Encana Sci­ence campers con­tribut­ing to re­search

The Drumheller Mail - - REAL ESTATE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

The Encana Sci­ence Camps have al­ways been a fruit­ful place for young peo­ple to ex­plore their love of di­nosaurs, but it has also be­come a place for real sci­en­tific ex­plo­ration.

For 12 years, the Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum has been host­ing sci­ence camps. Over the years, the pop­u­lar­ity con­tin­ues to swell. Camp di­rec­tor Mor­gan Syvert­sen says in the last few years, the par­tic­i­pants have been do­ing more than just learn­ing about sci­ence and di­nosaurs, but con­tribut­ing to re­search be­ing done by the es­teemed sci­en­tists at the Tyrrell.

“What has made a dif­fer­ence in the last four years is the em­pha­sis on sci­ence. The kids are not just do­ing games, they are do­ing re­search work, they are con­tribut­ing to the work be­ing done at the mu­seum,” ex­plains Syvert­sen.

He said the campers are en­gaged and have the skill to sup­port the re­search.

“We did a big data col­lec­tion project for Dr. Mike New­brey over a cou­ple years and we went through 11,000 myleda­phus teeth to find cer­tain spec­i­mens to use in his re­search. The er­ror rate of these kids was equiv­a­lent to the er­ror rate of univer­sity stu­dents. So he was more than happy to rec­om­mend us to the other cu­ra­tors at the mu­seum.”

To­day the campers are out in the quar­ries, tak­ing sam­ples, screen­ing, sort­ing, and iden­ti­fy­ing. “We are work­ing on an ac­tual full sized di­nosaur cast which looks like it is go­ing to be do­nated to the Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal. They are demon­strat­ing they can do ev­ery­thing,” said Syvert­sen.

In a co­in­ci­dence last week, former camper of 10 years, Greg Fun­ston, was in a quarry with his own crew from the Univer­sity of Ed­mon­ton work­ing on his PhD with Dr. Phil Cur­rie.

The camper’s work is rais­ing the pres­tige of the camp out­side the mu­seum and in­side. About a year ago, Syvert­sen said he made a pre­sen­ta­tion to the mu­seum staff.

“When I pre­sented the ac­tual work we are do­ing, the ex­tent of it and how it is af­fect­ing peo­ple’s lives, it really turned the tides and we are get­ting more sup­port,” he said.

Each year there are about 130 young peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing.

“It has been grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially. We have to turn kids away ev­ery year,” he said. We started to open reg­is­tra­tion on De­cem­ber 1 and by De­cem­ber 5, we were 50 per cent filled. By the end of the month we were vir­tu­ally sold out.”

The par­tic­i­pants come from all over Canada and the world. They have had campers from the US, China, Ja­pan, Korea, Aus­tralia and Europe.

The only limit to growth is the fa­cil­ity. The re­cent an­nounce­ment of an ex­pan­sion at the Tyrrell may al­low more campers in the fu­ture.

“With the ex­pan­sion of the Tyrrell, which has been ap­proved, they are go­ing to build a larger multi pur­pose room. All that lim­its the growth of our camp is the size of our class­room, with a maximum of 40. But if we’re able to have more peo­ple, we could put up more tipis or tents at the camp­site, we could add more staff and have more peo­ple at camp.”

He says the se­cret to the camp’s pop­u­lar­ity is sim­ple.

“It’s just di­nosaurs, that’s all we do,” he said.


The Encana Sci­ence Camp crew in the Hadrosaur quarry at Tol­man Bridge last week. The campers are con­tribut­ing to re­search be­ing done at the Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum.

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