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Updated: 9th August 2018 20:33

Amateurs welcome to dig for dinosaurs in northern Alberta

A creek-side area in northern Alberta is such a rich deposit of dinosaur bones, even an amateur could find one.

Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum gets you to dig in one of the world's most dense bone beds

Amateur paleontologists work with professionals to dig for bones through a program with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. (CBC/Adrienne Pan)

A creek-side area in northern Alberta is such a rich deposit of dinosaur bones, even an amateur could find one.

And, this summer, dozens of first-time paleontologists are doing just that.

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum near Grande Prairie has been running a nearly sold-out Paleontologist-for-a-Day program.

Participants get to grab some excavation tools and comb through the dirt near Pipestone Creek in a search for fossils.

"It's one of the denser bone beds in the world," Elyse Marzolf, who runs the museum's program, said on CBC's Radio Active.

"You're getting up to 200 bones per square metre. The site is on average about one-foot deep, so there's a lot of bones out there to be worked." 

The bones date back 73 million years and the fossils are mainly bones of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai.

"The best theory they've got right now is that a large herd of this species of dinosaur was attempting to cross a river in a flood event, and they drowned, and their bones were deposited rapidly by the river in this disarticulated array," Marzolf said.

The Palaeontologist for a Day program is run by the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum near Grande Prairie, Alta. (CBC/Adrienne Pan)

The bone-bed was first discovered in the early 1970s by a local science teacher who was walking along the creek collecting bone fragments. He eventually started finding complete bones.

The program is open to anyone over the age of 14.

Between some very old bones and some very inexperienced hands, it's expected that some breaks and cracks might happen.

"What's really important is finding all of the pieces and gluing them back together," Marzolf said.

Her advice is to "come prepared to get dirty and prepared to learn a lot." 

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