Dinosaur Provincial Park

Alberta Parks

2013 University of Alberta Fieldwork in Dinosaur PP

    Dr. Philip J. CurrieDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

    Dr. Dr. Eva KoppelhusDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

    Three weeks of fieldwork in Dinosaur Provincial Park (May 21 to June 7, 2013) was conducted by Dr. Philip Currie, Dr. Eva Koppelhus and Senior Technician Clive Coy, together with graduate students. It was well supported by volunteers from the Dinosaur Research Institute (Brian Coulee, Lawrence Dohy, Eric Felber, Tom Owen, Mary Ann Wilson), one student from Italy (Davide Foffa), two students from Denmark (Sarah Moeller and Morten Nielsen), and two long-time volunteers (Stuart Plotkin, and Susan Kagan).

    As in previous years, we camped at Happy Jacks.  It was rather sad to see all the cottonwood trees that had burned just two weeks before we arrived. A film crew from the History Channel joined the University of Alberta crew for one week.           

    Our first project was to try to locate an old William Cutler quarry (Q080) on the south side of the river.  This project was done in cooperation with Darren Tanke from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller. We succeeded in finding the campsite but a better quality photograph (published in 1923) revealed that what was thought to be the site was incorrect. The correct position seems to have been upstream above the "waterfall" but the exact position is still in question.

    A few days were spent prospecting in the core of the park, and one day was spent in the Steveville area.   

    One of the interesting sites that we opened up as a test excavation was a ceratopsian bonebed in the Oldman Formation on the north side of the river. Several good fossils were collected from this site but it is still not possible to determine which species is represented in the bonebed. Although no articulated specimens were collected in 2013, 220 specimens were collected and catalogued into the University of Alberta collections.      

    An important specimen collected in 2010, a virtually complete juvenile ceratopsian [Chasmosaurus], has been prepared; a publication is being written. Lacking only the forelimbs, due to modern erosion, the one metre long individual is otherwise complete.  The skeleton offers the first glimpses into how the elaborate ceratopsian skull ornamentation grew, how the neck vertebrae fused to eventually support the massive head, and that elements such as ossified tendons were already present in young ceratopsians.  Additionally, preserved skin-impressions offer an idea of the living animal. 

    Field plans for 2014 include continued foot survey of the north side of the Red Deer River in the vicinity of the Old Mexico Ranch, survey of the Steveville Pocket and Railway Grade localities.  Student projects include continued searches for a lost Ankylosaur quarry, and locating elusive vertebrate remains within the largely sterile Oldman Formation.

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