Welcome to the American West! Upon arrival at the Denver International Airport, our PALEOS group will gather near Terminal West, take in the spectacular view of the Front Range of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, and meet paleontologist John Hankla and the rest of the DinoDisco Staff.
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at the museum? How do curators and fossil preparators spend their time? What happens to the fossils that scientists uncover in the field? Come meet your fellow adventurers, find out how museum paleontologists use fossils to bring the past to life and discover what your role in the process will be.
After arrival at the Denver International Airport on Sunday, our group will head to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and gather at the giant T.rex in the lobby. We will tour the museum's extensive paleontology exhibits, Meet museum professionals working in paleontology, and check out the state-of-the-art laboratory and collections facility where fossils are prepared and stored for research.
Museum admission included.
8:00am We will Begin the 'road-trip' portion of our adventure from the Crowne Plaza in Downtown Denver, Colorado. Staff will lead the way in the Pickup truck loaded with tools and gear and we will drive approximately 5.5 hours north to Paleo Park and the Zerbst Ranch near Newcastle Wyoming (map). We'll make a stop at the Univesity of Wyoming to explore the campus and check out the incredible collection of fossils housed in the Geological Museum. Throughout our travels, Our vehicles will be connected via CB radios so you won't miss a thing when our staff starts to 'nerd-out' about points of geological interest, wildlife spotting, and bathroom breaks!
Along this scenic drive, we will observe the landforms and wildlife that make this part of Wyoming such a beautiful backdrop for adventure.
Out our windows we are likely to see birds of prey, prong-horn antelope, and bison and other wildlife. We will ford the shallow Cheyenne river in our vehicles and have a chance to ride across it on a historic hand-cart before arriving at the ranch in time to have dinner with our hosts, the family of cowboy-ranchers who have worked this area since it was homesteaded in the early 1800's.
Directions from Dinosaur Ridge to Paleo Park Lab and Bunkhouse:
5:00pm Monday: Upon arrival we will meet up with our Paleo Park hosts, young dino-experts Wyatt and Jaden. These two middle-schoolers have collected more fossils than most paleontologists working in the field today, and they represent the 5th generation of their family to live on this ranch with the bones and tracks of incredible dinosaurs.
We will arrive in time to check out our bunks, put away groceries and eat a delicious dinner before we kick off our week long "paleo-olympics" games in the ranch yard. After dinner and games, we will head to bed and get rested up for a morning of fossil discovery!
7:00 am Paleo Park Lodge: We will start our day with breakfast at the Paleo Park lodge and then get straight into the field to make discoveries and collect fossil evidence. We will learn to apply the principles, techniques and field-skills necessary to become contributers to the dynamic field of paleontology.
This day will be spent exploring the vast landscape, prospecting for new fossil discoveries, quarrying and excavating existing localities, and participating in hands-on learning about the ancient life that inhabited this region in the time of dinosaurs. As we walk the prairie, scouring the exposed rock layers for fossil treasure, we will each be wearing a lightweight daypack to hold the fossil collecting kit provided and our personal items such as sunscreen, snacks, and cameras.
Collecting Goals: Recently DMNS received the largest donation of dinosaur bones in its history. Our team will be assisting Dr. Antoine Bercovici as we return to the field area where this donated dinosaur material was collected, and begin research into the geologic context of this exceptional fossil locality. Our specific goals include digging for dinosaur bones in the quarry, and collecting paleomagnetic and paleobotanical samples for Dr. Bercovici's ongoing stratigraphic research.
Lunch will be made and packed each morning and at mid-day we will take a break to eat and relax near one of the fossil localities.
Taking notes and making sketches in our field notebooks will be an important part of our work and we will have many opportunities to help develop this important skill.
Dinner will be in the paleo lodge at the end of our Wyoming field work day.
After Dinner we will will have time to enjoy the beautiful night sky and recount the adventures of our day. We like to take short walks to watch for falling stars, observe the night sky with telescopes, look for nocturnal wildlife and insects and play games in the ranch-yard and lodge. Stay tuned to see what kind of fun we can get into after dinner!
7:00 am on the morning of June 30, our team will pack our bags and head for the hills...the Black Hills that is. We will drive through the incredible rushmore needles, keeping an eye out for wildlife, and then make our way to Mount Rushmore National Monument in time to eat Lunch and Stretch our legs in the incredible needles district of the black hills national forrest. We will conclude our day in Hill City, SD where we will meet legendary paleontologist, Pete Larson and tour his museum and labs at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.
7:00 am On Friday the 30th our team will again join the research paleontologist Tyler Lyson in his Triceratops quarry to participate in field excavation of a giant dinosaur skull. Our lunches will be packed and eaten in the field and we will return to the MRF base camp in the evening in time for dinner, games and a tour of the extensive collection in storage at the MRF lab facility.
Around 6:30pm, after a long day of digging huge Triceratops bones, we will head back to the MRF lab house for dinner. After Dinner We will have a tour of the preparation laboratory where dinosaur fossils are carefully prepared for shipping back to the museum in Denver. Dr. Tyler Lyson will present his ongoing extinction-era research in the Hell Creek, with a slide-show and lecture in the Lab house dining hall.
On the morning of June 29th we will head into the field sites of the famous Hell Creek Formation with Dr. Tyler Lyson to help excavate some of the last dinosaurs that ever lived in North America. Dr. Lyson's research in this renowned field area focuses on the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs and the thin layer of sedimentary rock known as the K/Pg boundary. Last season, volunteers and students discovered two of the best preserved Triceratops skulls ever found in this formation, and our crew will have the chance to sit in the quarry and help Dr. Lyson's team from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as they remove the rock and dirt that entombed these marvelous discoveries.
7:00am We will eat our breakfast in the Paleo Park lodge and head back into the field to wrap up our collecting projects at the Edmontosaurus site, Triceratops site and micro-vertebrate locality.
Lunch we will pack our lunches in the morning and take a break to eat in the field as we work on our fossil discoveries.
Dinner will be in the paleo lodge at the end of our Wyoming field work day.
On Wednesday Afternoon, our Adventure will move further North in to the famous exposures of the Hell Creek Formation near Marmarth, North Dakota. We will once again load up our vehicles and caravan behind the DinoDisco crew, this time to travel around the Black Hills of South Dakota on our way to the Marmarth Research Foundation lab. We will again be connected via CB radios as we sail across the vast prairie (map).
We will arrive in Bowman, ND in time to eat pizza at Windy's Pizza Place (a favorite 'middle-of-nowhere' dinner spot among paleontologists working in this basin). After we get a bite we will drive 30 minutes west to the tiny town of Marmarth, ND and stay the night in the Cabins adjacent to the Marmarth Research Foundation.
The little town of Morrison, Colorado, just west of Denver is the birthplace of the original Dino-mania that swept through America in the late 1800's. Since the discovery of this rich fossil resource, Paleontology has grown into an important pillar of our understanding of life on earth. In the last century, countless skeletons of giant long-necked sauropod dinosaurs like Brontosaurus and ferocious meat-eaters like Allosaurus were excavated from this locality and now fill the gallery halls in major museums world-wide.
Now a city park criss-crossed with hiking and mountain bike trails and dotted with rock climbers, Dinosaur Ridge is an important cultural site that ties our modern life in Denver to the life and times of the frontier scientist-explorers that came before, and also to the ancient past when dinosaurs walked across this landscape.
Our PALEOS group will drive to 'The Ridge' by 9:00am and meet on the East Side for a special, behind the scenes look at a one of the worlds most impressive Dinosaur Trackway sites ever discovered. This site provides a great photo opportunity and a chance to learn a bit about dinosaur behavior by examining the footprints that they left behind 90 million years ago.