Dino dig yields more specimens for museum
A dinosaur dig team in southeastern Utah may have discovered enough bones of two species to make the Burpee Museum of Natural History home to four dinosaurs by 2010.
A camarasaurus, from the family of long-necked sauropods, and a stegosaurus, recognized by the large plates that run down its back, could be joining Jane, the museum’s rare juvenile T. rex discovery of 2001, and Homer, a juvenile triceratops found in 2005.
On Wednesday afternoon, Burpee Director Alan Brown arrived at Burpee with the first shipment of “priority bones” — major pieces of the camarasaurus that the museum hopes to mount.
“We have two more van loads, a trailer and a truck still to come back,” Brown said. More bones will be put into storage in Utah.
Then begin the tedious and time-consuming preparation and evaluation stages where museum staff and volunteers clean the bones they have and see what fits.
With plans for a 20,000-square-foot addition to the museum already in the works, Brown envisions it like this: groundbreaking for the addition in fall 2008, opening of the addition in fall 2009, the first traveling exhibit in late 2009 and the unveiling of two new mounted dinosaur skeletons in 2010.
The bones, which are believed to be 150 million years old, were discovered by Burpee staff and volunteers last month in a bone bed — a rocky bed of bones containing a slew of dinosaur specimens thought to come from the Jurassic Period.
“Jane put us on the map,” Brown said. “What Homer and this prove is that we didn’t just get lucky once. This affirms our position as a top-notch, scientific research museum. We know where to go and how to do it. We’re an institution that delivers.”
That reputation and the expansion at Burpee will translate to more visitors to the museum and more tourists to Rockford.
“When we’re done you won’t be able to see everything in one day,” Brown said. “It’ll take you two.”
The continual stream of new finds is fueling interest in the museum’s expeditions as well.
Last year, 75 people from Rockford and surrounding areas signed up to tag along with Burpee staffers at a site in Montana. This year, 150 people will participate in the hands-on field experience.
“It really opens up grant opportunities for us,” said Miriam Michaelis, expedition manager.
“This year we’re doing five full sessions. When there’s always that possibility of a new find, morale is high. People get excited about what they might find that day.”
Corina Curry can be reached at (815) 987-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.