The team is incredible. even in the short time we were in the field, it feels like this is a second home for me. I learned that paleontology is 100% something that I would love to pursue, and I’m so glad I learned that here
/ Student 2017 /
The Dinosaur Discovery Adventure Program is a week long overnight field-science progam developed by museum paleontologists for the "PALEOS" paleontolgy group at Westhampton Beach Middle School . Our rugged adventures give participants the opportunity to experience scientific field work in paleontology first-hand. By working side-by-side with scientists and educators, our participants become scientific colleagues making real contributions to the field and memories to last a lifetime. Our trip begins in Denver with a half-day workshop at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and then continues in the field at remote dinosaur fossil localities in Wyoming and fossil galleries in the black hills of South Dakota.
Program at a glance
Join professional paleontologists and engage in actual research as we head into the field to dig for evidence of ancient life. We believe that paleontology students of any age and any background can make real and important contributions to this field of study. We've seen first-hand how these exeperiences help students to develop a capacity for understanding science and foster a sense of academic professionalism that inspires lifelong learning.
The Dinosaur Discovery Adventure program is built upon one central principle: experiential education works.
How do we know?
Our guide and paleontologist, John Hankla, took his first collecting tour of these fossil beds when he was nine years old. In the 29 years since that first trip, he’s not missed a single field season. Working with museums all over the world, he is still collecting fossils to help answer some of the questions he first asked when he was a young student exploring the area for the first time. In the 8 Seasons of Dinosaur Discovery Adventure eductional trips, we've watched students engage with natural sciences- finding their own thirst for adventure and learning in the field. Each spring we write letters of recommendation for former students who have continued on this path and who are pursuing other ways to engage in field science.
During a typical day, we will explore the wide-open spaces of eastern Wyoming's fossil beds, discovering dinosaur fossils and other evidence of the long-lost ancient past. The discoveries we make will contribute to ongoing research being conducted by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's field team (denverpaleo.org). Scientifically important fossil discoveries will be transported to the Museum where they will be curated in perpetuity for use in research publications and exhibits.
Jacketing the Triceratops femur was the messiest and most fun thing i’ve done in a while, I knew right there that I was hooked on fieldwork. I will remember the off-roading in the truck, and how I never wanted to leave this amazing place.
/ Student 2017 /
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are the fossil beds really in the middle of nowhere? How remote is remote?
A. Yep! We venture off of the pavement on ranch land in Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana to find rich exposures of scientifically important fossils. Operating out of these remote field sites is a big part of what makes our experience such an adventure. By heading out past the reach of city noise, light-pollution, and cell phone signals, our students are able to tap into the wonder of nature and science more freely. Trekking over gravel and dirt roads into our remote camps, our students arrive in the perfect place to make discoveries about the natural world and about themselves.
Q. Will students be permitted to keep some of the fossils they discover for their own personal collections?
A. Yes! While most of the fossils we collect will be kept in museum collections for ongoing scientific research, we ensure that each student is able to bring home some non-research fossils collected legally on private lands. We encourage our students to share their discoveries with their friends, classmates and teachers, and we help students interpret their finds so that they may inspire others.
Q. What kind of gear does a student need to bring on a Dinosaur Discovery Adventure?
A. Field work in the American West can be demanding in terms of weather and terrain. Remembering to pack a few simple items can make the experience much more enjoyable.
A lightweight daypack
Water Bottle or Hydration Pack
Boots or Hiking Shoes
Light rain jacket
Windbreaker/ Warm Sweater/ Hoodie
Sun Hat or Ball Cap
Pens/Pencils/Colored Pencils/Field Notebook
Headlamp or Flashlight
Q. What will we eat?
A. Meals are provided by the Dino Disco team and we will be in touch in the weeks prior to the trip to arrange a menu that accommodates everyone's dietary preferences. Our ranch hosts make the job of preparing delicious and nutritious food for large groups of hungry scientists and volunteers look easy. Students are encouraged to lend a hand in the kitchen and help fuel the team for big days of adventure.
Q. Are the adventures dangerous?
A. Field work in any region is inherently dangerous, and the fossil beds of Eastern Wyoming and North Dakota present their own unique challenges to maneuver. The weather can often be intense; wind, sun and rain can sometimes be a factor. The terrain is rugged, often steep, and populated with cacti, insects and snakes.
We've taken great care to minimize these risks on our adventures. We teach students skills in 'expedition behavior' that will keep them safe as they pursue careers in natural science. We have an excellent safety record and we are prepared for emergencies should they ever arise. Our leaders include Wilderness First Responders and a family practice physician ready to attend to any incident that may occur.
Q. Can we return next year for another Dinosaur Discovery Adventure?
A. Absolutely. Because we find new fossil discoveries every day of our trip, each Dinosaur Discovery Adventure is a unique experience with new opportunities for learning and fun. We are proud that many former students have joined us for multiple field seasons-- some have even become interns and guest lecturers for our trips. The experience of exploring the open-prairie and making fossil discoveries is something that many people find hard to forget about during the off-season! A great next step is our end-of-July Trip to the annual Dinosaur Shindig in Ekalaka, MT.