walk through three areas and see more than 90 specimens.
We got to speak with Cameron White, Security Supervisor at the museum, who supervises the gallery experience officer team, and he gave us a lovely tour. The Royal Tyrrell often displays actual fossils alongside replicas, and they’re kind enough to let visitors know what’s real and what’s a cast.
We met Jessica, who prepares fossils right in front of you and is happy to answer questions.
We also spent a fair amount of time enjoying the art gallery room, which is set up to look like an art gallery, but with dinosaurs.
But the best part was seeing Black Beauty, one of the most complete T-rex skeletons found so far, majestic in her death pose.
Now that I Know Dino is about a year and a half old, Garret and I decided it was time we saw some more dinosaur sites for ourselves. So we embarked on a 4,000 mi (~6,400 km), 67 hour road trip from California to Alberta to Montana and back.
Along the way we met some amazing dinosaur enthusiasts, including museum employees and curators, paleontologists, and people who love dinosaurs as much as we do.
The Currie Museum only opened last September, but has already attracted more than 100,000 visitors and won numerous awards. Everything smells new, and what’s great about this museum is their emphasis on technology and giving people new ways of learning about dinosaurs, even from a distance.
We got to speak with George Jacob, the CEO and president of the museum, and Jewels Goff, the Outreach and Education Programs coordinator.
When you walk through the Currie museum you get the sense of being chased. This is because the museum is laid out in a way that all the dinosaurs on display look like they’re running. You also get to time travel, in a sense. As you walk, you travel back in time.
Visitors also have plenty of ways to interact and learn. Some exhibits feature videos of CGI dinosaurs running next to their fossil counterparts. One of the exhibits makes use of augmented reality, so you can get a sense of the animal’s movement.
There’s also an interactive map where you can touch and learn about hundreds of fossil discoveries around the world.
And visitors can even take a helicopter tour of the area, where they can use tablets to learn more about the region and the bones underneath them.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see some scientists in the paleo lab, preparing dinosaur bones found nearby.
The museum, named after Canada’s leading paleontologist Dr. Philip Currie, is a world-class facility that sits on 10 acres, near two dinosaur bonebeds: Pipestone Creek and Wapiti. Pipestone Creek is the site of one of the densest bonebeds in the world, and is where Al Lakusta discovered the first bones of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, a type of ceratopsian, in 1974.
We were fortunate enough to be visiting the Currie Museum the same time that a group of superstar paleontologists, including Dr. Phil Currie, were digging at Pipestone Creek, where they hoped to find a complete Pachyrhinosaurus frill.
Stay tuned for Royal Tyrrell: I Know Dino Epic Dinosaur Road Trip, Part 2!