Hands-on learning at the Mission Jurassic site
By Dr. Victoria Egerton, Children's Museum Paleontologist-in-Residence, Research Fellow University of Manchester
In spite of the frustrating weather patterns this year, we’ve been able to make remarkable progress at the Jurassic Mile. Through the teamwork among crews from The Children’s Museum and our partnering institutions—The University of Manchester, U.K.; The Natural History Museum, London, UK; and Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands. Our teams include a mixture of faculty, curators, preparators, technicians, PhD students, Masters students, Undergraduate students and very knowledgeable volunteers. We are very thankful for their long hours of hard work and dedication this season. They have been really amazing!
Why so many students?
We have been really lucky to have some amazing students out this year. We think it is really important for students to experience all the amazing skills they will learn digging for dinosaurs. It’s not just about how to excavate a sauropod, but it is about working as a team, problem solving skills and appreciating the beauty of nature. Most of these students have taken field classes as part of their education, but here, we don’t grade them or judge the work they are doing. Rather, we are here to help guide them on proper techniques, challenge them with problems and let them learn for themselves. To be honest, I feel like I learn more from them than they do from me.
A hands-on experience like this can be life-changing—especially when it’s your first time on a dig like this. We’ve had students from the University of Manchester working at the site for a few days. This is their first time in Wyoming and, for some, their first time in the USA. For most, it’s their first dig.
University of Manchester Student reactions to the dig site in Wyoming
Sam’s quiet, thoughtfulness and humor has been invaluable to help keep everyone happy on the team. Sam has done almost every job there is to do from shoveling rock, to plastering field jackets to discovering new bones. In fact, he has found some very important fossils this year that we are still working on excavating.
Jake (@Jake_Atterby) has loved the challenge of working on some of the hardest material we have on site. Initially when we asked him to work on the hard, dense sandstone from one of the quarries, he was very hesitant; but in the end, I had to tear him away from his work everyday.
Laura Austin Sydes
During her Mission Jurassic dinosaur dig experience, Laura (@ItsLauraAS) uncovered a beautiful fossilized fish specimen in the Sundance Formation. Fossils like these are very fragile and need to be handled with care. Laura has done a remarkable job with this discovery as well as many others!
Rob (@RobBrock93) says the dig is a lot of work because they are surrounded by so much fossil material. One of the great things about this Mission Jurassic experience is that people are working together to get the bones out of the ground. That’s what this partnership is all about, “So we can share history with others.”
Issy’s animated personality have kept things lively on site. One of the skills Issy has learned is how to determined if something is a rock or a fossil if you cannot tell by looking at it…..To find out, she—like many who’ve come before her—licked the sample. If it sticks to your tongue, it’s a bone. It might not taste great, but it’s an effective method for the field.
Chris (@chrisferro96) loves everything there is about doing fieldwork. If there is a task to do, he will do it, not matter the task. Chris’ enthusiasm and eagerness for doing all the jobs on the site have made him an invaluable team member. He bounces between quarries helping everyone out in every way he can.
Lindsey has been doing field work and preparing large dinosaurs for the past five summers. We have been very lucky to have Lindsey working with us this summer. Lindsey has been amazing helping the newer members of the field crew, while working on some of the most delicate dinosaur bones on site.
Ed (@ThatEdThomas) has experience working on scientific equipment worth thousands of dollars (or more), which is why he is our official ‘Hank’ Wrangler. He has learned how to do most of the jobs on site including making plaster jackets that help keep fossil bones protected as we move them from the field. Ed is an amazing science communicator and has been working on a series of videos from the site.
Learning by doing
Fieldwork provides an extraordinary learning experience for students from our partner institutions. It provides a real-world, hands-on opportunity that cannot be replicated in textbooks and labs. You learn things by doing things.
So get out and learn today! Visit The Children’s Museum. Explore your backyard. Walk through your neighborhood. You might get dirty. You might get sweaty. If you’re not careful, you just might learn something along the way.
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) on Twitter for up-to-the-moment information from the dig site!