Dr. Philip J. Currie, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
Dr. Dr. Eva Koppelhus, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
During the last week of June and the first two weeks of July, the University of Alberta crew worked in Dinosaur Provincial Park, primarily on the north side of the Red Deer River. Our base camp was set up on June 25, 2012 at "Happy Jack's".
The entire field crew was out prospecting every day during the first week; this was a daily task for a few people during the rest of the expedition. Almost 228 individual fossils were collected which have now been catalogued into the collections of the U of A Laboratory of Vertebrate Paleontology (UAVLP).
During the second week of the expedition, we started work on an old quarry in the central area of the park. We were aware of this site since 1992 but, because the specimen's skull had been removed many years before that, it did not seem worthwhile to collect. However, in 2011, an old piece of newspaper was discovered in the quarry and we learned from that clue that the specimen had been excavated in 1920. In that year, American paleontologist George F. Sternberg, son of Charles H. Sternberg, was working for the University of Alberta and had excavated the beautiful skull of a hadrosaur (duckbilled dinosaur). We didn't know where the specimen came from before the discovery of the newspaper but the skull later became the "type" specimen of a new species known as Corythosaurus excavatus. The skull was considered a very significant discovery and has been on display at the University since the 1930s.
Type specimens are some of the most important items in the collection of any museum or university because they are reference specimens that paleontologists from all over the world come to study.
The scientific value of this skeleton was so important that, once we knew its history, it became imperative to remove it from the badlands and reunite it with the skull in Edmonton. By the end of our season in July, the quarry was not quite finished but we had pressing priorities elsewhere in Alberta. As soon as our busy schedule allowed, we returned to Dinosaur Park in October to finish plastering the large field jacket in Quarry 258. Although the skeleton suffered erosion damage from 90 years of exposure to the weather, we recovered complete bones from all parts of the body.
We don't know if next year's field season will be as memorable and satisfying as 2012 but Dinosaur Park is an easy place for a paleontologist to be an optimist.