Learn more about dinosaurs, palaeontology, the world around us, and many other fascinating topics straight from the experts with our monthly free lecture series! Upcoming speakers are listed with their topic and lecture description below.
DR. EVA KOPPELHUS
University of Alberta
Palaeontological Expeditions to Western Greenland in 2014 and 2017
Saturday, November 18 • 1:10pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
In 2014 an expedition to western Greenland was made possible by a donation from a private donor in Cleveland Ohio. The crew included Michael Ryan, Matthew Lamanna, Philip J. Currie, Eva Koppelhus and Wendy Sloboda. The aim was to find dinosaur fossils in the Upper Cretaceous Atana Formation. This formation consists of deltaic deposits, and there are good reasons to believe it should be possible to find dinosaur remains there. We spent two weeks prospecting in the region during the 2014 field season, and one week in 2017. On the last day of the first expedition, one of the expedition members found something that looked like a dinosaur footprint. However, there was no time to confirm the find as the helicopter was picking us up shortly after. It was therefore decided that we would go back in 2017 to either confirm or dismiss the find. Early during the second expedition, the possible footprint from 2014 was examined and identified as a nodule rather than a footprint. However, another, we found a more convincing possible footprint on the same day. Although it was incomplete and deemed to be of too poor quality for research, thin sections are being prepared for detailed sedimentological examination to determine whether it may be a footprint.
Upper Cretaceous dinosaur remains have been found in Arctic Canada sediments of similar age. Furthermore, dinosaur remains were found more than 20 years ago in the Triassic/Jurassic formations of Jameson Land in eastern Greenland. These finds suggest that dinosaurs will eventually be found in western Greenland.
University of Alberta
A Gap in Horned Dinosaur Research
The Importance of Postcranial Anatomy in Pachyrhinosaurus
Saturday, November 18 • 1:30pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
In ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) research a common approach is to focus on the anatomy of the skull, where distinctive features useful in identifying species are concentrated. This has left a huge gap in ceratopsian research, in that the rest of the skeleton (the postcranium) receives very little attention and is rarely described in detail. The ceratopsian, Pachyrhinosaurus, is an excellent candidate for such a description due to the abundance of material collected from the Pipestone Creek quarry near Wembley, Alberta, a sample that includes examples of nearly every bone in the skeleton and represents individuals at varying stages of growth. Ongoing work on Pachyrhinosaurus will not only provide a reference point for future comparisons of postcranial anatomy among ceratopsians, but also potentially allow for inferences regarding forelimb posture and therefore the gait of the animal.
Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum
The Evolution of Diet in “Meat-Eating” Dinosaurs
Saturday, November 18 • 2:05pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Dietary preferences are difficult to distinguish in the fossil record with only rare occurrences of known gut contents preserved. Using measurements of tooth and jaw shape and diet in living monitor lizards, I have been able to reconstruct dietary preferences in extinct theropod dinosaurs close to the evolution and diversification of birds. Inferred diets are in broad agreement with known gut contents in these extinct theropod dinosaurs. Results show that diet and associated small body sizes were a major shift in the evolution of theropods that occurred within paravian dinosaurs, the group that includes birds and their closest relatives. This suggests that diet was an important factor in the evolution of theropod dinosaurs close to the origin of birds and may have played an integral role in the radiation of success of the group.
DR. RICH MCCREA
Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre
Recent Discoveries of Fossil Vertebrates from Northeastern British Columbia
Saturday, November 18 • 2:25pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
The 2017 field season has been productive in the number and variety of fossil vertebrate finds from the Peace Region of British Columbia. An initial report of dinosaur tracks with skin impressions from fallen blocks along a highway led to the discovery of an in situ track site containing at least one trackway of a large crocodilian as well as the tracks of adult ankylosaurs and one trackway of a baby ankylosaur from the Late Cretaceous Dunvegan Formation (Cenomanian).
Conuma Coal Resources Ltd. reported dinosaur tracks from the Wolverine coal mine close to Tumbler Ridge and following a visit by PRPRC palaeontologists they were identified as ankylosaur prints from the Gates Formation (Early Cretaceous: Albian). The mine graciously transported the track blocks to the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC) for further research. An in situ tracksite find was reported from the Brule coal mine property operated by the same company. These tracks were also those of ankylosaurs, but were preserved in sediments from the Gething Formation (Early Cretaceous: Aptian). Tracks have now been reported from every coal mine in the vicinity of Tumbler Ridge. Additional investigations outside of the mine property led to the discovery of avian footprint blocks from two different localities, also from the Gates Formation. One of these blocks has been recovered and the other is awaiting recovery.
A chiropractor, Dr. Rick Lambert, discovered a maxilla from a tyrannosaur while vacationing with his wife at a campground in Tumbler Ridge. This specimen was swiftly collected by the PRPRC and is currently being prepared for research. The specimen was located on a sandstone block that did not originate where it had been found by Dr. Lambert. A combination of detective work by the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) and PRPRC palaeontologists, with the assistance of staff from the District of Tumbler Ridge led to the location of the quarry that was the source of the tyrannosaur skull bone. Additional fragments of theropod bone have been located at this site.
There were two other finds of significance, but were from the marine deposits exposed near Fort St. John and Moberly Lake. A neck vertebra of an elasmosaur and a humerus from a mosasaur may be the first reports of these marine reptiles from the Peace Region of British Columbia. Both sites will be investigated and be assessed for the potential of further skeletal remains.
DR. MATT VAVREK
Grande Prairie Regional College
Turtle Biogeography and Late Cretaceous Climate of Northern Alberta
Saturday, November 18 • 2:45pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Recent work in the Grande Prairie region has revealed a diversity of turtles that was previously unexpected. While work in the region prior to 2013 had recovered a total of 3 specimens of turtles, some of which were unidentifiable to any specific turtle group, new discoveries have recovered dozens of specimens representing multiple groups at localities across the region. As turtles have been increasingly used in palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, their presence can also help us to better understand the climate and environment present in the Peace Region during the end of the Age of Dinosaurs. This talk with briefly review some of these new finds, and what insights they can give us about the broader climate of the Wapiti Formation.
DR. CORWIN SULLIVAN
University of Alberta
Exploring the Cretaceous in the Grande Prairie Region
Saturday, November 18 • 3:20pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
The Grande Prairie area has been known for decades as a rich source of dinosaur remains and other Cretaceous vertebrate fossils. Until recently, palaeontologists focused mainly on a few key localities, notably including Kleskun Hill, the Pipestone and Wapiti River horned dinosaur bonebeds, and Red Willow Falls. However, renewed prospecting in the past several years has identified a number of additional promising sites. Bones of small dinosaurs, other reptiles, and fish from the most important of these new sites, the “DC Bonebed”, are proving especially helpful in filling in the picture of vertebrate life in northern Alberta during the Late Cretaceous.
DR. LISA BUCKLEY
Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre
Tracking Cretaceous Birds in Western Canada
History and New Discoveries
Saturday, November 18 • 3:40pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Bird fossils are not common due to the fragile nature of their skeletons. With the exception of the exquisitely preserved bird skeletons of the Early Cretaceous of China, one of the better fossil record of Cretaceous birds worldwide is of their footprints. The continually growing record of fossil bird tracks from the Cretaceous of western Canada shows us the diversity of the birds that lived alongside the dinosaurs. The second ever known bird track from the Cretaceous Period, Aquatilavipes swiboldae, was discovered from the Peace River Canyon near Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia and named in 1981. Since its discovery, three bird track types have been named from western Canada, and many more bird track sites have been discovered. These track sites in British Columbia and Alberta range in 140 million years to 72 million years ago, and show that birds with feet similar to those of sandpipers, plovers, small herons, and cranes were present during the Cretaceous Period. As more attention is given to small traces of the Cretaceous Period in western Canada, it is likely more bird track sites, and new bird track types, will be discovered.
DR. MURRAY GINGRAS
University of Alberta
Unusual Sedimentary Structures Provide Evidence of Walrus Herds in Coastal Washington, USA
Saturday, November 18 • 4:00pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Quarry walls in Pleistocene marginal-marine coarse-grained deposits at Willapa Bay, Washington, contain unusual sedimentary structures. These structures have two distinct occurrences: (1) vertical-to-subvertical sandy columns where laminae and bedding deflect downward, and (2) normally graded beds with symmetric or asymmetric U-shaped structures with flared limbs. The scale, morphology, and distribution of the features suggest these are not physical sedimentary structures. Rather, they are trace fossils generated by the predatory action of marine animals on deep-burrowing bivalves. Several animals are known to forage sediment: elasmobranch fishes, fish, crabs, sea stars, sea otters, whales, and walruses. In particular, walruses generate distinctive excavations on the sea floor as they root for prey with their snouts and emit a jet of water that liquefies the bottom sediments where a bivalve has burrowed. The trace fossils reported represent the first examples of walrus feeding from the geologic record. Documentation in recent years of sea-floor furrows and pits on the Bering Shelf and Chukchi Sea produced by the Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus Linnaeus) provides modern analogues for the ancient trace fossils described from Willapa Bay.
DR. PHILIP CURRIE
University of Alberta
New Information About the Quintessential ‘Raptor’ of Alberta, Saurornitholestes langstoni
Saturday, November 18 • 4:20pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
More than a century ago, a field crew of the American Museum of Natural History collected in what is now Dinosaur Provincial Park the skull of what became the holotype of Dromaeosaurus albertensis. Sues described Saurornitholestes langstoni as a second dromaeosaurid from Alberta in 1978, although by this time two other species (Deinonychus antirrhopus, Velociraptor mongoliensis) from this family had been recognized from Montana and Mongolia. Even though it was described more than fifty years after Dromaeosaurus, isolated teeth and bones quickly showed that Saurornitholestes was a much more common dinosaur than Dromaeosaurus in Alberta. Four partial skeletons of Saurornitholestes were collected between 1978 and 2014, although almost none of the new material was cranial. The lack of diagnostic cranial bones has been problematic, and Saurornitholestes has taken many different positions in recent phylogenetic analyses. Finally in 2014, an almost complete skull and postcranial skeleton was collected from Dinosaur Provincial Park. The skull is shorter, wider and deeper than Velociraptor from Mongolia, but like the latter genus the new specimen includes a furcula, an ossified sternum, sternal ribs, uncinate processes and an enlarged raptorial pedal ungual II-3. Uniquely amongst dromaeosaurids, Saurornitholestes has pneumatic nasal bones. The teeth are well-preserved and show that Zapsalis abradens – a mysterious theropod known only from teeth since it was described by Cope in 1876 – can also be identified as a dromaeosaurid. The probable cause of death of the UofA Saurornitholestes specimen has been determined as choking, and intestinal contents are being analyzed.
DR. PHIL BELL
University of New England, Australia
Dinosaurs from the opal mines of Outback Australia
Saturday, July 29 • 4pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Black opal, one of the rarest gemstones on Earth, is mined almost exclusively from the outback town of Lightning Ridge in Australia. With mining also comes dinosaurs, and other Cretaceous animals and plants all preserved in opal, often in a kaleidoscope of colour not seen anywhere else on the planet. These fossils frequently undergo rough treatment as a result of the mining process, yet they reveal unique glimpses into prehistoric Australia.
AARON VAN DER REEST
University of Alberta
From Bones to Tissue
Bringing Palaeontology into the Future
Wednesday, August 2 • 7pm • Grande Prairie Regional College, Room D208
Although traditional vertebrate palaeontology, studying the fossilized hard parts such as bones and teeth, has given us an understanding of life on earth before human evolution, it can only tell us so much about extinct organisms. We can grasp some insight into what these looked like, how they moved, what they may have eaten, their potential behaviour, and other aspects of their lives. Even though hard parts can tell us a lot about extinct organisms, palaeontologist are now turning to recently discovered specimens that preserve soft tissues to better understand extinct organisms and how they evolved. In doing so, researchers have developed a new branch of palaeontology; biomolecular palaeontology. In biomolecular palaeontology. what we have already learned, and what is theoretically possible to discover, is starting to merge into a new and truly remarkable, futuristic, line of fossil vertebrate research.
DR. CORWIN SULLIVAN
University of Alberta
Dragons of the Mesozoic
Dinosaurs and their Relatives in the Chinese Fossil Record
Wednesday, August 2 • 8pm • Grande Prairie Regional College, Room D208
China boasts a rich and varied record of fossil vertebrates from the Mesozoic Era of Earth’s history (about 250 – 65 million years ago; divided into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods), when dinosaurs flourished. Much of this record has only come to light in recent decades, and the pace of discovery continues to be rapid. No Triassic dinosaurs are known from China at present, but Chinese Triassic rocks have produced some intriguing reptiles closely related to Dinosauria. Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs occur in many parts of China, and lake deposits in northeastern China preserve a unique, globally significant assemblage of feathered dinosaurs closely related to birds. Some Chinese dinosaur faunas are similar in age, but strikingly different in composition, to those from northern and southern Alberta.
DR. NICOLÀS CAMPIONE
University of Uppsala, Sweden
100 years of estimating body masses in dinosaurs
Saturday, August 12 • 3pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Dinosaurs are famous for their size. With body masses possibly reaching above 50 metric tonnes, a weight that has not since been matched by any land animal, it is no wonder that dinosaurs have sparked our imaginations. But what do we actually know about their size? How do we know how heavy they were? Why did they get so big? And was this a factor in the extinction of the non-bird dinosaurs? These questions may seem simple, but trying to figure them out keeps many of us up at night.
DR. FEDERICO FANTI
University of Bologna, Italy
Dinosaurs from the Viper Canyon
Saturday, August 12 • 4pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
In the last century, the extraordinary fossils recovered from the Gobi Desert of Mongolia have provided unique insights into dinosaur evolution, fascinated entire generations and earned countless front pages. Unfortunately, the same fossils have also sparked an explosion of illegal fossil poaching in the country, which are now being sold in an international multi-million dollar black market and at public auction houses. Is there a way to combine palaeontology, chemistry, geology, and a drone to promote science and fight illegal activities? Come and see.
University of Toronto
From the Outside In
What Permian caves teach us about teeth
Wednesday, August 16 • 7pm • Grande Prairie Regional College, Room D208
The large predatory Dimetrodon often characterizes the Early Permian, while a big predator is charismatic, it is important to know that a food web relies on many small animals. The Richard spur is a locality is like no other, the intricate cave systems acted as natural traps and have preserved a variety of small taxa, giving us a more accurate picture of the faunal assemblage of the upland environment early Permian of Oklahoma. The exceptional preservation has allowed for the study of the interrelationships between many of the endemic taxa, as well as the study of their dentition on a cellular level. Histology has allowed us to understand some of the dental adaptations of these taxa, from hypercarnivore to the first herbivores, we can know a lot about an animal from its teeth.
DR. XU XING
Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology, Beijing, China
Searching for the Dinosaurian Ancestors of Birds
Wednesday, August 16 • 8pm • Grande Prairie Regional College, Room D208
Our understanding of the transition to birds has improved greatly over the last two decades. It is now clear that birds evolved from among the theropods, a group of mainly carnivorous dinosaurs. The recent advances in the field of bird origins have been made partly by addressing several issues that are sometimes considered to raise problems for the theropod hypothesis, including anatomical differences separating birds from typical theropods and the apparent improbability of feathers and flight evolving in a dinosaur. In this talk, I will briefly discuss some fieldwork in China aimed at sampling the fossil record of the dinosaur-bird transition, review recent progress on resolving the anatomical discrepancies and understanding the evolution of feathers and flight, highlight some remaining problems in reconstructing the transition, and finally provide suggestions for future research in this area.
DR. JASON DONEV
University of Calgary
How science fiction has influenced science and society
Saturday, September 9 • 3pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
Science fiction has predicted many technological advances, and helps people process our rapidly changing technological world. These stories have a profound influence on the way we see our world. Science fiction has been an important part of how we process science and shapes how we view science.
DR. GLENN DOLPHIN
University of Calgary
Ussher, and Hutton, and Wegener, oh my!
Using the history of geology to teach both geological content and the nature of science in a large introductory undergraduate geology course
Saturday, October 14 • 3:00pm • Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Aykroyd Family Theatre
The coming decades will showcase the importance of literacy in the geosciences for citizens of the world. Problems such as anthropogenic climate change, safe drinking water, and finding and developing mineral and energy resources will not only require geoscience professionals, but also an informed citizenry for developing, and implementing appropriate policies that will benefit society as a whole. Literacy in the geosciences includes not just the content (the ‘what’ of geoscience) but also the process (the ‘how’ of geoscience).
This presentation will give preliminary results of students’ understandings of the nature of geology from the beginning of the course to the end of the course having experienced pedagogical strategies emplaced to disrupt the normal “large lecture” course structure. The use of interrupted historical narratives became the focal point of the course inquiry and discussion. With emphasis placed on the “how” as opposed to the “what” of science, students became more critical and demonstrated a more nuanced understanding for science as a process.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 587-771-0662 to reserve your spot.