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Children examining bones in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Jurassic journey: taking fossils from earth to exhibit

After millions of years buried under tons of dirt and rock in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, a treasure trove of the remains of Jurassic beasts have finally been collected. Upon completion of a season of mapping, documenting, digging, jacketing, and transporting, many of these fossils have begun the next leg of their Mission Jurassic journey. Here’s a few steps the fossils have taken along the journey to the new Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab.

Mapping

As mentioned before, documentation is a key part of studying a fossil. That’s true in the lab, but it’s also true out in the field. It’s important to record as many details as possible about where these fossils were discovered. We can use this valuable information to help piece together the taphonomy—what happened to the animals from when they died to when they were found—of the site. It also helps us understand their behavior. Mapping even helps us figure out how best to open the jackets in the lab.

Mapping at the Mission Jurassic dig site

Documenting

Did we mention we document almost everything about the fossil? Along with the maps, each fossil gets its own field number. This number is that fossil's special ID. All information about who found it, where it was found, what the fossil is, and so forth is connected with that number. That's how we keep track of the hundreds of bones we excavate every year!

Digging

From giant machinery to shovels to tiny hand trowels and brushes, removing these fossils from the ground takes a lot of time, sweat, and maybe even a few tears.

Diggint at the Mission Jurassic dig site in Wyoming

Jacketing

Once the fossils are unearthed, they are encased in field jackets. You can read about the field jacketing process here.

Jacketed fossils at the Mission Jurassic dig site

Moving jacketed fossils at the Mission Jurassic dig site

Transporting

During the 2019 Mission Jurassic dig, tons of jacketed fossils made the 1,400+ mile trek to The Children’s Museum. After more than 21 hours on the road, they finally arrived at their new home. Click here to find out more about the first shipment of bones.

Mission Jurassic fossils arriving at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Mission Jurassic fossils arriving at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Storage

After data collection and cataloguing, the jacketed fossils are placed in storage until it is time to open them in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab.

Mission Jurassic fossils ready for storage at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Prep work

Our scientists continue to work on the extraordinary fossils that have arrived from the Mission Jurassic dig site. It takes significant time and effort to remove some of the larger jackets.

Mission Jurassic fossil prep work in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Mission Jurassic fossil prep work in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Smaller jackets are relatively easy to remove and our scientists have begun removing the rock that encased the fossils.

Mission Jurassic fossil prep work in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Documenting (pt. 2)

That’s right. More data is collected and documented throughout the prep process. This helps us know who is working on which fossil and what preparation techniques have been used. This information is important for the conservation of the fossil and for anyone who might want to research these fossils.

See it first-hand!

You can watch our scientists begin to uncover these colossal bones in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab located in DinosphereⓇ. In addition to touching a T. rex bone from the Cretaceous Period, you can also talk to our paleontologists and volunteers as they continue prepping the new fossils for what’s to come.

Children examining bones in the Jurassic Paleo Prep Lab window at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Because something big...VERY big...is coming!

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 AKwas@childrensmuseum.org.


Don’t miss a moment of the Mission Jurassic project! 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!

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