Peabody Fossil Hunter

Friday, July 15

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 at 2:20 am

Seven people, two sites, eight shovels, six pickaxes, five army backpacks, and 20 gnat-fighting car scent cards.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve done a lot—carved up the sloping “humps” of Camel Butte, crawled and shoveled the surface of Hoff Ranch, inspected anthills, battled ticks and gnats, and trapped a dozen horny toads.

We packed away about 130 gallons of dirt from the sites–enough to fill an aquarium built to house a Catshark–and spent about 100 hours collectively picking through it with tweezers and dental tools. We took 44 soil samples for pollen dating, and found about 40 hatched rattlesnake eggs.

In the end, our tray of findings represents a hefty slice of Cretaceous-Tertiary riverine taxa: crocodiles, lizards, garfish, turtles, champsosaurs, and most importantly, mammals–15 jaw fragments and a handful of teeth from condylarths and multituberculates.

One of three trays of finds.

Most of the material will go back to the Peabody Museum to be catalogued and researched. The pollen sample results will take a few months.Peabody Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Eric Sargis will take the mammal finds with him to New Haven, each one wrapped in tissue and placed in individual boxes.

For two weeks, it’s been a success. Tomorrow, we’ll drive back to Rapid City, South Dakota and part ways until the fall.

Descending Camel Butte.


Thursday, July 14

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Yesterday, the Camel Butte crew battled strong winds that kept the gnats away but made even standing still a challenge. Cutting into the side of the slopes, the dirt blew horizontally out to the grasslands as soon as it hit the screens. We emerged with 25 gallons of matrix, and a few dirt unibrows.

By the end of the windy day, Anthropology major Greg Mittl had a dirt beard.

Today, heat was the challenge. We spent the day in two groups again, one collecting more matrix at Camel Butte and the other at Hoff Ranch prospecting for more mammal jaws. We also dug two trenches, which will allow geologist Antoine Bercovici to generate a timeline “anchoring” a few key fossil finds in the stratigraphic column.

Tuesday, July 12

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Read about Yale Geology graduate student Tyler Lyson’s recent research in Science, Nature, and ABC. Last year, he found a Ceratops’ brow horn at Camel Butte, a find supporting that the asteroid impact caused the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.