Thursday, August 7, 2014

the DIG Field School

I cross the Cascades and the Columbia.
Made a stop at Dry Falls.
And the Grand Coulee Dam.
Eventually I entered Tatooine (or Eastern Montana, close enough).
We camped next to Hell Creek and woke up before sunrise every day.
By 7am we had eaten breakfast, packed our bags with tons of water, and headed out to the field in SUV caravans.
Sometimes we couldn't get the SUVs very close to our site. This picture, and the following picture, are taking from roughly the same spot, just facing opposite directions, to show you how far we hiked from where the ferry SUVs were parked (many of the SUVs did not have enough clearance to go all the way out - the roads were very challenging).

This is what the hadrosaur site looked like when we arrived. While we were there we helped jacket three large bones so that they could be removed from the site.
A close-up of some of the hadrosaur bones.
I touched dinosaur bones!
This is what the site looked like after a few bones had been jacketed in plaster.
We visited a site called Nirvana where we saw, and touched, the K-Pg boundary (that's the layer that documents the asteroid impact, and the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs).

I saw many interesting rock formations.
I learned how to surface collect for micro fossils (croc scute, gar scales, bone fragments, turtle shells, etc) 
Someone in my group found a rib bone, which was jacketed in plaster for removal.
We brought back bags of in situ sediment, which were put into screen boxes and set up in the creek.

After soaking all night the screen boxes were brought out to dry in the sun.
And of course there were dino toys at dino camp.
On the way home I saw the wildfires.
All in all, I drove 941 miles each way. It was a long drive, but completely worth it.

One of the coolest things for me about this trip is that every piece of data we collected (sketches of sites, micro fossils, in situ sediments, measurements to determine how far above or below the K-Pg boundary, etc), every piece of data was useful for the DIG team. I helped collect real data that will be used by Greg Wilson and his team back at the UW and the Burke Museum in their research. How cool is that? As a middle school science teacher I don't get that opportunity very often. Most summer teacher programs focus on content and lessons, which are extremely useful, but this program focused first on doing real field work and secondly on lessons. I found it exhilarating. 

I also want to say that it was a pleasure to work with each and every one of the DIG team members. The team members ranged from PhDs, PhD candidates, graduate students, recent grads and undergrads. And everyone had something to bring to the table. And everyone was treated with respect and affection by Greg and co-director Lauren. That's the kind of team everyone strives to be a part of, and it was a treat to spend 4 days with them.


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