Long Overdue Post Field Season Update

Lab Note #13
Oct 12, 2015

Hello everyone! Yes, I know - it has been a long time since our last update! Conducting a full field season and trying to keep up with our posts at the same time just proved to be too much this past season. We'll figure out a way to deal with that next season, because we do want our friends and benefactors to be able to keep up with everything we're doing!

Things have been almost just as busy since we returned from the field. The good side of that, though, is that we've been so busy because of all of our successes! Too many, really, to detail every event, so I'll take this opportunity and several in the near future to give you all a brief overview of different aspects of the field season, and our time since.

Field Season: The 1st Week:

Writing and posting Lab Notes became difficult during the field season, but we did manage to keep up for at least the first week. We had a little more success with the shorter format of Facebook posts for the rest of the field season, but of course those are almost always brief and unsatisfying for our audience - and for us! We did have a great crew that week, though, including a number of friends from Experiment.com. They wrote a great review of the week from a different perspective, that we really can't improve on, so I'd encourage you to take a look.

Field Season: The 2nd Week:

The second week held an unexpected surprise, but I'd better back up a bit before getting into it. Last spring, our friends at the Montana BLM office asked us to check out the site where Suuwassea emilieae was found in 1999 and 2000 - there were reports that the tarp covering the original quarry was now exposed and visible. This original specimen is still the only known skeleton of this dinosaur, and more importantly, this species lies in an important point in the evolutionary history of this group of dinosaurs. So we were happy to visit the site as tourists - to visit a "fmous" site, but not expecting to find anything.

Suuwassea emilieae in all her glory. By amazing artist, Jason Poole.

What we found when we pulled back the tarp, though, was shocking. Bones still in the ground, and possibly articulated (still together as they would have been in life)! What's more, after covering those bones back up, we found hundreds of pounds of float (broken bits of weathered bone on the ground surface) around the entire area, and even nearly complete tail vertebrae! What started out as a 1/2 day semi-tourist visit to a famous site, turned into a 2-day salvage mission, and the start of perhaps the Bighorn Basin Dinosaur Project's most scientifically-important project to date! Coming back to this site and opening up a full-blown week(s) long thorough excavation is now the biggest and first priority for the 2016 field expedition, and one of our student assistants will be submitting a grant proposal to help with those expenses any day now (which is just one of the many things that has kept us so busy since returning from the field!).

Sauropod bones (probably Suuwassea!) in the ground!

Laura with a caudal vertabra of a sauropod dinosaur!

Much more to come - I promise! In the mean time, enjoy this great video, shot from a drone, by one of our project leaders, at one of our field sites!

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