Tyrrell techs work on sum­mer finds

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Kyle Smylie The Drumheller Mail

Two skulls are among the spec­i­mens brought back to the Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum this au­tumn as field work is wrap­ping up for the sea­son.

An Ed­mon­tosaurus skull was found in the Drumheller area af­ter a tip from a mem­ber of the pub­lic, and tech­ni­cians at the mu­seum will be work­ing on pre­par­ing it over the win­ter. Tyrrell head of prepa­ra­tion Lorna O’Brien says while these types of skulls are a com­mon find, this one is ex­cit­ing for their re­searchers.

“Most of the good skulls have, his­tor­i­cally, al­ready been col­lected. We haven’t had a good Ed­mon­tosaurus skull at the mu­seum be­fore,” she says.

While they were in the field pre­par­ing the find, staff ended up find­ing a par­tial an­chicer­atops skull as well. Some­times the crew will take their lunch breaks to go prospect­ing in the area, and in this case they stum­bled onto the find.

“There are very few skulls in the first place, so hav­ing that is sci­en­tif­i­cally im­por­tant, so that’s ex­cit­ing for us. Skulls gen­er­ally have the fea­tures that are sci­en­tif­i­cally im­por­tant, es­pe­cially with the an­chicer­atops, as they are horned di­nosaurs and their or­na­menta- tion on the frills is some­thing re­searchers get ex­cited about,” O’Brien says.

When think­ing about palaeontologists work­ing, most peo­ple imag­ine them out in the field, dig­ging in the dirt and chip­ping away at their finds. But much of the work is done in the Tyrrell’s labs, af­ter spec­i­mens are ei­ther car­ried by hand out of the field or via he­li­copter when the lo­ca­tion is too re­mote.

While re­searchers may get a lot of the glory when it comes to new and ex­cit­ing finds from the field, O’Brien says it’s the tech­ni­cian who lays eyes on these spec­i­mens for the first time in tens of mil­lions of years.

“Our techs are the first peo­ple ever who get to see that ma­te­rial – when we talk about new di­nosaurs or new species, it’s the tech­ni­cian who ac­tu­ally got to see it first. They’re the ones say­ing ‘this looks weird, this looks dif­fer­ent,’ and they’ll con­tact the re­searcher and say there might be some­thing new here.”

“Of­ten, they are also the ones who are boots on the ground, out in the field, and they get to see the en­tire process, from find­ing it, col­lect­ing it, and pre­par­ing it then hav­ing it on dis­play. It’s al­ways some­thing dif­fer­ent.”


A Tyrrell lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cian pre­pares a fos­sil un­cov­ered dur­ing a busy sea­son in the field col­lect­ing

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