Royal Saskatchewan Museum
T.rex Discovery Centre
#1 T.Rex Drive, P.O. Box 460
EASTEND SK S0N 0T0
Wandering through an exhibition of Chinese dinosaurs in Cardiff, Wales with her parents, Dr. Emily Bamforth, four at the time, was smitten. One fossil in particular stood out for her—the Mamenchisaurus, a dinosaur with a neck more than 35 feet long, that roamed Asian forests during the Late Jurassic period.
“I think I was just in awe of these huge animals, these creatures from the past,” Bamforth said. “I think that’s what hooks a lot of kids—the idea that we have nothing like these animals today. It gets you thinking about what the ancient world might have been like.”
Shortly after her first encounter with dinosaurs, Bamforth moved with her family from the United Kingdom to Edmonton, Alberta, where she grew up and went to school. (Bamforth doesn’t have an accent anymore. Her parents still do, though).
Alberta turned out to be a haven for the young palaeontology enthusiast. Bamforth remembers visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, the nearby Badlands in Horseshoe Canyon and Dinosaur Provincial Park.
While many palaeontologists don’t uncover their first dinosaur fossil until they’re in high school, or university, Bamforth discovered her first fossil at the grand old age of nine while attending a week-long summer camp in Drumheller known as “Dinosaur Country Science Camp.”
On her first-ever fossil prospecting trip, she bent down to pick up what appeared to be an unusual rock.
“I remember it really clearly,” Bamforth said. “I noticed what looked like a lump of rock, then looked closely and thought it looked like what they told us dinosaur bones look like. It turned out to be the upper part of the leg of a duck-billed dinosaur. I was so excited—having that initial thrill of discovery. Definitely memorable.”
She ended up attending the camp every summer until she was 16.
In high school, Biology was Bamforth’s favourite subject. She started a Bachelor of Science degree in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Alberta in 2001.
She graduated in 2005 and the following fall began working on her Master of Science degree at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Bamforth’s Master’s thesis focused on 565-million-year-old invertebrate fossils. During her research, she named three new fossil species.
In 2007, while working on her MSc at Queen’s, Bamforth attended the McGill Vertebrate Palaeontology Course in southeastern Saskatchewan—a course that was offered in cooperation with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s Fossil Research Station in Eastend.
“Obviously, it was awesome,” she said of the experience that spurred her to pursue her PhD at McGill. She spent four summers from 2009 until 2012 in Grasslands National Park, where she collected, identified and catalogued more than 14,000 vertebrate fossils.
Bamforth lived in Eastend during those summers and fell in love with the town, and Saskatchewan.
She successfully defended her doctoral thesis in October 2013 and started working at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s T.rex Discovery Centre as a curatorial assistant in February 2014.
She is excited to live and work in a province rife with undiscovered palaeontological material.
“If you talk about dinosaurs in Canada, people immediately think of Alberta, of Drumheller,” Bamforth said. “Few people associate Saskatchewan with dinosaurs even though Saskatchewan has all the classic dinosaur species—T. rex,Triceratops.”
Bamforth is looking forward to the opportunities that her new position at the RSM will offer to work on Saskatchewan fossils, including those from Grasslands National Park. She very much enjoys the public outreach aspect of her work, making her ideal for the community engagement aspect of the position.
“I am just so excited to be working in a province that has such immense palaeontological potential.”