What a summer! We are delighted to report the 2016 DIG Field School was a complete success! From July 28th to August 1st at the Hell Creek State Park in northeastern Montana, 32 teachers had the opportunity to participate in active fieldwork and research, engage in professional development activities, and lead discussions on how to more effectively bring real science into their classrooms. We had a wonderful group of participants from across the country that helped make this one of the best years yet!
In addition to the DIG, our research team spent eight weeks conducting fieldwork in the Hell Creek area and searching for dinosaurs, mammals, crocodiles, and tons of other fossils. We made some significant and exciting finds, including a Tyrannosaurus rex skull and partial skeleton! This is a rare and important discovery, marking only the 15th mostly complete T. rex skull in the world. The plaster-jacketed skull is currently on display at the Burke Museum until October 2nd, so make sure to visit soon! We'll be sure to keep you updated on progress with the specimen, as well as our other discoveries from this summer!
With the seventh edition of the DIG now officially over, we're already beginning to develop ideas for expanding the program and increasing our impact on K-12 education. In addition to revamping our website and the DIG boxes, we plan on increasing our classroom visits, continuing teacher involvement in the lab and museum, and developing new ways to bring the DIG into classrooms worldwide. Interested in helping us increase our outreach? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The DIG Field School is offered to teachers at no cost to them. Help us keep it that way by donating to the DIG. Learn more about our program here.
2016 DIG Field School Highlights
The 2016 DIG was one of our biggest programs yet, with 32 participants from 14 different states in attendance. These teachers represented a wide geographic range across all regions of the country, including four new states to our program: Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and South Dakota. In addition to their geographic diversity, the participants encompassed a unique set of teaching areas, levels, and backgrounds. This year's staff included university professors, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and postbaccalaureates from many different institutions including the University of Washington, University of California, University of Chicago, University of Alabama, and Colorado State University.
The participants spent four days with our team at the Hell Creek State Park, where they learned about and actively participated in our ongoing field research, helped us collect a number of dinosaur, mammal, and other vertebrate fossils (including the T. rex!), and lead discussions on how to adjust to changing science standards and inspire their students with real science. Days were filled with research and educational experiences and evenings included kick ball, trivia, and fireside conversation. We've already started to receive fantastic feedback from the teachers, and many plan to further their involvement with the DIG. See below for more pictures from the 2016 field school and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more!
Dr. Greg Wilson giving a talk on the geology on the Hell Creek area (top); 2016 DIG teachers hunting for microfossils (middle left); DIG teachers working on a fossil identification activity (middle right); DIG teachers jacketing a dinosaur specimen (bottom).
DIG participants presenting on their projects (top); DIG teacher Erin Marsh points to the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary (middle left); the 2016 DIG graduation ceremony (middle right); Dr. Greg Wilson giving a talk on the K-Pg boundary (bottom).
A Summer of Discovery
Wilson Lab members and colleagues spent eight weeks prospecting for and collecting fossils from areas all over Garfield and McCone counties in northeastern Montana. Our days included plenty of hiking and exploration, specimen jacketing, sediment collection, and more. Among many other exciting finds, our team recovered a Tyrannosaurus rex skull and partial skeleton! As mentioned previously, this is an extremely rare and important find for science and the general public. We're calling it the "Tufts-Love Rex" in honor of Luke Tufts and Jason Love, the two Burke Museum paleontology volunteers who initially discovered it.
Media coverage of the specimen has been prolific, with as many as 1,047 stories written around the world that have reached an estimated 2 billion people (including an article about our very own Richard Meyn!). This discovery will be an important part of the new Burke Museum, which is set to open in 2019. The plaster-jacketed skull will be on display at the Burke until October 2nd (plan your visit here). You can read more about the discovery here and about the new Burke here.
In addition to the Tufts-Love Rex, our team collected the remaining portion of "Clarisasaurus," a large hadrosaur dinosaur that 2014 DIG participants helped excavate. We also collected a thescelosaur dinosaur (colloquially known as "Love Dino"), as well as many other dinosaur, mammal, and vertebrate specimens. See below for more!
DIG participants at the Tufts-Love Rex quarry (top); DIG teachers work on exposing the T. rex skeleton (middle left); DIG teachers Katrina King and Amanda Fitchett pose next to the skull (middle right); DIG instructors Dave DeMar, Luke Weaver, Alex Brannick, and Brody Hovatter with the exposed skull (second from bottom); Belgrade News article about DIG instructor Richard Meyn (bottom).
Excavating the Clarisasaurus hadrosaur specimen with the help of a local rancher (top); The initial field crew at the Clarissasaurus site (middle left); The exposed ribs of the Tufts-Love Rex (middle right); DIG instructor Dave DeMar and Burke preparator Bruce Crowley examining the Love Dino thescelosaur (bottom).
Learn about what's happening with the new Burke Museum here.
Interested in attending the DIG next year? Want to stay involved with the DIG? Contact us about using DIG boxes and sediment in your classroom, volunteering in our lab, visiting the Burke, and attending our fossil sorting parties (dates to be announced soon!). Be sure to check out our website, Facebook, and Twitter for updates on the Tufts-Love Rex, research in our lab, and events at the Burke Museum.
Additionally, we'll be presenting at the National Science Teachers Association area conference in Portland, OR on Saturday, November 12th. You can read more about the conference here.