Ancient life from the Peace River

By Dr. Matthew Vavrek

During the summer of 2012, I spent five days floating down the Peace River with former Currie Museum palaeontologist Dr. Phil Bell and two graduate students from McGill University by the names of Trina Du and Ben Wilhelm. Although the Grande Prairie area is becoming well known for a whole host of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, the animals that lived where the Peace River now flows were much older.

Near Grande Prairie, the exposed rocks are part of the Wapiti Formation, a unit of rocks that ranges from 80 to 69 million years old, while along the Peace River the exposed rocks are mostly from the Dunvegan Formation, and are about 94 million years old. In fact, the rocks along the Peace River contain some of the oldest dinosaurs from Alberta, and as such can …

Dino of the Month: Sinoceratops

Sinoceratops is a large ceratopsian (horned) dinosaur from China. It is unique in being the only confirmed ceratopsid (advanced ceratopsian) from Asia. Although Asia has produced many primitive ceratopsians like Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus, advanced members of the group like Pachyrhinosaurus and Triceratops were only known from North America. It has large forward-curling spikes along the edge of its frill, and a single large horn above its nose.…

Life in Miniature: Vertebrate microsites

By Matthew Vavrek

Although the Cretaceous Period was a period of time best known for its multitude of giant dinosaurs, there were still plenty of other, much smaller animals living at the same time. However, these smaller animals present a problem for many palaeontologists because they are so small. A big dinosaur, with large, robust bones is much more likely to become a fossil than a small animal with much more delicate bones. However, sometimes palaeontologists stumble across a treasure trove of small fossils that they call a microsite. These microsites are areas, usually only a few square metres, where there is a large concentration of very small fossils. The fossils found in these areas are often the size of your fingernail or smaller, yet they can contain an enormous wealth of information about ancient, extinct ecosystems.

You rarely find …

May Construction Update!

By Karla Horcica, PCL Construction

1stomped_0265The concrete, steel, and wood structure of the building is now complete.

Crews continue to work on the roof and walls to make the building weather-tight, but at least now they get to work in warmer weather and sunshine! Meanwhile, inside the building, the walls are being laid out and steel stud framing of the walls is underway.

Along with the starting of the walls comes the rough-in of all the mechanical and electrical piping and conduit. While some of the pipes and conduits are put into the concrete slabs, a large portion is also run through the walls and ceilings.

1stomped_02931stomped_0247First the drywaller will lay out the walls and put down the bottom tracks, then the steel studs will be stood. The mechanical and electrical trades run their pipes and conduits through the steel …

Ask A Paleo! Where in the world are dinosaurs from?

By Robin Sissons

Dinosaur fossils are found everywhere in the world, from one pole to the other, on every continent, even on a the small Chatham Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. From Cryolophosaurus and Antarctopelta in the Antarctic, to Pachyrhinosaurus and Nanuqsaurus in the Arctic, and everything in between, dinosaurs are found at all lattitudes. The island of Madagascar brings us Majungasaurus and Masiakasaurus, while Australia boasts Rapator and Muttaburrasaurus. Scores of species are described from China, Mongolia and Japan, while Spinosaurus is commonly found in Egypt, and the first of any described dinosaurs, Iguanodon, Megalosaurus, and Hylaeosaurus, were found in Europe.

South America has the unique long-nosed dromaeosaur group, the unenlagiines, including Austroraptor, while North America has been a treasure trove of dinosaur palaeontology for over a century, with such …

Dinosaur of the Month – Anzu wyliei!

By Robin Sissons

Anzu is a type of oviraptorosaur dinosaur which was recently described in March 2014 from fossils found in North and South Dakota. ‘Anzu’ is derived from Mesopotamian legends of a feathered demon of that name. Although it was found in 1998 and has been known for years, and even displayed in museums, it is only in this last month that it was named as a new species. It is the largest known oviraptorosaur from North America.…

Alliance Pipeline Makes a Monster Donation

AllianceLogo-webAlliance Pipeline presented the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum with a $250,000 donation yesterday to help fund the museum’s Education Centre.

A contingent of Wembley Elementary School Grade Four students was on hand to accept the donation on behalf of all the children who will benefit from the museum’s education programs in the years ahead. The school’s Grade Fours have had a special relationship with the museum project over the last three years as the kids have collected cans and bottles to make an annual donation.

“I’m really excited because I can’t wait to learn about all kinds of dinosaurs,” said Kenadi Jones, 10, who was braving the wind with her Grade Four classmates at the museum site. “I like them because they’re all different in their own little ways.”

There will be a lot of learning happening at the …

March Construction Update!

By Karla Horcica, PCL Construction

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur museum incorporates all kinds of unique features. One of these features is a circular concrete stairwell that starts in the basement and rises three storeys to the top of the building.

Inside of the circular stairwell there is a circular elevator core that the stairwell wraps around. If you look closely at the picture you’ll notice that this circular elevator core is made out of concrete.

To form this circular concrete core, steel beams were rolled to the required radius and used as the framework to hold together the vertical elements of the formwork. Once this was complete, the inside of the formwork was lined with plywood. This took lots of screws to force and hold the plywood in the curved shape.

The sections for the circular core were built …

Dino of the Month – Gorgosaurus

By Robin Sissons

Gorgosaurus is a large theropod dinosaur closely related to Albertosaurusand Tyrannosaurus. It was a top predator in its ecosystem, and would have interacted with other dinosaurs such as Centrosaurus and Parasaurolophus, as well as the similarly-sized tyrannosaur Daspletosaurus. At 8 to 9 meters long, a smaller animal than its more famous cousins, Gorgosaurus was none the less still a formidable carnivore who would have prowled the ancient ecosystems of Alberta 76 million years ago during the Cretaceous.…

Ask a Palaeo: how long does it take to put a dinosaur skeleton on display?

By Robin Sissons

Once a fossil is found, it can take a long time with many people working on it before it is ready to be put on display. Small fossils can be excavated from the ground in a few days or even a few hours. Larger fossils or skeletons that require more care may require a months-long season, or even multiple years going back to the same quarry to extract.

Once the fossil is removed from the ground, it is transported back to a laboratory where it may take as little as a few hours, or as much as several years to clean up and glue back together. This depends largely on the hardness of the rock around the fossil, and how fragile or durable the fossil itself is.

If the fossil is a complete skeleton, it may be …

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