In our 87th episode, we got to speak with Cameron White, Head of Gallery Experience at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. To learn more about the museum, check out our video in part 2 of our #EpicDinosaurRoadTrip.
Episode 87 is all about Iguanodon the second dinosaur ever named.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Iguanodon
- Name means “iguana tooth”
- Ornithopod that lived in the early Cretaceous, in what is now Belgium and maybe other parts of Europe
- Other dinosaurs in the area include predators Aristosuchus, Eotyrannos, Baryonyx, and Neovenator, and other herbivores like Hypsilophodon, Mantellisaurus, the armored herbivore Polacanthus, and Pelorosaurus, a sauropod
- Named in 1825 by Gideon Mantell, an English geologist
- Second dinosaur named after Megalosaurus (discussed in episode 47); one of the three dinosaurs to define Dinosauria
- The other genera used to define Dinosauria was Hylaeosaurus
- There was tension between Mantell and Richard Owen (a scientist and man who named Dinosaursia who was also a creationist and opposed the “transmutationism” idea of evolution. When he described Dinosauria, he said they were advanced and mammal-like, with characteristics that God gave them, and could not have transmuted from reptiles to mammal-like animals
- Transmutation was the theory before Darwin’s theory of evolution
- Mantell and Owen had a rivalry, and some historians think Owen took a lot of credit for Mantell’s work
- The story of how Iguanodon was discovered was that Mary Ann, Gideon Mantell’s wife, found the teeth in 1822 in Sussex, England, while her husband was visiting a patient. But Mantell didn’t take his wife with him when visiting patients, and in 1851 he admitted he had found the teeth
- Mantell first found large fossils at a quarry in Whitemans Green in 1820, but he thought they belonged to a giant crocodile. In his notebooks he mentioned in 1821 that he found herbivorous teeth and thought it might belong to a large reptile. He presented the teeth to the Royal Society of London in 1822 but they thought it was just fish teeth or rhinoceros teeth (happened again in 1823 when Charles Lyell showed the teeth to Georges Cuvier, a French naturalist).
- William Buckland was one of the members of the Geological Society of London to say the teeth belonged to a fish or rhino
- Cuvier was known for correctly identifying Pterodactylus as a flying reptile
- He thought the teeth were of a rhino, but the next day had his doubts, but Lyell only told Mantell about Cuvier’s first thoughts of the teeth, so Mantell put them to the side for a while
- Then Buckland described Megalosaurus in 1824 and was invitied to see Mantell’s collection. He thought it was a dinosaur, though not an herbivore. So Mantell sent some teeth to Cuvier, who said in June 1824 that they were reptilian, possibly of a giant herbivore’s (admitting to his mistake in 1823).
- Cuvier wrote a public retraction that he now thought the teeth were reptilian, not mammalian
- Mantell’s discovery was now widely accepted
- In September of 1824 Mantell went to the Royal College of Surgeons but couldn’t find any similar teeth. Then Samuel Stutchbury, an assistant curator, saw that they looked like a larger version of iguana teeth he had recently worked on
- Because of this, Mantell named the animal Iguanodon (he was going to call it Iguana-saurus, but his friend William Daniel Conybeare said that name was more applicable to an iguana, so a better name would be Iguanoides (meaning Iguana-like) or Iguanodon
- Conybeare said Iguanasaurus might cause confusion between the dinosaur and iguanas
- Mantell wrote a letter about Iguanodon to the Portsmouth Philosophical Society in December 1824, and the Hampshire Telegraph published about it, but misspelled the name (Iguanadon instead of Iguanodon)
- Mantell published his findings formally in February 1825 (presented the paper to the Royal Society of London)
- Mantell didn’t give it a species name, but in 1829 Friedrich Holl named it Iguanodon anglicum, which later became anglicus
- The name anglicum was changed to anglicus for correct grammar
- After Stutchbury recognized the tooth looked like a giant iguana tooth, Mantell estimated the size of the body of Iguanodon by multiplying how many times bigger it’s tooth was compared to an iguana’s tooth. He guessed it was 59 ft (18 m) long, bigger than Megalosaurus, though it’s not true
- Weighed around 3.4 tons, about 33 ft (10 m) long as an adult (some may have been as long as 43 ft (13 m))
- Only two valid species of Iguanodon currently: bernissartensis (described by George Albert Boulenger in 1881) and galvensis, described in 2015 and based on fossils found in Spain
- The original type species was Iguanodon anglicus, but that was only based on a single tooth, and only partial remains have been found. In 2000, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature changed the neotype to Iguanodon bernissartensis (the original Iguanodon tooth is at the national museum of New Zealand in Wellington, but it’s not on display)
- They got it after Walter Mantell, Gideon Mantell’s soon, moved there after his father died (he got the fossil collection)
- Iguanodon bernissartensis is the neotype, which replaces Iguanodon anglicus as the type species that newly found Iguanodon fossils are compared to
- Clade Iguanodontia has been a wastebasket taxon for ornithopods that are neither hypsilophodontids or hadrosaurids
- Well known Iguanodontia include Dryosaurus, Camptosaurus, Ouranosaurus, and hadrosaurs
- What we know about Iguanodon has changed significantly since 1825, based on new finds
- Because there were only fragments of dinosaurs found in the beginning, a lot of assumptions were based on current living creatures
- Mantell thought Iguanodon had a horn on its nose (instead of a thumb spike) based on it being similar to a horn of a South American iguana with a Kangaroo-like stance
- Iggy, a famous Iguanodon replica, is in the kangaroo pose, which was thought to be accurate when they mounted the Iguanodon
- World Wars and the Great Depression meant Iguanodon wasn’t really studied in the early 1900s
- A dinosaur renaissance started in 1969 with Deinonychus, and soon after David B. Norman analyzed how it ate and other aspects of Iguanodon, and it became a well known dinosaur
- In 1834 in an excavation of a quarry in Maidstone, a more complete Iguanodon specimen was found (other than the tooth Mantell found) However it was still only a partial skeleton. Mantell identified it as Iguanodon based on its teeth. This skeleton was used in the first Iguanodon reconstructions, but it was not complete, and Mantell thought the horn went on the nose
- The skeleton, known as the Maidstone skeleton, is preserved in a slab and on display at the Natural History Museum in London (also nicknamed Gideon Mantell’s “Mantel-piece”); replica is nicknamed Iggy
- Bensted concluded it was an Iguanodon, and wrote in his notebook, along with sketches: “The remains of the Iguanodon were discovered by one of the workmen blasting the layer with gunpowder, the bore being placed in the middle of a rise, or mound in the stone”
- There was quarry blasting. Bensted also wrote, “The separation of the mass was so complete, that some parts were thrown by the force of the powder to a considerable distance, and a month had elapsed before I had fitted the fragments together in their relative places.”
- The Maidstone skeleton helped Gideon Mantell identify his dinosaur, Iguanodon
- The borough of Maidstone added Iguanodon to their coat of arms in 1949 . And that specimen is linked to Iguanodon mantelli, a species Christian Erich Hermann von Meye named in 1832 to replace Iguanodon anglicus, but it was found in a different formation from Iguanodon anglicus. Because it’s from a different formation, it was eventually reclassified as Mantellisaurus in 2012
- In May 2014, the Maidstone Museum got back the original case of Iggy the Iguanodon and are on display in the Kent Earth Heritage Gallery
- In 1878 in Bernissart Belgium, the largest Iguanodon to date was found. Two mineworkers, Jules Créteur and Alphonse Blanchard, accidentally hit a skeleton that they thought was petrified wood
- They excavated the skeletons and in 1882 Louis Dollo reconstructed them. They found 38 Iguanodon individuals, most of them adults (new species, Iguanodon bernissartensis, though one specimen called Iguanodon mantelli, now known as Dollodon bampingi)
- Louis Dollo was a Belgian paleontologist
- Iguanodon bernissartensis was named for Bernissart, where the coal mine were the 38+ Iguanodon specimens were found
- Not clear why there were so many Iguanodons in the Bernissart coal mines
- A complete Bernissart specimen showed Dollo that the spikes were not on Iguanodon’s nose, but on its thumbs
- The holotype was one of the first dinosaur skeletons put on display. They used adjustable ropes attached to scaffolding to help give it a lifelike pose. They were put on display in 1883, and then moved in 1891 to the Royal Museum of Natural History (19 are in the basement, but 9 are on display still). Can also see a replica at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge
- The Iguanodon replica at Cambridge’s Sedgwick Museum is nicknamed Iggy
- At the time there were no standardized ways to preserve fossils, and they often had “pyrite disease” which is when crystalline pyrite in the bones are oxidized to iron sulphate. To help preserve the Iguandon finds, they covered the fossils in wet clay, sealed them with paper and plaster, and then when they were transported, preserved them with boiling gelatine and an oil of cloves, then removed the visible pyrite and hardened them with hide glue, and repaired damages with papier-mache. But this accidentally caused more damage. The museum in Brussels worked to restore the fossils in 1935-36, using alcohol, arsenic, and shellac. The fossils were worked on again in 2003-2007, using polyvinyl acetate and cyanoacrylate and epoxy glues
- Dollo showed that Owen’s interpretation of Iguanodon was incorrect, and he modelled the skeletal mounts after cassowaries and wallabies, and moved the spikes to the thumbs. It wasn’t completely correct, but these were some of the first complete dinosaur specimens (he gave it a tripod tail, which in real life would have had to be broken to bend that way)
- The coal mine were Iguanodon was found has been abandoned (from scientific study) since 1921
- One Iguanodon found had a fractured hip bone, two others had osteoarthritis
- Probably not a herding animal
- May have traveled in small groups, though Iguanodon findings don’t have many hatchlings or juveniles (which is why it may not have been a herding animal)
- Because Iguanodon was an early named dinosaur, a lot of species have been assigned to it over the years (though it was not wastebasket taxon like Megalosaurus)
- Still lots of debate over what is Iguanodon and what species of Iguanodon
- Other “Iguanodons” were from four other continents
- Reassigned species include Iguanodon hoggi, now Owenodon, Iguanodon albinus, now Albisaurus albinus, Iguanodon atherfieldensis, now Mantellisaurus, Iguanodon exogyrarum, now Ponerosteus, Iguanodon prestwichii, now Camptosaurus or Cumnoria, Iguanodon dawsoni, now Barilium, Iguanodon fittoni, now Hypselospinus
- Also Iguanodon hollingtoniensis, now Darwinsaurus, Iguanodon seelyi, now considered by some to be a synonym of Iguanodon bernissartensis, Iguanodon phillipsi, now Priodontognathus, Iguanodon praecursor, now considered a sauropod and possibly Neosodon, Iguanodon mongolensis, now Altirhinus
- Also dubious species, Iguanodon anglicus, Iguanodon ottingeri
- Large and tall, but narrow skulls, with toothless beaks (probably covered in keratin), and teeth similar to an iguanas
- Teeth were similar to an iguanas, but bigger (only had one replacement tooth at a time for each tooth, unlike hadrosaurids)
- Upper jaw had 29 teeth on each side, no teeth in the front, and 25 teet in the lower jaw (teeth in lower jaw were wider)
- Could shear vegetation, which meant it could bite tough plant matter
- Could eat tough vegetation
- Probably had some sort of cheek structure to keep food in its mouth
- Had a horny, toothless beak
- Probably had a cropping beak, to bite off twigs
- Not sure what exactly it ate. Its size meant it could eat low-lying plants and plants up to 16.5 ft (5 m) high. Still, Iguanodon is considered to be medium to large herbivore for its habitat
- Because Iguanodon could find food in both low and high places, it had an advantage and could spread out in wider areas (also, when bipedal, easier to spot predators)
- Dollo thought Iguanodon had a tongue similar to a giraffes (prehensile, to gather food), but that’s since been rejected
- Dollo may have thought it had a giraffe like tongue because of a broken lower jaw
- More fossils show it had a muscular, non-prehensile tongue (moved food within its mouth)
- Thumbs had spikes (early restorations thought the spikes were on Iguanodon’s nose)
- Still not clear what exactly the thumb spikes were used for
- Had large thumb spikes, which may have been used for defense or foraging for food
- One person thought the thumb spike had a venom gland, but the spike was not hollow, so this theory hasn’t been accepted
- Thumb spike may have helped break open seeds and fruits, or as a weapon
- Thumb spikes were between 2-6 inches long
- The fifth digit was flexible, nearly prehensile (ex: the way a chameleon’s tail can curve around a branch), so probably could reach hard to get to parts of plants
- Had a long, dextrous little finger, maybe for moving objects (gathering food)
- The three middle fingers were close together, almost like one (inflexible, but made it easier to be on all fours)
- Herbivore that could shift from bipedal to quadrupedal
- Had strong legs, but was not a good runner. Had three toes
- Most likely quadrupedal most of the time and then bipedal for high browsing
- Juveniles have shorter arms than adults (60% of hindlimb length v 70% for adults), so as it aged, became more quadrupedal
- Had long arms (75% length of legs), with inflexible hands with three central fingers (to bear weight when it’s quadrupedal)
- Iguanodon’s forelimbs were 75% the length of the hindlimbs, which would make it easy to fully extend and walk on all fours, and then they could bend their elbows to get closer to vegetation on the ground
- In 1849, Mantell realized that Iguanodon had slender forelimbs and were not heavy, but he died in 1852 and could not weigh in on Richard Owen’s Crystal Palace dinosaur sculptures
- Had thick back legs
- Could not gallop, max speed is estimated to be 14.9 mph (24 kph)
- Could run for short distances, away from predators
- Footprints have been found on the Isle of Wight in England. It wasn’t clear they were Iguanodon footprints at first (Samuel Beckles said in 1854 they looked like bird tracks), then an Iguanodon hing leg was found nearby in 1857 and it had three-toed feet, which showed the three-toed footprints could be Iguanodon (so no direct evidence, but these tracks are thought to be Iguanodon)
- Had a stiff tail
- A stiff tail would help with balance
- Originally depicted as bipedal with its tail dragging on the ground, like a tripod (third leg)
- David Norman reexamined Iguanodon and concluded that it was not like a tripod because its tail was stiff with ossified tendons
- Ossified tendons are tendons that have turned to bone during an animal’s lifetime
- Iguanodon’s tail is now always depicted as straight and high off the ground
- Tendons can bend, so as an embryo Iguanodon had tendons supporting their tails so the tail could curl around the body and it could fit in a smaller sized egg
- Because of this, when it first hatched it probably had limp, droopy tails, but maybe only for a few days or weeks
- In December 2011, a bone thought to belong to the tail vertebrae of an Iguanodon was found in a garden in Sunderland, UK. However, the rocks in that area it was found are older than dinosaurs, so curators at the Sunderland Museum think the bone was lost or dropped by someone there at some point or it got there by glacial transport
- Because of Richard Owen dinosaurs were seen as large animals with scales and lots of teeth, which Owen had translated into the Crysal Palace dinosaur sculptures
- Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, who sculpted the dinosaurs, had a dinner party inside the standing Iguanodon sculpture before it was finished (or so the story goes, he actually had the party in the mould used to cast the sculpture)
- It was a publicity stunt to celebrate the dinosaur sculptures
- Dinner was on December 31, 1853
- The dinner lasted until after midnight
- They built a stage in order to deliver the courses, including mock turtle soup, cod in oyster sauce, pheasant, woodcock and snipe, and “Nougat à la Chantilly”
- There were 21 guests at Hawkins’ dinner party, including Richard Own. They ate ham, drank wine, and started singing, “The Jolly Old Beast is Not Deceased, There’s Life in Him Again!”
- Other guests at the Hawkins dinner party included Edward Forbes, John Gould, and Joseph Prestwich
- They also ate raised pigeon pie, roast turkey, ham, boiled chicken and celery sauce, Cotolettes de Moutonaux Tomates, Currie de Lapereaux au riz, Salmi de Perdrix and Mayonnaise de filets de Sole
- The newspapers the next day reported on the event. Hawkins apparently said, “The roaring chorus was so fierce and enthusiastic as almost to lead to the belief that the herd of iguanodons were bellowing.”
- Richard Owen sat at the head of the table, inside the Iguanodon’s head and gave a speech about how accurate the sculpture was
- In 1855 funding was cut to create more dinosaur sculptures, and the Iguanodon was one of 3 at Crystal Palace
- Iguanodon appears in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 story, The Lost World (they roam in herds in South America)
- There’s also an extra large Iguanodon that walks around Paris in Nicolas Flammarion’s The World Before Man, published in 1886
- And there’s an Iguanodon stampede in Robert Bakker’s Raptor Red
- 1989 CB3 main belt asteroid has been named 9941 Iguanodon
- The 9941 Iguanodon asteroid was found on February 4, 1989, inside a rocky belt between Mars and Jupiter
- Can see Iguanodon in the Disney movie Dinosaur (Aladar)
- Also inspired Godzilla, along with Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus
- And has been in many Land Before Time movies
- Also in the 1999 Walking with Dinosaurs documentary
- Fun Fact: Despite some other dinosaur groups not doing so well; Ornithopods (mostly hadrosauroids) got super successful in the late cretaceous, 40% of known ornithopod species are from just the last 30MY of the Mesozoic. Or to put it another way 40% of ornithopods are from less than the last 20% (30/165) of the reign of dinosaurs.
For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our interview with Cameron White:
Garret: We are joined this week by Cameron White, Head of Gallery Experience at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Cameron White: Hello.
Garret: We saw on just a website it lists you as like a security something or other.
Cameron White: Yeah I’m actually the security supervisor, so then I supervise the gallery experience officer team, which are basically a mixture of public safety and security and interpretation. Paleontological interpreters they are, so.
Garret: That sounds cool.
Sabrina: What does that mean, paleontological interpreters?
Cameron White: So they basically interpret dinosaurs.
Sabrina: Oh, simple enough.
Cameron White: Dinosaurs and all aspects of ancient life.
Garret: So that’s with the aim of making realistic exhibitions and stuff like that or even just on a research level?
Cameron White: Not so much research level; it’s more of a customer experience level. So it’s to basically interact with the public. They carry around these satchels that they carry various fossils or casts of the specimen so people can have some hands-on experience with them. They also have an iPad which we have direct links to paleo information and stuff like that that can kinda help find quick information to enhance the user’s experience.
Garret: So I’m just going to do a quick intro about the museum and you can correct me if I’m wrong about anything. So the Royal Tyrrell Museum opened in 1985 in southern Alberta and has become one of the largest and most influential dinosaur museums in the world, has a collection of over 100,000 fossils, and 47,000 square feet or 4400 square meters of exhibition space.
Cameron White: Correct.
Garret: Cool. That’s a lot of space.
Cameron White: A lot of space. And we fill it up nicely.
Garret: We just came from the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum and they have a couple specimens that are on loan from this museum. Do you guys loan out a lot of fossils?
Cameron White: Yeah we loan out fossils all over the world. Various other museums want stuff for their displays or just for research purposes, those types of things, so yes we do send stuff all over the world. We do also get things from other museums as well as for our museum, because so many of the specimens are kind of directly related to our area that we find around here, because you know throughout the world you only find certain specimens in certain areas, so…
Garret: Cool. One kind of funny note: we heard there was a yarn bombing on your Triceratops, or not Triceratops…
Sabrina: Ceratopsians out front?
Cameron White: Yeah. The local yarn club went around and had some fun and put some sweaters on numerous dinosaurs around the museum and around the Drumheller town, so there’s, there were a bunch on for basically the spring. I think it was a good, about a month they were up and stuff like that. A lot of us thought it was a pretty humorous thing, and some people didn’t really care for it but you know like any of those things is all meant in good fun.
Garret: At first when I heard about it I thought they had put them on like the fossil exhibits and I was like well that could be kind of annoying if you’re trying to see it, but then we found out it was on reproductions and it’s like, ‘oh it’s all in fun then.’
Cameron White: Yeah it’s just the fleshed out, you know, our interpretation of dinosaur or local interpretations that are not so scientific but they’re there and they looked really cool.
Sabrina: I wonder how they fit them or how they sized it.
Cameron White: Measurements, and yarn stretches.
Sabrina: That’s true.
Garret: It would. As far as other exhibits go how often do you update them? Are they like constantly evolving or is it…
Cameron White: Yes, definitely. We’re always trying to update, we always do something every year at least. This past year it was a really big one. The Foundations exhibit is basically the whole front entranceway of the galleries and it’s pretty much an intro to paleontology. So right to the development of the Earth to first evolution up to our modern techniques that we use for excavating and preparing fossils.
Garret: That sounds like a good exhibit.
Cameron White: Yes.
Sabrina: Yeah. How long is that up?
Cameron White: Well it just opened in May so it will be pretty much a permanent gallery for the next few years, so…
Garret: And then there are a lot of reproductions as well as you know actual fossils on display. Do you have to update, or do the reproductions get updated? Or do they usually just kinda get taken out when you do a new exhibit and then updated in that way?
Cameron White: So reproductions as in like casts of the original?
Garret: Like the ones you have out front where it’s…
Cameron White: Or like fleshed out replicas? Yeah. Yeah those guys, like for example the ones out front we just had repainted this winter. So we’ll update them as far as, you know, keeping them looking good for the public, and there was actually a little bit of updating that did come on that sculpt that was out front, they actually changed the nasal horn. It’s a Pachyrhinosaurus, so a type of ceratopsian, so there was a, they decided that they didn’t like the way that the nasal structure went before so they kind of updated that for it. So there is updating that can come with those as well.
Garret: That’s great.
Sabrina: Is that done in-house or do you send it out somewhere?
Cameron White: No the individual that actually made the sculptures, his name is Brian Cooley, we send them out to his shop and he does all the work.
Garret: Cool, is that a local one or do they have to go a ways?
Cameron White: Yeah they go, I’m not exactly sure where his shop is based out of but it is in Alberta so…
Garret: Okay. That could be really far or really close.
Cameron White: Yeah I guess so but I’m pretty sure it’s Calgary or Edmonton or something like that.
Garret: When we were at the Philip J Currie museum we asked them, they were talking about education programs and we said does anybody else come other than Grande Prairie? And they said well, north of Edmonton there isn’t much other than Grand Prairie. It’s pretty much all down south, so…
Cameron White: And that’s the same with our visitation, you know we get people from, our main visitors come from Calgary and Edmonton areas, but we do get people from all over the world and all over, you know, central Alberta is our main focus but yeah we get people from BC, Saskatchewan, all across Canada.
Sabrina: How did you end up working here?
Cameron White: I started here in a position that was very much like the Gallery Experience Officer. We used to be called just gallery interpreters and we kind of changed it to make it more of a security and interpretation base so that our security guards were able to answer questions but still perform security duties. We’re the first respondents for any first aid, any evacuation procedure stuff, we do all that. So myself I started here doing that, and after a couple of years the coordinator went on to a different position, so I applied for her position and got it. Then I moved into the security position eight years ago. So where I supervise basically all the public safety and security that takes place in the galleries while we’re open to the public. We also do security for the overnight programs during the off-season, so that’s where kids actually come here and sleep underneath the dinosaurs. So that’s one thing, that’s another element that we cover. I’m involved with tons of stuff like OHNS committee, all the fire procedures and emergency procedures; also I supervise shipping receiving here as well.
Garret: Yeah it makes sense to combine the security and exhibition discussions now that you mention it, that’s a really good idea.
Cameron White: And the whole point is for the customer experience, so we just want the visitors that come to the Tyrrell to have the best experience they possibly can.
Sabrina: I’m sure the kids love the sleep-overs.
Cameron White: Yeah, it’s a pretty amazing program.
Garret: Yeah, while we’re on that subject, you guys have quite a few science camps for different age groups and things like that, and I saw some of them are out in the Badlands, but are any of them around here other than the sleep-over type thing?
Cameron White: Yeah, during the summer months we do our science camp, which is you know it’s a fun kind of camp where they do a lot of camp type things, but there is also a focus on the science part of it and the paleontological part of it especially. So you know they do, they go look at fossils, they do all sorts of fun stuff where they even do microfossil sorting, stuff that actually is real paleontology and it’s not just all like pre-setup stuff. So they’re actually contributing to the science that we do here at the museum as well.
Garret: That’s great. Better than the like they cover up the cass of eggs and they say be a paleontologist, brush off the eggs.
Cameron White: Yeah.
Sabrina: But you have family programs too. Is that the same kinda thing?
Cameron White: There is a family camp that we do. Most of the camps themselves are strictly different age groups, so they’ll have like a junior and senior camp where I don’t know the exact age groups for those things off the top of my head but they fill up really quick I know that. They pretty much are almost booked solid you know six to seven months in advance.
Garret: Yeah I glanced at it yesterday and I saw they all said sold out on them. It’s an easy way to get your kids into science and get them…
Cameron White: Yeah, definitely, especially for those science keeners that’s something different.
Sabrina: Has anyone in any of the camps found any big discovery?
Cameron White: I don’t know off the top of my head. There’s lots of things they have found through helping out and especially when you’re searching for microfossils you know a lot of times how that works is they get these large bags that are just full of like fossil matrix, which is you know, dirt. And they’re sifting it through screen washing processes and stuff, almost like gold panning to a degree.
Sabrina: I read you have speaker series and a culture, an Alberta culture weekend? So what exactly, but it’s not going on right now.
Cameron White: Not right now. Speaker series is something that we do in the off-season where we have speakers, paleontologists, sometimes students, various people in the paleontological community that come to the museum and do a presentation in our auditorium. And it’s free and open to the public and it’s just an opportunity to kinda see what’s going on in the science world.
Sabrina: Cool. Is it off-season because otherwise the paleontologists are busy digging?
Cameron White: A little bit of that, but a lot of it is we are so busy during the summer, and you know in our auditorium we have auditorium programming or we have just videos that play and stuff like that. It would be a little bit harder to coordinate which is the amount of people that come through here because our visitation numbers are extremely high during the summer.
Sabrina: How high?
Cameron White: During the summer we do, well for an example I know we had over 15,000 people this last long weekend, so…
Garret: And is that the busiest weekend? Since that was the Canada Day weekend.
Cameron White: Canada Day is pretty busy but the August long weekend definitely is always our busiest.
Garret: Okay, what’s the long weekend in August?
Cameron White: Usually it’s the first week of August.
Sabrina: Do you have any regular paleontologists who come to speak?
Cameron White: Well a lot of times our paleontological staff will speak, or there will be some people that are like post-docs and something like that that are working with us will speak. There, you know, every year there definitely is some guys that bring new material and stuff throughout the years, so there are returning people for sure.
Sabrina: And then there’s also a satellite exhibit at Dinosaur Provincial Park called the Royal Tyrrell Field Station. I don’t know how familiar with that you are but can you tell us a little?
Cameron White: Yeah the field station in Dinosaur Provincial Park is kind of a sister museum to us, and it’s basically a smaller version of what we are here. So it’s an opportunity for people to go through a museum and talk to interpreters, and they have a similar system where they do a lot of educational programming and stuff like that, take people out into their mass Badlands compared to what we have here. So, but yeah it’s a really, really interesting and fun experience as well.
Garret: Cool. And then aside from camps you guys also have a dig experience. Is that kind of the same type of thing where you have kids go out and help sift through fossils and things like that?
Cameron White: Yeah, basically it’s, Living Experience is more of a simulated dig site, so it’s kind of the setup thing. Yeah, so we do those, but we basically cover the fossils in a plaster casting and then they chip through it and it’s not just like brushing sand away. It’s you know they actually are using proper paleontological tools and working like the, you know the technicians would actually work here at the museum.
Garret: That’s cool.
Garret: You also have a few hikes around here. Are there bones sticking out of the ground that you can see on the hikes?
Cameron White: Yeah there are some dinosaur bones in situ that they will see on their hikes and stuff like that. There’s the Seven Wonders of the Badlands which isn’t so much of the fossil aspects but it’s more just the other things in the badlands that talk a lot about the type of sediment throughout the valley, cactus and all those kinds of things with a bit of focus on the paleontological finds as well. Dino Site is more of a hike that you go out and you do a bit of a prospecting aspect and stuff like that, so looking at microfossil sites and stuff like that.
Sabrina: So how many paleontologists currently work with Royal Tyrrell.
Cameron White: I’m pretty sure there’s nine that work here.
Cameron White: There might be eight with a post-doc. So we do have a very sufficient curators, curatorial staff here at the museum.
Garret: Do they kind of focus on stuff that would be nearby or is it just whatever fossils we can get?
Cameron White: No they all have special things that they focus on. I know Dave […] (00:13:34) focuses on geology, so a lot on where fossils are found, the different localities throughout the world, and timelines and stuff. I know Dennis […] (00:13:45) focuses on palynology, which is the study of like fossilized spores and small plants, stuff like that. François Therrien focuses mostly on therapod dinosaurs, the meat-eating dinosaurs. So they all have different jobs here at the museum.
Garret: That’s cool, yeah because you guys cover a lot more than just dinosaurs right?
Cameron White: Yeah, all aspects of ancient life.
Garret: How far back, do you know roughly what the timeline is within? Is it Devonian or does it go…
Cameron White: All aspects basically starts with the beginning of life on Earth.
Garret: Anything that can fossilize counts.
Cameron White: We definitely focus more on the Cretaceous period here at the Tyrrell because that’s mostly what we find around central Alberta, so late Cretaceous.
Sabrina: And there’s a lab here right?
Cameron White: Yep we have a full lab. I’m not sure currently how many technicians we have on staff. I’m pretty sure it’s probably around ten to twelve, but yeah a lot of them are summer students and stuff that come to work here with our full time staff. They spend a lot of their time during the summer actually in the field doing a lot of the actual prep work and excavating the fossils. During the winter months they spend a lot of time working on those fossils and getting them ready for research or for display, those types of things.
Garret: Are there any other exhibits that are particularly cool other than that new one up front?
Cameron White: The entire museum.
Garret: You like the whole thing?
Cameron White: I like the whole thing.
Garret: It’s like picking a favorite kid.
Cameron White: Yeah.
Sabrina: How about a favorite dinosaur?
Cameron White: My favorite dinosaur is not even a dinosaur from the Drumheller or the central Alberta area. The Allosaurus is my favorite.
Garret: Yeah that’s a good one.
Sabrina: That’s a good one.
Cameron White: I like it, just it’s a Jurassic dinosaur that I find it just to be kind of a perfect killing machine. It just was like, yeah I’ve always liked it since I was a kid and I still like it as an adult.
Garret: Yeah we have a replica of an Allosaurus hand on our desk, and that’s, I love looking at the claws and then imagining the carotene sheath that would have gone over it so it would have been even bigger. It’s crazy.
Sabrina: Have you been to Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado?
Cameron White: No I haven’t.
Garret: It’s a good spot. It’s far and in the middle of nowhere, but… Oh I have one last question, and it might be completely wrong, but I think I read that there’s a dinosaur that you can go inside of. Like you can climb or something?
Cameron White: Yeah the world’s largest dinosaur, one of our town exhibits. So it’s our information tourist building that’s located downtown. It’s kind of right along the river. If you drove through town you can’t miss it.
Garret: I think we saw it. It looks like a big Godzilla style…
Cameron White: Yeah, it looks like it’s a giant T-rex and you go into the visitor’s center and yeah sure enough you can crawl up inside it. And it’s neat because when you’re in like the stomach area it’s supposed to look like you’re in its stomach and then as you make your way to the mouth then it’s a beautiful view of Drumheller from the mouth of an exorbitantly large T-rex. Tiny arm quote T-rex.
Sabrina: We’ll have to go there after.
Cameron White: Ya it’s very, very cool.
Sabrina: Thank you so much for taking the time.
Cameron White: Oh of course, I was more than happy to meet with you guys.
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