This summer, I headed into the field with students from McGill University, under the leadership of Dr. Hans Larsson. They had a great time in the field and discovered and collected many exciting fossils from three field locations. Check it out!

Our adventure started at the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend.  Here, McGill students Klara, Alisa and Ryan help to re-prepare a Triceratops collected by amateur fossil hunter Corky Jones in the 1950s. The Triceratops is part of the collection from the Eastend Historical Museum being temporarily curated by the RSM.

On August 8th, it was time to head off into the field. First stop: Lake Diefenbaker!

Our fossil excavation on Lake Diefenbaker is one the RSM and McGill have been jointly working at since 2012. This is a dinosaur bonebed, containing hundreds of fossils dating to about 74 million years ago.

The site contains many exciting fossils, such as this tooth from a large theropod dinosaur, likely Gorgosaurus (this time period predates T. rex by eight million years).

Other fossils at this site, like this one, come from horned dinosaurs.
To get down to the bonebed layer, we had to remove almost 20 tons of overlying rock, or ‘overburden’, by hand. It was hard work in the heat and the sun.

But we all had a good time doing it. Louise Marie, a McGill grad student in palaeo, is enjoying herself!

A little friend stopped by to check out my field book, where I write notes about where we are, what we find, and what we collect. Making field notes is a critically important part of fossil collecting.

Our next stop was the East Block of Grasslands National Park. The rocks here are younger than at Lake Diefenbaker, dating to about 66 million years ago and containing the dinosaur extinction boundary.

We helped to lead Grasslands National Park’s ‘Fossil Fever’ event. Between August 13th and 17th, close to sixty visitors came out to our site to watch and participate in our fossil collection activities.

We found most of a soft-shelled turtle skeleton, including the limb bones and girdle elements. This is the scapulocoracoid bone, from the turtle’s pectoral girdle.

We also found parts of a large fish skull, probably a large garfish.

And we dig for the dinosaur mass extinction layer, the K-Pg Boundary. (Here it is the lighter layer of clay, bounded by coal).

We were invited to join in with Grasslands’ ‘Badlands Blast’ evening on August 16th; an old fashioned Hoedown with a BBQ, live music, dancing, wagon rides and a visit from Parks Canada’s mascot, Parker.

After that, it was off to the hamlet of Herschel, near Rosetown, where there is a 72 million year old marine bonebed. The RSM has been collecting marine fossils from this site since the 1990s. It was here that the type specimen of a short-necked plesiosaur, Dolycorincops herschelensis, was collected.

We collected about 50 fossils, including this plesiosaur rib. This is me, putting a small field jacket on the specimen. (Photo by Guy Marx)

Dr. Larsson (in the red shirt) also spotted something unexpected… Stay tuned to find out what it was!

Before heading back to Eastend, we made one more trip to our site on Lake Diefenbaker to complete our collection and to close up the quarry.

Before brining all of the fossils, most in field jackets like these, back to the T. rex Centre. The fossils will be prepared over the winter, both by the RSM in Eastend, and by McGill in Montreal.

All in all, it was a super summer! (This picture is of the McGill students, Dr. Larsson (in the red shirt) and me (in the green shirt) at Ponteix, SK, where there is a life-sized model of ‘Mo’, the Ponteix Plesiosaur.)