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A day in the life of a paleontologist at the Mission Jurassic dig site

A day in the life of the life of a paleontologist on the dig site

By Dr. Victoria Egerton, Elli Lilly and Company Extraordinary Scientist-in-Residence

Each day in Wyoming is a new adventure. I’m serious. With new teammates coming over from across the pond, unpredictable weather, and surprise discoveries on the dig site, you never know what each day will bring. We also manage to find some semblance of rhythm to what we’re doing day-in and long as the weather cooperates.

Not long ago, I recorded a day in the life here in Wyoming, including major events, not-so-major events, and other highlights from a (what you could call) “typical” day of fieldwork.

A day in the life on the dig site
June 26: Day 26

6:30 a.m.
I finally decide to roll out of bed after a bad night’s sleep. I really need to explain about time zones to family in the UK…

6:45 a.m.
It rained heavily yesterday afternoon so I have to drive halfway to the site to check the road conditions before anyone heads out. If it’s slippery then we can’t get to site because it would be too dangerous. ...Boy can I use a cup of coffee.

7:15 a.m.
Arrive back home. Everyone is still asleep. But at least my coffee is ready. Alerted the different groups that we are a GO for today!

7:45 a.m.
PhD student Rob Brocklehurst took pity on me and made me a cooked breakfast! 

Breakfast - eggs on toast

8:15 a.m.
Finished eating breakfast, washing dishes, and making lunch! Ready for a great day in the field! 

snacks - veggies, hummus, and strawberries

8:45 a.m.
The Mission Jurassic Team arrives on site with the first of the crew. Turns out it rained more than I anticipated. Roughly 30 gallons of water had to be bailed off the tarp before we could get to work! Thanks for helping, Rob and Lindsey!

Water filled tarp at the Mission Jurassic dig site

10:15 a.m.
Everyone is sorted and can begin work on the site, so Susie Maidment and I went for a hike to talk geography and stratigraphy (the study of layers of rock in relation to each other).


12:30 p.m.
Lunchtime! My food experiment today is introducing Little Debbies to all the Brits on site (mwahahaha).

Swiss Rolls, Zebra Cake Rolls, and Nutty Bars

1 p.m.
The storm clouds start to move in. I had to go “upstairs” to the “attic”—the very top of the dig site—to look across the landscape to see how the storms are moving. 

1:30 p.m.
Back to work on the upper quarry and having wonderful conversations with Dr. Paul Kenrick, paleobotanist from the Natural History Museum in London, on how plants are more awesome than dinosaurs. It’s true! 

*The rest of my afternoon was spent running up and down the steep slopes to the top of the highest ridge so I could watch the storms. My Apple Watch estimates my total flights of stairs today is 36. Weather question of the day: should I trust my optimistic weather app or my pessimistic weather app? 

4 p.m.
Had to call it a day because of rain. Paul Kendrick had an amazing find today! It’s so amazing we have to keep it a secret… 

That evening
Head out to meet up at a local restaurant with the crew. Should I mention the soundtrack for the day? Classic Disney!

Meet up at a restaurant and talked about the day, research, and had some amazing loaded waffle fries. So happy to see everyone having an amazing time. We also made a new furry friend. 

a local dog became our new furry friend

9:30 p.m.
Counseling students on studies, life, and everything in between. 

Prof. Phil Manning counseling students late into the evening

Calling it a day

As you can see, a lot can happen in one day. We try to pack in as much as we can while the weather is cooperating. We work hard. My aching muscles are testament to that. But we also take time to play and relax. You know it’s been a good day when you’re worn out at the end of the day.

Tomorrow’s just another day in the life of a paleontologist. We never know what we’re going to uncover. It’s all part of the excitement of fieldwork. 

Stay up to date!

Don’t miss a moment of the 2019 Mission Jurassic dig! Follow the Mission Jurassic hashtag (#MissionJurassic) and the museum’s Extraordinary Scientists-in-Residence, Prof. Phil Manning (@DrPhilManning) and Dr. Victoria Egerton (@DrVEgerton), for up-to-the-moment information from the dig site!

Mission Jurassic is a $27.5-million project that will be brought to life through the generosity of donors. Donate now on our website, or for extraordinary naming opportunities check out our Mission Jurassic Field Guide or contact Amy Kwas at 317-334-4608 or

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