The Jane Diaries

Dr. Thomas Carr a Tyrannosaurid expert from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin has been working with “Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex specimen from the Hell Creek Formation in south eastern Montana to determine if “Jane” is indeed a juvenile T. rex or if the specimen should be referred to a different species of theropod dinosaur.

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

Dr. Carr has spent countless hours documenting and studying “Jane’s” fossil components to observe as many details as possible so that the specimen can be placed soundly into a fossil species based on morphological characteristics. If you would like to follow his journey into the details of “Jane’s” skeleton check out his blog Tyrannosauroidea Central or follow him on Twitter at @TyrannosaurCarr. His work with “Jane” will be published as a manuscript once his research is complete – keep an eye on Dr. Carr and Burpee Museum’s social media outlets for updates on the manuscript publication as well!

Lightening Strikes and Expedition Updates

Steve the Sloth says "Watch for Falling Debris!" Fortunately only the chimney was damaged, and things are now back up and running!

Steve the Sloth says “Watch for Falling Debris!” Fortunately only the chimney was damaged, and things are now back up and running!

Things have been busy in the field at at the museum! A chimney on museum’s administrative building, the Barnes Mansion, was struck by lightening. The chimney was damaged and the email server was fried. So, if you’ve tried to email anyone at the museum in the past few days and your email bounced back, please try again!

The Week 1 Field Crew, thanks for all your hard work!

The Week 1 Field Crew, thanks for all your hard work!

The news from the field is much more fun, the field crews have made some exciting finds at both new and old sites! The braincase and a pterygoid were found at the “Garny” Triceratops site by Steve Simpson and the Highland Community College crew.

Another Baenid Turtle found at the Ninja Turtle site!

Another Baenid Turtle found at the Ninja Turtle site!

Another Baenid Turtle was found at the Ninja Turtle site.

Possibly a new juvenile T. rex site!

Possibly a new juvenile T. rex site!

A juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur was found while prospecting – crews are going back this week to investigate and see if there is more there!

Highway to Hell Creek 2014 is underway!

Burpee Museum Field Crews have been working near Ekalaka, Montana preparing for the 2014 Highway to Hell Creek field season for the past two weeks. Already they have opened the “Pearl” site and have unearthed more of the rare Oviraptor, as well as opened the Double L Triceratops site and the Ninja Turtle site. Hopes are high for lots of great finds this field season!

L to R: Simon Masters, Gene Sullivan, Steve Landi, Hillary Parks, and Maureen Mall pose after finishing opening the Double L Triceratops site.

L to R: Simon Masters, Gene Sullivan, Steve Landi, Hillary Parks, and Maureen Mall pose after finishing opening the Double L Triceratops site.

They have also attended and presented at the second annual Dino Shindig at the Carter County Museum among many other very notable paleontologists. The first round of expedition participants arrived at Camp Needmore on Sunday and will be digging with the Burpee Crew all week.

Camp Needmore, the field crew's home for the next few weeks.

Camp Needmore, the field crew’s home for the next few weeks.

Stay tuned to the Burpee Facebook Page for updates about our finds from the field!

2014 Dino Shindig!

2014 Shindig

The second annual Dino Shindig is fast approaching! The Dino Shindig is hosted by the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka, Montana midway through the paleontological field season. Burpee Museum was proud to be a part of the inaugural Shindig weekend and is honored to be part of it once again this year! Last year’s Shindig hosted Dr. Jack Horner (Museum of the Rockies), Dr. Thomas Carr (Carthage College), Dr. Mark Goodwin (University of California-Berkeley Museum of Paleontology), Dr. Tyler Lyson (Smithsonian Museum of Natural Hstory), Dr. Joseph Peterson (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater), Dr. Thomas Holtz (University of Maryland) and Burpee Museum’s very own Scott Williams.

2013 Dino Shindig Speakers with host, Nathan Carroll, Carter County Museum Curator

2013 Dino Shindig Speakers with host, Nathan Carroll, Carter County Museum Curator

This year’s Dino Shindig will take place over the weekend of July 26 & 27, 2014. If you happen to be in Southeast Montana (or are planning to travel to that area) the Shindig is a wonderful, family friendly event that draws world-class speakers to the museum (see below for a list of speakers) to educate the public about the amazing paleontological resources and discoveries in the area.  Talks will be on Saturday July 26, and a dinosaur expedition (limited spaces available) will take place on Sunday July 27. The Shindig webpage has additional information about pricing and registration, and you can stay up to date about the Shindig on Carter County Museum’s Facebook page. If you’re able, we hope you’ll head to the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka to check out the Dino Shinding, its bound to be a great time!

2014 Speakers


Guest Blog: Dr. Mike D’Emic

Today’s post is by Dr. Mike D’Emic. He is an adjunct curator at Burpee Museum and is the Principal Investigator at the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry in Hanksville, Utah. To learn more about Dr. D’Emic and his research, visit his website.

“This is going to take decades.” That was the thought that went through my mind after a week spent digging up dinosaurs at the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry. Dinosaur bone is so abundant here that the area holds the potential to be one of the largest dinosaur quarries in the country, if not the world. Last year I visited the quarry for just two days – not enough time for much more than a tour facilitated by the Bureau of Land Management as I took over the role of primary investigator for the quarry. Learning that I would be able to direct research at an impressively large quarry full of similarly impressive dinosaurs was pretty exciting for me, but previous fieldwork committments last year meant that I could only make a brief stay. This year gave me a little more time to plan, and I made it out for an entire week (again cut too short by other fieldwork, as I type this en route to another dig, this one in Wyoming). Working at the quarry fits perfectly with my research interests – the focus of my PhD was on the evolution of a group of dinosaurs called sauropods – the long-necked, long-tailed dinosaurs most familiar to the public in general as the “Brontosaurus” kind, and to my generation in particular as the “Littlefoot” kind. The Hanksville-Burpee Quarry contains no fewer than 14 juvenile sauropods, so the chance to do research on this material has been a priceless opportunity.

Volunteer Joe Mongan works on excavation of a sauropod pelvis from "Limb Bone Ridge".

Volunteer Joe Mongan works on excavation of a sauropod pelvis from “Limb Bone Ridge”.

The discoveries at the quarry this past week have continued to impress me, and I’m already looking forward to next year. So far we’ve found bones from larger sauropod individuals than had been found before at the quarry, our first sauropod pelvis, some rare theropod (meat-eater) material, and the rarest find of all – an armored dinosaur that would have been a precursor to the famous tank-like, club-tailed Ankylosaurus. By the end of the season, nearly 400 plaster jackets will have been removed over the past seven years of work at the quarry, with each jacket holding one or more bones. All of this feels more impressive in light of the fact that less than 1% of the immediate area that seems to bear fossils here has been excavated!

Volunteers excavate "Middle Quarry", a mixture of juvenile sauropod (long-necked), theropod (meat-eating), and ankylosaur (club-tailed) dinosaurs, keeping an eye on a storm in the distance.

Volunteers excavate “Middle Quarry”, a mixture of juvenile sauropod (long-necked), theropod (meat-eating), and ankylosaur (club-tailed) dinosaurs.

The Hanksville-Burpee Quarry has attracted visitors and researchers from all over the world – just this week we had visitors from Poland, India, Bangladesh, and Egypt, among others. The accessibility of the quarry means that researchers can come and visit for just a few days – we also hosted graduate students and professors from several US colleges, including Dr. Allison Beck from Blackhawk Community College, who was part of several important dinosaur digs in Africa in the late 1990s-early 2000s. We were also paid a visit from science writer Brian Switek, who was excited to find the the small patch of bone he discovered last year has since been uncovered to reveal the nearly complete sauropod pelvis mentioned above. (Check out Brian’s blog about his visit to HBDQ!)

Work at the quarry was a mix of frenetic and zen – sometimes it seems like there are a few dozen things on the “immediate” to do list, while other times you can sit for hours chipping away at the same patch of rock, trying to free a particular bone. All that chipping gave me time to think, and I mostly thought about time. The special perspective that geology gives us is that of time: “deep time,” as we call it in the lingo of the field. Geologists and paleontologists not only have to think about the dimensions in space that connect patterns and processes, but also appropriate dimensions in time. I spent a lot of time thinking about how old these dinosaurs were when they died, about how long they sat on the plains adjacent to the river before some large storm or flood washed them into the channel, about how far they tumbled and bashed each other traveling down that channel, and how long they’ve sat in the rock until we came along with our tools to unearth them. And of course, I thought about the daunting amount of time it will take to uncover and study all of these bones, in what is shaping up to someday be one of the largest dinosaur graveyards in the world. It all amounts to a great puzzle that will no doubt inspire questions for years to come, and I’m already looking forward to getting back to Hanksville for next year’s dig.

Wait, I can get college credit to learn about (and dig up) dinosaurs?!

This could be you!

This could be you!

Burpee Museum is partnering with Elmhurst College during the 2014 field season. In conjunction with Burpee Museum’s Highway to Hell Creek expeditions to Ekalaka, Montana, Elmhurst College will be offering three online summer classes. These classes will culminate in an onsite visit to Burpee for field orientation and participation in the August 4-8, 2014 expedition.

Each of Elmhurst College’s online courses is being lead by Dr. Rich Schultz. Dr. Schultz has joined the Burpee Crew in Montana in the past and has played an integral part in the creation of this new program by spearheading the creation of courses that can be taken by high school students seeking dual credit, traditional undergraduate students and secondary education teachers seeking graduate credit.

The courses offered include:

Undergraduate course: GEO 468: Geography/Geosciences Internship/Field Experience

(0.5 credits; P/F);  Summer Field Experience for traditional undergraduate students. Not to be used as an internship.

Dual-credit course: (High School Students): GEO 100: Field Methods for the Prospective STEM Student

(0.25 credits); Dual credit course for high school students. Students will also receive college credit if they attend Elmhurst College.

Graduate course: MTL 580: Comparative Studies – Montana

(2 graduate semester hours); Graduate course for secondary educators interested in STEM Teaching in the field.

 If you are interested in being a part of this program through Elmhurst College, please visit the Elmhurst College Registration and Records Page. If you have questions about the Elmhurst College 2014 STEM Field Experience program please contact Dr. Schultz using the form below.