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!

Guest Blog: Josh Malone

Josh Malone is a recent graduate of Augustana College, where he earned a B.A. in Theatre as well as minors in Geology and Art. Burpee Museum has been fortunate to have Josh participate in its expedition programs since 2007.  Josh has also volunteered with the museum during PaleoFest and many other events over the past seven years. This was Josh’s first visit to the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry in Hanksville, Utah.

There really is nothing like it. Sitting in the dry dust, staring back at something that hasn’t seen the light of day in over 147 million years. It is something that few people get to experience in their life time. Fortunately for me the Burpee Museum provided me with an opportunity to have that kind experience, multiple times.

Finding out about Burpee Museum in ’05 was literally one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. I was a teenager in love with dinosaurs. I had been in love with dinosaurs since I was two years old and saw Jurassic Park when it was in theatres. These giant beasts fascinated me and I was only two years away from starting high school and six years away from college. I knew… or thought I knew for sure what I wanted to do. Then storms in Jane. My uncle and aunt in Rockford told me about Jane and would send me newspaper clippings of this amazing find. I had to see her for myself and when I finally did, like most others, I was in awe of her. But it wasn’t just Jane I was fascinated with. Where had the Burpee Museum of Natural History been all my life? This small museum with this amazing natural history collection ranging from the Carboniferous to modern-day biology. It had everything. And there, sitting disguised as a simple flyer at the front desk was a key to a big part of my future. A flyer that was promoting the museum’s summer expedition to Montana’s Hell Creek formation, where they had found Jane. I knew, there and then, that I would be going on one of Burpee’s expeditions.

Over the next year I worked for various farmers around my hometown of Kempton, IL so that I could save up enough money to go on this trip and in 2007 I went on my first dig with the Burpee in Montana. It was an experience I will never forget. Not only did I find some amazing things and work with an awesome team (shout out to Jim Holstein, and Erin Fitzgerald, Joanne, and my cousin Mark) I got to work with Dr. Thomas Carr and got to meet Dr. Jack Horner. It was a dream come true. I was told that I had an experience that even many vets weren’t lucky enough to have.

For the next few years I came out to the Hell Creek with Burpee on the odd numbered years (so ’07, ’09, ’11, and ’13.) Each time offered a different experience- all of them good. Even those gusty cold winds in early August while the sun hides behind the clouds and you stand atop a high ridge. I cherish those days because it is all experience gained. An important thing to note, that I feel a lot of people don’t realize, is that field work isn’t always easy and nice. The weather can suck a lot of the time and you can go days without finding anything. Then there is Scott with his blowhorn at 7 am. There are bad times. But I loved those moments because it just added to the well roundedness of the experience that the Burpee offers. Those experiences also humble you and make you realize just how much these professionals go through every season, all season.

But with the bad there has also been so much good. Over the past several years I have made so many connections, and worked with so many amazing and influential people. Honestly, when I was eight years old watching Walking With Dinosaurs I would have never imagined that I would someday be laying next to Thomas Holtz or Jim Kirkland with my face in the sand looking for dinosaurs. Yet here I am, having those exact experiences. I would randomly look over and have to suppress the urge to have a mini freakout moment. I needed to remain professional… but you know what? I can have my moment now. THIS IS AWESOME. I’ve worked with Holtz, Kirkland, Carr, Goodwin, and so many others! I’ve interviewed them all at PaleoFest or at other conferences I’ve gone to with the Burpee. I’ve sat next to giants in the paleo-community and had conversations, found bones, and yes- even thrown back a beer or two with them. The Burpee offers that opportunity.

One of the things I wanted… no, needed to do, before I graduated was come out to the Hanksville-Burpee site in Utah. Mainly because of my wishfullness to uncover a stegosaur. But also so that I will have had that “other” experience with the Burpee before my adult life starts after college. The opportunity arose for me to go to Utah the week after graduation, which in my book still counts because I don’t have a job yet and I haven’t moved far away. So, I latched on to the opportunity to essentially intern under Scott and Katie for the Burpee at the Utah site. And it has been every bit the experience I hoped it would be. No… I didn’t find my stegosaur. But we have several sauropods, some Allosaurus and Ceratosaur material, and an ankylosaur!? I mean, honestly we have some of the best stuff ever here at this site, and I can officially say “Hey, I have been there. I was a part of that team!”

Recent Augustana graduate, Josh Malone, joined the Burpee Field Crew in Hanksville, Utah.

Recent Augustana graduate, Josh Malone, joined the Burpee Field Crew in Hanksville, Utah.

It has all been very humbling. The past several years my relationship with the Burpee has helped me grow as a student an as a person. No matter my interest or area of study the Burpee with their different types of programming was always there to support and help me in any way they could. Scott, Katie, Josh, Hillary, Maureen, and so many others at the museum who encouraged and facilitated my growth as an individual. I would not be the person I am today without the experiences the Burpee has offered.

There are times in your life… well, in my life at least, where everything seems perfect. Like where I am at is where I am supposed to be at that moment, and that I am on that right path. Trust me when I say that this past year has been missing a lot of those moments. As a senior at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL this past year I have never felt more unsure of myself and where my future is going to take me. I have my BA in Theatre and ADs in Geology and Art. I have no clue where I will be a few weeks from now to be honest, let alone next year. But coming out to the Hanksville-Burpee site in Utah this summer, on my fifth expedition with the Burpee crew, has given me that feeling I’m supposed to be here, at this moment. It’s a blessing.

And they’re off!

On Sunday May 18th, the Burpee Field Crew left Rockford, Illinois and headed for Hanksville, Utah to begin readying the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry for the 2014 field season.

Morrision FM

At the end of each field season most of the traces of an active dinosaur dig are taken down, cleaned up, and removed from the site. All that remains over the winter is an information sign and a log fence. The fossils are re-buried to protect them from the elements, as well as to deter fossil poachers. This means that at the beginning of each season, crews must un-bury the dig pits, reconstruct the shade tent, reset (and reorganize) the supply trailer as well as make sure that all the machinery is in working order. The Burpee Crew is making good headway on setting up the site for the 2014 season – the shade tent frame has been erected, the trailer is in position and organized. Next comes, un-burying the dig pits and checking machinery!

However its not all work and no play for the field crew –  on the way to Utah they stopped at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to check out their paleo hall and incredible dioramas in their biology halls. They also had the opportunity to observe a small herd of Big Horn Sheep as they passed through the Rocky Mountains that was grazing near the road.


One final note, Happy 215th Birthday to Mary Anning! Check out today’s Google Doodle!


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.



Field work and field trips and fossils … Oh my!

Springtime at Burpee Museum brings many welcome changes from the long, cold winter months. One of the most welcome changes happens when the field crew starts to gear up and get ready for the summer expeditions.


This summer Burpee Museum will send field crews to Hanksville, Utah to excavate in the Jurassic-aged Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry  and to Ekalaka, Montana to search for more Late Cretaceous specimens, like Pearl, Homer, and Jane. Burpee field crews stay at each site for approximately one month. During the course of that month they must open each site, excavate, map, and remove fossils, and then winterize the sites.  Expeditions allow the museum to grow the collection and participate in research to help better understand dinosaurs, their contemporaries, and the world as it was during their time.

Expeditions also allow Burpee Museum to connect the general public with paleontology. People interested in experiencing what a dinosaur dig is like are encouraged to register for one (or more!) of Burpee’s Expeditions and try their hand at field work. Anyone interested in field work, or the expeditions is welcome to join us Saturday, April 12 from 1-3pm for an Expedition Orientation Session. No registration is required for the orientation sessions!

For those looking to stay closer to home, Burpee Museum also hosts Family Fossil Field Trips at local quarries. On these field trips participants can spend the afternoon hunting for local Ordovician fossils, such as crinoids, cephalopods, brachiopods, and trilobites, and they get to keep what they find!

For more information about either Expeditions or Family Fossil Field Trips, please visit Burpee Museum’s website.

2013 Expeditions Are Go!

Who wants to come dig up dinosaurs with us this summer?! Seriously, who wants to sign up?

After a little deliberation, we are set to move forward with finding some awesome expedition crew members for this summer’s dinosaur digs in both Utah and Montana.

Our expeditions work a little differently than traditional geology or paleontology field camps. Our field crew members range in age from high school students to retirees, and they bring with them a diverse range of life experiences and skills to the team. The one thing that they all have in common: they all have a passion to dig up dinosaur bones. And, instead of tent-camping for weeks on end all of our expedition crew members have the opportunity to come back from the field each night, get a hot shower and sleep in a bed. (However, if you really enjoy tent-camping that can be arranged for you too!) Our crew members can also vary their length of time that they are in the field. The Jurassic Journey program in Hanksville, Utah allows members to stay any length of time between three days and two weeks. In the Highway to Hell Creek program in Ekalaka, Montana the minimum stay is one week and the maximum stay is two weeks.

2012 Highway to Hell Creek Field Crew (C) Burpee Museum

2012 Highway to Hell Creek Field Crew (C) Burpee Museum

We are incredibly lucky to have two highly successful field programs that are productive year, after year, after year.  We have been going to Ekalaka, Montana and staying at Camp Needmore for a decade. Camp Needmore serves as a great base camp with plenty of space for even our largest field crews. From camp we head out each morning to the beautiful Montana badlands to dig for dinosaurs in the Hell Creek formation. The Hell Creek formation is one of the classic Late Cretaceous formations, and has yielded Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops sp., Edmontosaurus sp., Dromaeosaurus sp., Thescelosaurus, and Pachycephalosaurus dinosaur fossils as well as an astonishing number of microvertebrate fossils from fish, mammals, salamanders, frogs, and turtles. Our Highway to Hell Creek program is the same program that allowed us to find and bring home “Jane” the juvenile T. rex and “Homer” the juvenile Triceratops. Recently we have been working on an important site, affectionately called the Ninja Turtle site, where multiple fossil turtles have been uncovered, as well as sites containing a large Triceratops specimen and an Edmontosaurus specimen.

Longtime dig participant Frank Tully with some of the "Jimmy" fossils. (c) Burpee Museum

Longtime dig participant Frank Tully with some of the “Jimmy” fossils. (c) Burpee Museum

We have been digging in Hanksville, Utah since 2008 – it is a truly amazing site. The locality is found in the Morrison Formation and is Middle Jurassic in age. Once a braided river system, the sauropod-dominated site is a log-jam of bones. In true Burpee fashion, the fossils are smaller than expected and may represent a collection of juvenile sauropods. Here we have uncovered a substantial portion of a juvenile Diplodocus nicknamed “Jimmy” as well as fossils from Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Barosaurus. In addition to the sauropod fossils uncovered, we have fossils from Ceratosaurus and Allosaurus specimens as well. The Jurassic Journey expeditions to Hanksville, UT allow for some of the poshest fossil dinosaur dig amenities around. The town of Hanksville is our home-base, many crew members stay in a local hotel, The Whispering Sands, and enjoy breakfast at Blondie’s Cafe each morning before we head out to the field. Most field weeks are wrapped up by an evening adventure up into the Henry Mountains for a crew cook-out and bonfire.

Henry Mountains from the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry  (c) Hillary Parks

Henry Mountains from the Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry (c) Hillary Parks

If you are interested in joining us check out the 2013 Expeditions Page or download the Registration Forms.