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Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute's 2017 Field Expedition P Schein, Jason, and Brittany Malinowski.. Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute, 6 Apr 2017. Experiment. doi: 10.18258/9255
Paleontological field work falls into two general categories: prospecting and quarrying. Prospecting is simply walking around, looking for "float", or scraps of bone on the ground surface. The goal is to find pieces that lead to bigger portions of the skeleton, still buried nearby. Once we do find larger pieces in the ground we move into the second phase: quarrying. In this process, we carefully prepare a field jacket, made of plaster of paris and burlap, before extracting them from the ground. The field jacket is essentially a hard case designed to protect the fossils for the journey home.
Challenges from Nature
There are a number of challenges we face, that are inherent in almost any field work. Heat, plants and animals, and the physicality of working on, in and something under lots of rock! None of these are dangerous, though, especially if you are careful and listen to safety-related instructions carefully.
Challenges of Field Paleontology
One of the most common questions we get is "how can you tell that's a fossil - it just looks like a rock to me!" Many folks also think fossils are very rare, and it might take days to find anything. Not so - especially where we are!
In an effort to educate people about field paleontology, our team developed a web series to answer these and the other "most frequently asked questions" in paleontology. Check out those videos, and if you have other questions, please let us know. We'd love to hear from you.
All fossils will be brought to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There they will be cleaned, prepared, and curated by some of the world's foremost experts. This will be the permanent home for these remains, and where they will be safely housed and made available to future researchers in perpetuity. Just as importantly, they'll also be used by the highly-trained staff to educate and inspire future generations.
Field work is what most people envision when they think of paleontology, but much of the real science begins in the lab. Cleaning and preparing the fossils, which includes piecing them back together, allows us to identify anatomical details, pathologies, and other details hidden away since the time of these animals' deaths. Only then can we begin to understand the biology and evolutionary relationships of these amazing creatures.
This project has not yet shared any protocols.