Getting to Know Local Dinosaur Sites: The Museums of Western Colorado

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the latest installment of “Getting to Know Local Dinosaur Sites”. This interview is going to be a little different, so far I have only been able to cover sites in my home state of Utah, but this week we will be looking at the Museums of Western Colorado. I had the great pleasure of interviewing Julia B. McHugh, Ph.D. Curator of Paleontology for the Museums of Western Colorado.

Jurassic Files: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do here?

Julia McHugh: “I am a vertebrate paleontologist and the current curator of paleontology at the Museums of Western Colorado; I also teach paleontology undergraduate courses at Colorado Mesa University. My expertise includes phylogenetics, paleohistology, paleoecological interactions, and specifically the effects of large environmental disturbances on ancient life (such as mass extinctions). I run the museum’s paleontology program at the Dinosaur Journey facility, manage collections, conduct research, plan and lead field work expeditions, run our public dinosaur dig program, oversee volunteers and the preparation lab, design and install exhibits, and develop coursework at the college level.”

JF: Could you give us a little history of the museum and the area?

JM: “The Museum of Western Colorado is the largest multi-disciplinary museum between Salt Lake City and Denver. Over the past fifty years it has grown to include three major museum facilities, four active outdoor paleontology sites, an educational center, and a research library and archives. In 1971, the museum became accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM). Dinosaur Journey is a dynamic facility showcasing the plants and animals common to the area 150 million years ago. Exhibits include articulated skeletons, robotic dinosaurs, fossils, hands-on activities, and a working paleontology laboratory. It also serves as a repository for national institutions such as the Bureau of Land Management, and The Carnegie and Smithsonian Museums. Outdoor paleontology areas are operated by the museum under a signed cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to co-manage four outdoor sites. These sites include the Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Dinosaur Hill, The Fruita Paleontological Area, and Riggs Hill (the Brachiosaurus skeleton found at this site in 1900 has been a popular exhibit in the Field Museum in Chicago for many decades). In addition, the museum is the repository for all cultural and fossil material found on BLM-administered land. For information on the history of paleontology in our area, you can watch our recent documentary, Dinosaurs of the Western Slope, on the Museums of Western Colorado Youtube channel.”

JF: So why dinosaurs? What about them makes them more popular than say, ice age fossils?

JM: “Dinosaurs have always captured the imagination of the public in a way no other extinct creature has ever done. The reason for this is their size, grandeur, and strangeness. Nothing on Earth today looks quite like a Stegosaurus or shakes the ground like a sauropod. Their bizarre biology will continue to capture the imaginations of the public for centuries to come.”

JF: What are some of the most common questions you get?

JM: “One of the most common questions I get at the museum is “are these real bones”? Of course, that’s the point of a museum, to see the real thing. I think in this digital age, people are so used to seeing imitations or mock-ups, that it can be surreal to see and touch real fossil bones. We have numerous real fossil bones on display for just that purpose – to let children run their fingers over bite marks on a giant bone and feel the power of a long-gone predator’s teeth. We don’t hide all of our fossils behind Plexiglas; we encourage the public to learn more than just their eyes.”

JF: What are some of the things that visitors can look forward to when they come visit?

JM: “Exhibits at our museum are more interactive than those at larger, big city institutions. Some of the highlights in our exhibit hall include animatronic dinosaurs that roar and come to life with the touch of a button, real fossils and tracks – many of which are touchable exhibits, an earthquake simulator, cast skeletons, a dig pit with real bones, and each summer we host temporary traveling exhibits. Past travelling exhibits have included Titanoboa: monster snake, Hatching the Past: nesting with dinosaurs, and Tyrannosaurus rex and the end of the “Age of Dinosaurs”.”

JF: Anything new that visitors should know about?

JM: “Our upcoming summer 2018 exhibit will be “Horns and Frills” – a look at the display structures of ceratopsian dinosaurs and their functions. Also, the 2018 schedule for our popular public dinosaur dig program will be available later this fall at www.dinodigs.org. Want to be a paleontologist for a day? We can hook you up.”

JF: Do you have an on site paleontology lab? If so what kind of work are they doing?

JM: “Yes. We have a large paleontology lab where bones excavated on museum expeditions are prepared in view of the visiting public. Visitors can watch our volunteer preparators working on fossil bones and teeth through lab windows Monday-Thursday.”

JF: O.K., last question. What is your Favorite Dinosaur?

JM: “Fav. Herbivore = Apatosaurus / Fav. Carnivore = Allosaurus”

The Museum is located at 550 Jurassic Court Fruita, CO 81521, and the operating hours of the museum are as follows. Summer Hours, May 1 – September 30, 7 days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. Winter Hours October 1 – April 30, Mon – Sat  10 am to 4 pm, Sun  Noon to 4 pm. All sites are closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition sites may close for emergencies. Please call to confirm status. (970) 858-7282. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for children, $25 for immediate family groups (up to 6 people), and Free to members. I cannot wait to take my trip out there over the spring to see all of the amazing exhibits, and I suggest you all do the same!

 

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Getting to Know Local Dinosaur Sites: Badlands Dinosaur Museum

Here is another installment of Getting to Know Local (kind of) Dinosaur Sites. For this article I was fortunate enough to interview Dr. Denver Fowler, curator of Paleontology from the Badlands Dinosaur Museum. I was very excited to conduct this interview especially since Dr. Fowler and his team discovered a new dinosaur this year!!

Jurassic Files: Could you give us a little history of the museum and the area?

Dr. Devner Fowler: “Dickinson Museum Center has essentially two subjects – paleontology and local history. The paleontology side was established in 1994 by Alice and Larry League and was originally called “Dakota Dinosaur Museum” and showcased the fossil collection they had built up. Ownership of the museum contents was transferred to the City of Dickinson in 2015, and I was brought in as curator in April 2016 with the mandate to make a world-class dinosaur museum. That’s a big task!

The museum was officially renamed “Badlands Dinosaur Museum” in October (our new website is coming soon!), and I’m setting about getting our scientific facilities up to scratch – we actually have a decent amount of collections space , and I’ve just upgraded our storage to proper metal cabinets – ready to fill with new bones!

Most of the rocks exposed on the surface in North Dakota were originally deposited after the dinosaurs went extinct, although there are a few areas with Cretaceous dinosaur-bearing rocks exposed. These occur mostly in the southwest corner about 100 miles from Dickinson. Dickinson is, however, host to some important exposures of the Oligocene Brule Formation. This includes bonebeds of the primitive rhino Subhyracodon, of which we have a number of fine skulls at the museum.
Still, I’m a dinosaur person. The geographic scope of the museum is the 4-state area of North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. My fieldwork focuses in Montana and North Dakota, looking primarily at the Hell Creek and Judith River Formations.”

JF: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do here?

DF: “I’m originally from England, but I came to the US to do my PhD with Jack Horner at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. I’ve been collecting fossils for over 30 years, and have been all over the world in various capacities. I’ve collected thousands of dinosaur fossils, especially in the Early Cretaceous of England, and the Late Cretaceous of North America.

My job title in Dickinson is curator, but as the only employed paleontologist I’m a bit of a one-man-band. I collect new specimens, conduct research, create exhibits, run the fossil preparation lab, manage volunteers, give school trips, design children’s activities, and lots of other things too. My wife, Dr. Elizabeth Freedman Fowler (also a paleontologist), teaches at Dickinson State University and has been an enormous help with setting up the paleontology program here. Liz’s specialist area is hadrosaurs -duckbilled dinosaurs, whereas I work more generally on whatever I find fossils of, or have an idea about. In recent years this has been chasmosaurine dinosaurs, but I’ve also published a few papers on the functional morphology of dinosaur claws for example, and I have just (Nov 22nd) published a long term project on Late Cretaceous stratigraphy of the Western Interior, including the stratigraphic ranges of dinosaur species.”

JF: So why dinosaurs? What about them makes them more popular than say, ice age fossils?

DF: “As a kid I liked animals, and fossils were just ancient animals, so after finding a few fossils on family holidays I was hooked. I was never especially attracted to dinosaurs in particular; I had a few books like every other kid, but I was interested in whatever I could find. However, after a while, you end up having found a lot of ammonites and other invertebrates, so you’re naturally drawn to seek out the more rare things, and that means vertebrates.
In terms of enduring public interest… dinosaurs really capture people’s imagination. I think this is partly a historical artifact: Owen was a showman, and really knew what he was doing when he named them “dinosaurs”, It’s such an evocative name. There’s also the fact that dinosaurs are really unlike anything we have alive today, so we have to do some clever detective work to figure out what they looked like or how they lived. The detective work is what excites me, and it’s this process part that I am emphasizing in our new exhibits in Dickinson: how do we actually “create new knowledge”.

JF: What are some of the most common questions you get?

DF: “People often ask if we’re still digging up new specimens, and they’re often surprised to find out that we have a VERY active field program.
People are also often surprised to find out that there are dinosaurs -fairly- locally; I joke that there are dinosaur bones right here in Dickinson: you just have to dig down a few hundred feet until you hit the Hell Creek Formation. Pretty much all the oil wells round here have to drill down through the Hell Creek formation to get to the Bakken Shale, so it’s not that far fetched of an idea!”

JF: What are some of the things that visitors can look forward to when they come visit?

DF: “We actually have a surprisingly large exhibit – much bigger than people expect. The original exhibit includes full skeletal mounts of Allosaurus and Albertosaurus, real skeletons of Edmontosaurus and Triceratops, a world-class mineral exhibit (with a glow-in-the-dark UV room), and dozens of other exhibit cases containing fossils of all kinds.

Shortly after I started here in April 2016, I borrowed a unique specimen called “Warwick’s Duck” from Museum of the Rockies. This is a pathological hadrosaur that my dad (Warwick Fowler) found when he was out working on my field crew in 2009. Its tail has over 30 horribly injured vertebrae, making it one of the most injured hadrosaur specimens ever found. It had never been on display before, so I have borrowed it for display and study. You can see this unique world-class specimen exhibited in Dickinson in a room at the end of the history hall.

We have a really good Triceratops skull on exhibit. It’s been visible through the lab window for a number of years, but I am going to be moving it out into the main exhibit hall soon so that people can see the other side of the skull – plus I would like all that space back in my lab!

We also have some nice science interactives. In Spring 2017 we installed an augmented reality sand box. It’s ostensibly for kids although pretty much every visitor spends quite a lot of time playing with it. They’re tremendous fun, and all the while secretly teaching about topography and maps. We’ve also got a nice digital microscope with various bugs and other tiny things to look at. Inevitably kids eventually end up pointing the microscope at their clothes or hair. That’s okay: I really wanted these exhibits to encourage curiosity, and kids investigating what the inside of their nose looks like in super-zoom is a sign that the plan is working.”

JF: Anything new that visitors should know about?

DF:  “I’m not a believer in 20-year fixed-exhibits: I like to have something new always coming in. Part of my mandate is to change the whole exhibit, so over the next few years you can expect to be seeing constant changes and additions.

I’m currently finishing up an exhibit on dinosaur eggs and babies, and am about to start building a major new exhibit on dinosaur claws. This is based on some of my research over the past few years, and will include some exceptional new feathered dinosaur models– I would go so far as to say these will be the best feathered dinosaur models you can see in the western US, perhaps even the whole continent. The artist (Boban Filipovic) is also a scientist, and his attention to detail and scientific accuracy is far beyond anything I have experienced before; for example, he went to the zoo and took photos down an ostrich’s throat just to get the same region as accurate as possible in our models. Then he sent those photos to me, and I had to decide which ostrich gullet I liked the most (sometimes this job is a bit odd).
We also try to put newly found fossils on exhibit, and we don’t always know what that is going to be. This year we’ve had a really productive field season – we have some exceptional new sites – including three incredible tyrannosaur sites, articulated duckbills… all kinds of amazing fossils. I’m actually fairly hard pressed to know what to prioritize in terms of preparation and collecting. ”

JF: Do you have an on site paleontology lab? If so what kind of work are they doing?

DF:  “Yes, we’re fortunate to have a good lab space, viewable from the main exhibit hall. Right now Liz is cleaning up an articulated hadrosaur arm. It’s from a 1/3 grown individual and will hopefully have a complete hand. You can also see preparation of what will be a new species of nodosaur – we have a really nice skull and quite a lot of the skeleton, including many pathological armor plates.
We also have a growing number of volunteers that work on our new finds.

We have lots of great fossils to work on, and a decent set up, although I’d like to buy a few new air chisels (especially for fine work), and we could always do with more volunteers.”

JF: What is your Favorite Dinosaur?

DF: I used to say Baryonyx, but these days my favorite dinosaur changes depending on what I am working on research-wise or have collected recently. I suppose right now I am excited by alvarezsaurids. Generally I like dinosaurs with interesting ecologies; species that have weird morphology that present us with a puzzle.”

The Badlands Dinosaur Museum is located at 188 Museum Drive East, Dickinson, North Dakota 58601. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm MT year round. Admission is $6.00 for Adults, $5.00 for Seniors, $4.00 for Children 3-12 years of age, and Children 2 and under are Free.

I personally cannot wait to make my first trip out there to see all of the thing I have heard about! I’d also like to thank Dr. Fowler for being so patient with me while I finished writing up this interview.

 

Getting to Know Local Dinosaur Sites : St George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm

For our next entry in the Getting to Know Local Dinosaur site series, we were lucky enough to talk to Andrew Milner from the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farms. Located in St. George Utah (2180 East Riverside Drive, St. George, UT 84790). I personally had a blast on this interview, and hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

 

OK, so I guess just the first question tell us you about yourself and what you do?

 

I’m Andrew Milner and I’m the city paleontologist and curator at the St George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm. I’ve been pretty much involved with the locality since it was first discovered, which was back in March of 2000. I was hired on as the city paleontologist in October of 2001.

I was actually born in England, and my parents loaded my brother and I up on the ship and brought us to Quebec in Eastern Canada , and moved to a town called Shawbridge. They had no idea that they were moving to a French province at the time, it was a big shocker and learning curve, but I ended up growing up in Quebec and it wasn’t very long after I moved that I became interested in paleontology. My aunt was coming to visit from England and we were walking on the trail near our house and we found these little brachiopod shells from the Ordovician, and I was running all over the place picking them up. I got back home after that walk and my brother gave me a book on prehistoric animals and on the cover that’s where I saw my first dinosaur. I became addicted and never gave it up. I’ve always been fascinated with nature and geology. I ended up becoming an avid fossil collector and mineral collector including shells and insects, my house was full of Natural History type stuff. Really my first love was geology and paleontology.

I ended up donating my Champlain Sea Collection of over 6000 specimens, which I started collecting at the age of 10 from the Ottawa area in Ontario, to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa through a guy named Richard Harrington, who worked on mammoths and things. Very soon afterward Dick hired me on. That was in 1988, I was hired on to basically catalog all the specimens that I donated, including going through old collections. My first start in paleontology was working on late Pleistocene fossils from eastern Canada, Sub-Arctic stuff. While I was working there I received a phone call from a guy named Desmond Collins who was the curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, and he invited me to come and work at the Burgess Shale in British Columbia with the Cambrian stuff. I ended up speaking to my boss Dick, and he ended up saying, “yep this is a chance of a lifetime, and so go for it.” I ended up working the Burgess Shale for five seasons. Eventually I went to Brock University, in eastern Canada in St. Catherine’s Ontario near Niagara Falls, and that’s where I got my undergraduate degree and in geology with a minor in biology. I started a master’s degree with my professor Steve Westcrop, and was working on trilobites at the time. Things fell through because he took a job at University of Oklahoma as the curator of the new paleontology museum there, so I was kind of stuck. My wife ended up picking up a job in Utah of all places, and as soon as she told me that I was like, “take it let’s go!”  I ended up moving to southern Utah, and then I ended up getting the job at the museum. I guess I kind of went about it the hard way. You know only getting an undergraduate degree again after all the time. Anyway, I didn’t get my master’s or my P.H.D. But I guess experience goes a long way.

 

That’s an interesting story that you were out working in the field before you went to school for it.

Yeah exactly yeah it was I was very fortunate in that respect I guess.

OK next question would you mind giving us a little history of the park? You said it was discovered 2000.

 

Yeah it was discovered by a man named Sheldon Johnson, a retired ophthalmologist. He discovered the site on February 26, 2000. Unfortunately, we lost Dr. Johnson earlier this year, he passed away at the age of 92. He and his wife, Laverna, were the kind of people who would take care of it, other people would have probably destroyed it, forgotten about it, and not worried about it. Dr. Johnson decided to preserve the site, and called Jim Kirkland, our state paleontologist.  Jim phoned me to come down and check out the site since I was so close. It’s a pretty amazing place! Not only the original tracks that were found, which had incredible detail. A lot of the footprints that we’re talking about are early Jurassic dinosaur tracks, in the very beginning of the early Jurassic. These included track types called the Eubrontes Grallator later, and the crocodylomorph footprints called Batrachophus. We also have the oldest record of anamethis tracks in the world, which are produced by small plant eating dinosaurs.

If it wasn’t for the development started across the road for the museum, we probably never would have likely discovered the locality and had a chance to see these beautiful natural past tracks, several of which preserve skin impressions. As a matter of fact, our site has the largest collection of skin impressions preserved on dinosaur tracks of any site in the world. We’ve got about 40 specimens so far, and the numbers are growing as we excavate more. We ended up discovering a total of 16 different track horizons and about 150 feet of rock. We’ve recorded and mapped well over 6000 tracks at the site. Also, we’ve discovered the largest collection of dinosaur swim tracks ever in the world, which also preserve incredible detail for us.

Swim tracks are formed by animals that are buoyed up in the water, basically floating and kicking their feet to swim. If they’re in shallow enough water, their toes strike the muddy bottom and they leave the sets of three symmetrical scrape marks with the middle longer toe leaving a much deeper and  longer groove in the two outer toes even slightly shorter trace and they taper off at each end. They are preserved in amazing detail, preserving cuticle detail at the ends of the claws, sometimes skin impressions and scale scratch lines along the edges of the toes. In 2004, we discovered a sitting trace of the meat eating dinosaur. At the time it was only one of seven known specimens in the world, and now there’s like ten or eleven of them. Ours, though, is unique because it preserves detailed hand impressions, and it also preserves the way the tail drags. Interestingly, the trackway preserves digit one impressions on the left foot but not on the right foot. Usually when you see a theropod track, you usually see digits two three and four with the three being longer, but in this case we see rare traits a digit one preserved on the left. We also discovered, in the upper part of what’s called the dinosaur in the Moenave formation, we’re talking rocks that are between 200 – 195 million years old, so kind of an

estimate. We discovered two plant localities, preserving three new species and two new genera of plants which are just unique to St. George. Mostly conifers but we also have horse tails, ferns and cycads. And then we discovered as they were excavating for the school across the road, hundreds and hundreds of fish fossils. Associated with the fish, we also discovered dinosaur remains. We know that we have a type of dinosaur that is closely related to Dilophasaurus but it’s not Dilophasaurus. So far we have a partial vertebra, a nice complete anterior dorsal vertebra, and a bunch of teeth as well.

 

I guess the next question is. Why do you think people are attracted to dinosaurs, specifically compared to stuff from the Ice Age or early mammals?

 

Well, when I was a kid just seeing these big scary animals, you know, with an impressive size and strange looking, I think it attracts kids both young and old. I’m in charge of the prep lab at the museum as well, so I train volunteers how to prep fossils and a lot of these people are adults and retirees. When they were kids, they were fascinated with dinosaurs and now they’re kind of living a dream by coming and preparing fossils and learning about paleontology.

 

What are some of the most common questions you get from visitors?

 

The most common question is “why are the dinosaur tracks sticking up off the rock?” Our site preserves a lot of natural casts of footprints, so you’ve got the animals, the dinosaurs, walking along stepping through all the soft clay-rich mud and leaving the skin impressions and things like that. What happens is the sand washed in and filled the footprints, and then, over millions of years of course, the sediments became compacted and lithified. When Sheldon Johnson came along with this track hoe and started to develop the property, he ripped up these large blocks of sandstone and noticed these dinosaur tracks sticking up off the rock surface. His first impression when he found the first track was “there’s a dinosaur in the rock and its foot is sticking out.” That is by far one of the most common questions. Basically, when we find these things, the less resistant rock, the mud stones and shale below, tends to break up and fall apart but the beautiful sand fills the natural casts and preserved them. That’s how most of our tracks appear, apart from the in-place tracks like that we have preserved inside the museum.

I guess another common one is, “how do you determine how old the tracks are, and what kind of animals produced them?” Looking at the shape of the footprints we’re able to take an educated guess at what kind of track, or what kind of animal may have produced those certain types of footprints. In terms of the age, of course, we must talk about the rock units that we’re finding them in and how they correlate based on index fossils, and if we’re lucky radiometric dates in terms of getting ages on the rocks.

 

Are all the materials at the site from the location or do you have some brought in?

 

We do have material that was brought in from other sites. When I started working in St George, there were around 250 paleo sites known in all of Washington County. Because Paleo was basically avoided in southwestern Utah for some reason, and because of the discovery by Sheldon Johnson, we’ve now recorded over 650 paleontological localities within Washington County. So basically because I showed up on the scene and started to do a lot of exploring, we’re discovering that the area is rich in fossils.  The Johnson farm was an alfalfa farm, but Dr. Johnson’s kids weren’t interested in farming, so he started selling off pieces of this property. He was leveling this hill where the museum is located, and that’s when he discovered the in-place tracks. Where you see the museum now is where the first blocks were discovered. We found the footprints in position, and started mapping them back in April 2000 with Martin Lockley and Jim Kirkland and several other people. The museum is built directly over an emplaced Track site. We’ve mapped over 1200 tracks on the surface. Of course, some of that is now gone, we had to move some of the tracks site to accommodate the museum walls and the parking lot. There are tracks that go underneath the parking lot, and of course as they started developing the property across the road, we now own the five and a half acres. The city St George owns the facility and all of the specimens, but across the road we discovered additional track surfaces and excavated some of those, so it’s the exact locality where everything was discovered. All within about a one kilometer square area, we discovered most of these sites. Basically St George is built over a huge fossil site.

 

What are some things the visitors can look forward to when they when they come down there?

 

I think our site name, when we first opened, was a little bit misleading. In the early years we weren’t doing quite well, I think people came in and they expected to see dinosaur skeletons all over the place, so I think that’s kind of the expectation. A lot of people when they come in don’t expect to see tracks. A lot of people really love the tracks when they come in, and start learning about them. Every year we’re trying to add new things. For the longest time, for example, people couldn’t go out and look at the in-place track site.  They couldn’t go onto it because it’s so fragile, so last year we built a walkway out over the track site, so now that with signage and now that it is well-lit we have this big mural around the around the walls where the walkway is. We do have some dinosaur skeletons and smaller animals. We try to get everything late Triassic, Early Jurassic related, although we have kind of pushed into the Cretaceous as well. We do pick up things on the way, I kind of think the word got out and people are coming there to see the tracks. Every year they come back, and when people come back they’re going, “oh wow I never saw this before!’ We’re now starting to talk about plans for a future, larger building. We’re hoping for a full size Natural History Museum on the five and a half acres across the road.

 

You did say you had a paleontology prep lab, what kind of work do they do there?

 

We’re not actually a repository for storage of collections yet, but we’re looking to apply for one. We don’t have a lot of collection space, so basically a lot of our volunteers back in the beginning were basically prepping tracks. Tracks are quite difficult to prepare, when you compare them to a lot of lot of large dinosaur bones. Knowing where to stop is often difficult, especially when you’re dealing with footprints that have skin impressions. A lot of our volunteers have become extremely skilled at it, in terms of preparing tracks, but I’ve also been doing a lot of work with all these other sites we’ve been discovering in the region. I’ve also started working with other paleontologists like Jim Kirkland, with Dr. Randy Irmis from the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake, and other paleontologists, and we’ve been doing a lot of work in the late Triassic. I’ve been working over in the Monticello/ Moab area, in the late Triassic, as well as in the St George area in the late Triassic, and we’ve made some pretty amazing discoveries. We’ve been collecting. In this one area within about a ten-mile square area, we discovered eleven phytosaurs skulls. We’ve also been collecting a lot of micro sites in the St George area, so that’s kind of one of my things that I’m good at. I’m training my volunteers how to do micro fossil preparation. They’re preparing fish fossils, and little dinosaur reptile pieces, as well as phytosaurs skulls and things like that. We know we are pretty versed in what we’re preparing, so we’ve been preparing a lot of specimens for other museums like the Utah Geological Survey, and the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake, the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Right now we’ve got about fifteen volunteers that prepped for us through the year. Jim Kirkland has stated that our museum is one of the one of the fastest processing sites, that’s in terms of fossil preparation. We get a lot of stuff done. Most of the material, though, that we collect out B.L.M. and state land goes back to the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake, so I have been working very closely with them, and especially Randy Irmis.

We’re also training our volunteers something called photogrammetry. We take computerized 3d Models through photographs, overlapping photographs by about a sixty-six percent overlap. We’ve been training some of our volunteers on how to do photogrammetry, and recording track sites, not only track block specimens.  We’re doing this not only at our museum, but also out in the field. We’re kind of learning through the help of other photogrammetry experts, so we can process photogrammetric  data to make these computerized 3D. Models. One of our volunteers started taking on micro fossil teeth, doing photogrammetry in three dimensions of these little tiny teeth. Earlier this year Mike and I published a paper on the process of doing photogrammetry of these little teeth through photo stacking.

At some sites in Utah and in the American Southwest, they’ve been using photogrammetry especially with the tracks and traces becoming a big and important topic. There are certain sites that decay out in nature, and this is a good way to permanently preserve them and share with colleagues and the public in terms of not only in the publication, but creating these P.D.F. files so people can go in and view the view the track site and even specimens. We did photogrammetry of the entire track site before we put the boardwalk over it. One of the things that we hope to do with the data created is to have interactive stations within the museum, so that the public can come and look at the track site in detail and learn a lot more about that particular track surface by using the photogrammetry.

 

And one last question. Every time I do an interview, I have to ask what is your favorite dinosaur?

 

That’s a real tough one. Have you ever had people go, “can it be something other than a dinosaur?” I love phytosaurs, they aren’t dinosaurs, but they’re cool animals. I’ve become very interested in finding so many of them. I’d have to say that my favorite dinosaur at the moment has got to be Dilophasaurus. I love theropods, you know, the big meat eaters, the little meat eaters, they are all so cool. I imagine it will be my favorite until we find the rest of this dinosaur we found. I guess that one I get kind of happy about. The site that I discovered is called Andrew’s Site Cedar Mountain formation. Andrew McDonald and Jim Kirkland and others, including myself, co-authored because of the discovery we made at the site is a dinosaur called Hippodraco scutodens, which is on exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake. It’s an Iguanadon dinosaur that I was involved with.

 

I hope you all enjoined the interview, and I highly suggest everyone make this a top stop when in the area! I loved my visit and cannot wait to go back!

Getting to Know Local Dinosaur Sites: The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they love dinosaurs but do not know where to go to see them. So I decided that this would be a good thing to tackle, in article form! This is the first in a new series that will highlight local Utah dinosaur sites that you can go and visit!

The first on I would like to talk about is the Cleveland Lloyd Quarry. I was able to get in contact with Mike Leschin, he works for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and is in charge of the daily operations at the site. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us regarding the Quarry.

Jurassic Files: So can tell us a little bit about the Quarry?

Mike Leschin: “As you know it is the densest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones ever found. It is a layer about 3 feet thick. We have a couple Butler buildings set up over the exposed portion of the bonebed. One of those has doors open when the site is open so that people can go inside and see real bone still in the ground. We have a visitor center containing a couple dozen exhibits focusing on the quarry, paleontology in general and other relevant topics. We have a couple glass cases with replica skulls of animals that left their bones at CLDQ. And of course, we have a replica skeleton of an adult Allosaur. We have a picnic area which unfortunately, only has a half of a table with shade at lunchtime. And a small trail system rounds out our attractions. Three hiking trails totally about 5 miles; one trail has an interpretive brochure that goes with it.”.

JF: Could you give us a little history of the park?

ML: “The early records of excavations at Cleveland-Lloyd are pretty spotty. University of Utah was the first scientific outfit to work there sometime in the late 1920s. They did not find the site but were led there by someone. They didn’t record who so we don’t know. We assume it was some cowboy or sheepherder who had stumbled across the deposit while looking for his cows or sheep. The topography of the site is such that it seems a gully was cutting into the bonebed and given the incredible concentration of bones, it is not a question of “how did you find it?” but rather “what took you so long?” Princeton University had a crew led by William Stokes out there the summers of 1939, 1940, and 1941. That last summer, a Princeton alum named Malcolm Lloyd donated $10,000 to the effort. Stokes, who later became head of the geology dept. at the U of U, wanted his hometown of Cleveland, UT honored, came up with the name Cleveland-Lloyd as a way to honor both. He also instituted the Cooperative Dinosaur Dig in 1960 in order to obtain a research collection of dinosaur bones for the U. That effort continued through the 1964 season. In 1965 the National Park Service nominated the site for National Natural Landmark status, a new program back then. In 1966, the BLM accepted that status. Using a local Job Corps crew, the BLM built a visitor center there that was dedicated in 1968. It was the first visitor center the BLM ever had. Excavations by various schools and entities took place over the next 40 years or so with the University of Wisconsin/Oshkosh acquiring the permit in 2012. They have had a crew out every year since and will probably continue doing so for the foreseeable future. In 2006 the BLM invested almost a million dollars in renovating the visitor center and quarry buildings.”

JF: So why dinosaurs? What about them attracts people to the park?

ML: “Why dinosaurs? Why not?! CLDQ does have some museum quality exhibits but the real attraction is the bonebed itself. People can visit and see actual dinosaur bones still in the ground.”

JF: What are some of the most common questions you get?

ML: “The most common questions concern what happened? How did they all get here? Why so many carnivores? We don’t have answers yet but the Wisconsin folks are still working on it.”

JF: Do you have a paleontology lab on site? If so what kind of work are they doing? If not where do you have your specimens prepared?

ML: ” We do not have a fossil prep lab on site. Currently, UW/O takes fossils back to Wisconsin to work on. A team from the Indiana University of Pennsylvannia has been partnering with the Wisconsin folks so some fossils also go there for prepping.”

The Cleveland Lloyd Quarry is located about 30 mile south of Price, Utah. The quarry is open weekends; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (weather permitting) from early in March until Memorial Day, and daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. The schedule goes back to weekends-only for September and October. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m except on Sundays when open hours are noon to 5 p.m. For additional information, call the BLM office in Price, Utah at (435) 636-3600. I have yet to personally go to this site but I am now more excited than ever to do so!

Fandom Friday: Take My Cashasaurus

 

Happy Friday!

 

Hey everyone! Hope you have had a great memorial day weekend and short work week! This week Amber was kind enough to let me take a shot at the Take My Cashasaurus! I’m really excited about this, and I really hope you enjoy my pics!!

So there seem to be a lot of pajamas rolling around out there for the ladies, but let me present for the fellows out there, ASOS Super Skinny Pajama Bottoms With Dinosaur Print! These run around $29.00 and look amazing! I cannot wait to get mine!!

So I am not personally someone who would normally use bath bombs. That being said these HAVE DINOSAUR SKELETONS INSIDE OF THEM!!!!! Sold by Bon Bon Bath House on Etsy will set you back only $6.00 , so you will probably see this grown adult bearded man giggling and playing with Dinosaurs in the bath soon!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you The Bioluminecent Dinosaur. This thing is absolutely beautiful! What this actually is is a desktop aquarium filled with living single-celled plankton that glow with bioluminescent light at night. You can find the link to buy it HERE and its costs around $60.00

So full disclosure, I absolutely love art like this. Dinosaur Skeleton models are my kryptonite! The thing i love about them is no matter what scientific discoveries come around to change the way we think skin/feathers looked like the skeletons will always look the same! This IMAX Magnus Prehistoric Dinosaur is based on a T-Rex. It is 24 in. long, 9 inches wide, and 14 inches tall, and costs $78.00

Last for this week I wanted to throw in another one of my vices! The Papo Dinosaur collection! These Dinosaurs are some of the most detailed and well crafted model/toy dinosaurs on the market. The one i wanted to talk about today is the new Acrocanthosaurus. It is new for 2017 and just looks stellar! The coloring and jaw articulation are really on point and I can’t wait to add it to my collection!! You can find it on Ebay for around $33.00!!!

Thank you guys and gals for letting me jump in on this article this week! I really enjoyed writing it and I hope you all enjoyed reading it!!

 

Lukeman

 

9 Must Have Dinosaur Books!!

One of my favorite things to do is to sit down and really dig (pun intended) into dinosaur related books. I was trying to sit down and think of a good topic to write on this week and started scanning around my office looking for inspiration and my eyes fell across the books on my shelf above my computer. I thought to myself “Hey! Self! You should write about these”! In this list I’m not just sticking to one style of book, so in this list you will see some of my favorite works of dinosaur fiction and non-fiction alike! So let’s get started and as everyone’s favorite chain smoking system manager says, “Hold on to you butts”!

How to Build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner and James Gorman

If you are familiar with paleontologists you have most likely heard the name of Jack Horner. He is the scientist that Michael Crichton based Dr. Alan Grant for the Jurassic Park novel and film  off of. In this book “How to Build a Dinosaur”, Horner focuses on the only way that he believes that we will be able to see a dinosaur by reverse engineering a chicken to take on more dinosaur characteristics. This book has a lot of science theory and practices in it. I personally find it beyond fascinating and it is definitely worth a read!

Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker 

On the other end of the spectrum from the previous book you have “Raptor Red”. This book is written by another world famous paleontologist Robert T. Bakker, you may know him as the older gentleman with the worn cowboy hat and long graying beard. In this novel Bakker takes a very different approach to a dinosaur novel. He uses the science and research that has been done and puts it into more of a narrative of the life of a female Utahraptor named Raptor Red. In this book you get a glimpse of what the daily life of a dinosaur would be, including relationships with others of her own species but also others. I would recommend this book maybe to some one who wants a little more story telling than scientist talk.

Tyrannosaurus Sue by Steve Fiffer

Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex ever found came with a steep price for a group of Paleontologists. This book is the story of not only the discovery of Sue but also the circus that happened after she was removed form the ground. This story to me was personally heart breaking, I remember when these news stories were coming out and feeling terrible about the entire situation but after reading this novel I am even more heart broken for people that poured all of themselves into this dinosaur. Tyrannosaurus Sue gives us a great behind the scene look at what happened and I highly recommend it.

The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones

Ever wonder what Denver in the late Cretaceous period would be like? Well in this book a group of coffee shop employees and customers are some how transported 60 million years in to the past and must figure out how they got there and how the are going to get home! This book was riveting from start to finish, they went into some amazing detail on the dinosaurs. including the smell… just remembering the way they described the Hadrosaurs makes me shiver! The best part about this is that it can be for the dinosaur fan in you life or just someone who is looking for a great read.

The I Know Dino Podcast Book Series by Sabrina Ricci

Hands down one of my favorite podcasts of all time is “I Know Dino“. The hosts Garret and Sabrina are very entertaining and very through in their shows. So when they announced that they were going to start to writing and producing eBooks about some of the dinosaurs they talked about I was ecstatic! They have released a book each year starting in 2014 highlighting ten of the strangest and most exciting dinosaur discoveries of the year. The really cool thing that these books do is that they give you the science and facts behind all the discovery but they also give a little story about each of the dinosaurs, and it really does give the animals a lot of personality! I cannot wait for the 2017 edition to be released! I highly recommend that you download their podcast and check out their Patreon page to help them keep doing the amazing work that they do! Here are some more links to find these books! Oh and the best part, you can pick up Top 10 Dinos of 2014 now for FREE!!!

Top 10 Dinos of 2015

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Top 10 Dinos of 2014

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The Lost World by Michael Crichton

The Lost World is the follow up to the best selling novel Jurassic Park.  This is Michael Crichton’s 2nd journey into the world of Dinosaurs. In this installment we follow Dr. Ian Malcolm from the first book travel with two children a doctor and a former student Sarah Harding into the infamous Site B where they actually created the dinosaurs for the main island. This book has the trademark Crichton mix of technology and adventure that really pull you in. The main reason that i tell people that they need to read this novel is to show them the giant differences between this and the major motion picture of the same name.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

At the writing of this article this novel has only been out 4 days, it only took me one to fly through this adventure. This book follows the fictional character of William Johnson and his adventures during the great Bone Wars between O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope. One thing i noticed is that it really does not paint Marsh in the greatest of lights, not saying that Cope escapes unscathed but Marsh id most definitely the villain in this tale. Crichton manages to weave in historical characters as well as early paleo science all on top of a western adventure. I will be reading this again by the time this article posts, but I absolutely loved the first read through and will probably like the next.

My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian Switek

This book was actually the first one that popped into my head when I started thinking about this list. I have this book in hard cover, paperback, and audio form, so I can safely say that I LOVE THIS BOOK! The author Brian Switek talks about his personal journey in the world of dinosaurs, as well as the journey the field of Paleontology  has taken. Some of the funniest chapters are about his fascination on Dino sex and the evolution of the thought behind the Dinosauria. The fact that he now lives in my neck of the woods and strongly praises Utah’s Paleo sites does not hurt at all either.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

“Welcome to Jurassic Park”, to this day this line give me chills. I remember going to the drive in theater to see the film adaptation of this book as a child and being scared as hell of the dinosaurs. But at the same time I absolutely loved it! When I grew up a little bit and found out that it was all based on a novel I knew I had to read it. I bought a used copy and read it so many times I had to replace it two times due to the wear. There are a few differences between the novel version and the film version but I actually enjoy that. Because now I have two stories that I can go back to at any time and enjoy them both!

I have so many more books that I would love to talk about here, so instead of throwing them here I will throw together another list in the future once you are all caught up on these! All of the titles contain links to Amazon where you can pick them up! What are some of your favorite Dino books? Let us know in the comments below!!

Dinosaurs of Utah: Allosaurus Fragilis

Welcome back everyone! In this installment of Dinosaurs of Utah we are going to cover probably the most famous carnivore of the Jurassic period. Allosaurus Fragilis was named by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1877. The name means ‘Different Lizard‘ and was found in Utah’s Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry, a site containing the densest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur bones in the world. Of the at least 74 individual dinosaurs found at the quarry, about 46 of them are Allosaurus specimens, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Allosaurus ranged from about 28 to 43 feet (8.5 to 13 meters) long, and any where between 10 to 16 feet ( 3 to 5 meters) tall and weighed around 1.6 tons (1700 kg). Allosaurus had 10 inch razor sharp claws on their three digit hands, they also had a mouth full of serrated razor sharp teeth (between 14 and 17) and their jaw could open to roughly to a 79 degree angle. This may have given them an advantage in taking down some of their largest prey including the giant sauropod Apatosaurus.

Speaking of Allosaurus’ prey number one on their list seems to have been the armored dinosaur Stegosaurus. There is proof of this found in the fossil record. There way an Allosaurus vertebra found with a puncture wound inflicted from the tail spike (Thagomizer) of a Stegosaurus, along with this there have been Stegosaurus fossils found with bite wounds that line up with that of an Allosaurus. The way that Allosaurus’ teeth were indicated that instead of the crushing through skin and bone, like the T-Rex, it stripped the flesh from its food. Evidence of this can be found in many sauropod fossil remains.

Allosaurus became the Utah state fossil in 1988 and can be seen in pretty much and dinosaur museum in Utah. At Dinosaur National Monument outside of Vernal, Utah you can see a real Allosaurus skull at the Carnegie Quarry wall. If you have been there or anywhere else that has an Allosaurus please send us your pictures in the comments!

10 Ways to Have Fun in Museums!

There are a lot of people out there who hear the word Museum and think either old dead stuff, or a place where kids go on field trips. Though those are true to a certain extent they are not the rule. So today I’m going to give you my top ten list of ways to have fun in museums!

  1. Take Pictures! – If you find yourself in a museum that has no problem with you taking pictures go wild! It makes for good memories and you have something to show your friend to get them interested to come back with you!12
  2. Take a Friend! – I have found that if I take a friend to a museum that I have been to before I turn into a little tour guide and show them all of the cool things I noticed last time I was there! Teaching others is a great way to help retain the knowledge you have!
  3. Take a Child! – Preferably your child ,or a family member, so you know you don’t get arrested! But bringing a child to a museum may be one of the best things you can do, not only does it encourage learning, it also gives you the opportunity to see their reaction to something like a T-Rex for the first time! 20170422_103934
  4. Engage the Tour Guides! – Some people will shy away from tour guides at museums because they feel like they would rather experience it alone. This is not a bad way to do it, but these guides have a lot more information that you would get on your own so its great to engage them! Pictured one of my favorite tour guides Dustin Growickwww.WinstonStruye.com-6337-1024x678
  5. Ask Questions! – The key to learning at a museum is to ask questions, whether that be to a friend, a tour guide or yourself. Always questioning is a great way to expand your knowledge and have a great time!88b614e2783e6d4c0e67ab12d1e6ac1a_raise-hand-clipart-raising-raised-hands-clip-art_10864-5270
  6. Get Interactive! – There are a lot of museums that now have a bunch of interactive displays. You can use touch screens to get information and even some virtual reality exhibits that let you really get into the action!story2Pic2
  7. Hit that Gift Shop! – This is one of the things that I love the most about museums! They always have amazing stuff in there! You will usually find a lot of things for kids in there, but you will also find some great books in there as well!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Make Multiple Trips! – Many times you may not be able to see everything that you may want to see when you first go. So instead of rushing through the whole museum, I would take my time and experience everything. If you run out of time you can always come back and go through it all again!20170426_182110
  9. Use Your Imagination! – Some times kids may get bored with reading the signs and looking at the maps but if you do little things here and there they will love it the entire time. Such as, pretending they are in Jurassic Park and they have to go find as many dinosaurs as they can!Gate_Entrance_(2)
  10. Create a Scavenger Hunt! – Another fun activity you can do is a scavenger hunt! by having a list of things for people to find throughout the museum  not only are they having fun but they are also learning about all of the things that they have to find!The Great Scavenger Hunt 2015

 

Dinosaurs of Utah: Utahceratops Gettyi

This is the first post in a series of articles discussing all of the wonderful dinosaurs found in the state of Utah. If you are like me then you love the idea that dinosaurs at some point in time walked exactly where live! Personally I find it utterly astounding that these animals lived over 66 Million Years Ago, and some how they are still able to capture our imagination, whether young or old or where you hail from.

The first dinosaur I would like to talk about is the fairly recently named Utahceratops Gettyi. It was discovered in 2010 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Kanab, Utah, and named by Dr. Scott Sampson. Pictured below is a Utahceratops specimen that The Jurassic Files took on their recent visit to the Natural History Museum of Utah. 20170504_152550.jpg

The Utahceratops belongs to group of dinosaurs called the Ceratopsians. These dinosaurs are usually fairly easy to spot, with their giant bony neck frills and their long horns that protrude from above their eyes and on their nose. The most famous Ceratopsian would have to be the Triceratops made famous over the years in its duels with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Utahceratops is estimated to be about 6.6 feet tall and around 23 ft. long. So basically it was around the size of a small to medium sized Elephant.

Utah in the Cretaceous period was very green and lush swampy area on the western continent of Laramidia. Laramidia stretched from modern day Alaska down to Mexico, this is why there are an abundance of fossils in Utah, the conditions were almost perfect Utahceratops-609x800to cause these animals to fossilize after they died.

The Utahceratops was not discovered alone, the dinosaur Kosmoceratops Richardsoni was discovered and named at the same time. Kosmoceratops actually garnered more attention than Utahceratops due to the amazing ornamentation that adorned its skull.

If you would like to see an amazing specimen of Utahceratops I would highly suggest a trip to the Natural History Museum of Utah. Here you will be able to see many Ceratopsians including Kosmoceratops and Utahceratops.