DIG Podcast

It is a story of a world of blistering heat and dirt, a biosphere where 20-foot-tall dinosaurs roamed. Home to cretaceous creatures that could rip apart their prey with 6-inch serrated teeth! Venture into this landscape to learn how a group of researchers and schoolteachers tracked down the elusive Tyrannosaurus Rex in the sweltering badlands. Follow how the last-minute discovery of a small protrusion of ribs led to the extraction of the savage toothed king! You’ll be on the ground in an active paleontological field research site examining fossils from millions of years ago. You’ll even discover what it takes to bring a prize scientific discovery into the forefront of research.

We are excited to introduce “To Hell Creek and Back: The story of the Tufts-Love T. rex,” the pilot episode for a new proposed podcast brought to you by the DIG Field School. Hosted by former DIG instructor and Idaho State University Assistant Professor Dr. Brandon Peecook, as well as former DIG participant, instructor, and high school science teacher Kristy Mar, the podcast weaves together the stories and personalities surrounding paleontological research and discovery. This first episode focuses on the Tufts-Love T. rex—one of the most complete and well-preserved T. rex skulls ever found—and its journey from initial discovery in the badlands of northeastern Montana to the New Burke Museum in Seattle, WA. Tune into the podcast to hear firsthand accounts and untold details from the researchers and volunteers involved in this incredible story—coming soon! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

Other News & Events

The New Burke is open!

In case you haven’t heard, the New Burke Museum is officially open! Come check out the incredible new building, view the Tufts-Love Rex on display, and get a glimpse into the inner workings of the museum by way of the Burke’s inside-out design. You can read more about the New Burke here.

Photo credit: Burke Museum

National Science Teacher Association Meeting in Seattle

The 75th Anniversary National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) meeting is taking place at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA December 12–14. DIG Board Member Mark Watrin will be leading a session on Saturday, December 14. Let us know if you’ll be there! More info on the meeting here.

Order your DIG Box today!

There’s still time to schedule a DIG box for your classroom this school year! Teachers who have completed the DIG program can request a DIG box or sediment through the Burke Museum’s website here. Are you a DIG teacher that’s used DIG materials in your classroom this year? If so please feel free to reach out and share any discoveries, stories, and/or pictures!

Recent Happenings

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting

The 79th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) was held this past October in Brisbane, Australia. Each year SVP brings together vertebrate paleontologists from around the world and features leading-edge research in the field.

Several members of the DIG Field School Team, Wilson Lab, and UW Paleobiology community presented on their research at this year’s meeting. See below for a few highlights of the event, and great work everyone involved!

Graduate student Alex Brannick presenting on her research investigating the ecological diversity of metatherians (marsupial relatives) in the Late Cretaceous.
Graduate student Luke Weaver presenting on the paleobiology of multituberculates (extinct order of mammals) using incredibly preserved specimens from Montana.
Graduate student Jordan Claytor presenting on Paleocene mammal recovery following the end Cretaceous mass extinction event.
Graduate student Brody Hovatter presenting on early Paleocene mammal diversification and biogeography.
Past and current members of the UW Paleobiology community at the end of the meeting celebratory dinner (missing several notable people!).

Photo credits: Megan Whitney and Jordan Claytor

New paper featuring Dr. Greg Wilson documenting exceptional record of mammals after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction

A study co-authored by UW Professor, Burke Museum Vertebrate Paleontology Curator, and DIG Director Dr. Greg Wilson describing an exceptional record of mammals and other vertebrates following the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction event was recently published in Science. The record of early Paleocene mammals is dominated by fragmentary skeletal elements, primarily teeth and jaws. This paper reports exceptionally preserved mammal skulls and skeletons—as well as other vertebrates and plants—from the Denver Basin in Colorado, providing a unique and important glimpse into the timing and pattern of recovery following the K-Pg mass extinction. You can read the full paper here, as well as a write-up by the Burke Museum here.

2019 DIG Field School Summary

The DIG Summer Program takes K-12 teachers into the field in Hell Creek, MT for a week of hands-on learning about what it means to be a paleontologist. After the culmination of the program, participants bring the newly acquired skills scientific experiences aback to their own classrooms. They can also stay connected to the program throughout the year by requesting Burke boxes containing sediment that they can sort for fossils with their students!

This year was the 10th anniversary of the DIG Field School! We welcomed 27 teachers into the field from 16 different states and Canada. The first day of the program was mainly aimed to familiarize participants with the equipment and basic skills, such as GPS use, and concluded with an instructor led overview of the research projects for the week.

The second and third day of the program consisted of micro-vertebrate collection and macro vertebrate excavation. Lessons for the days included an introduction to the geological timescale and rock formations of the site, a mapping and sediment collection activity, a fossil ID workshop, and a hands-on lesson about macro fossil evacuations using a recently discovered Triceratops! Back at the camp in the evening, participants learned how to screenwash the sediment they had collected. Later in the night they bonded with one another through group activities.

The fourth day began with a reflection of the previous days and participants were divided into groups to work on their own research projects based upon the different localities in Hell Creek. They were expected to plan, lead, and report on their findings in the evening, finishing the day with a public presentation led by Dr. Dave Grossnickle. On the final day of the program after a week of hard but rewarding work, the groups dived into more fossil sorting activities, paleo-themed board games, and paleontology literature. Later that afternoon, participants were invited to a local museum in town and on an Ammonite-Cruise before graduating the program with a small ceremony in the evening.

Here’s what one teacher had to say about their experience:

“The DIG Field School was one of the top professional development activities in which I have ever participated. From arrival at camp to departure, DIG educators were immersed in a pedagogy and content-rich environment that was highly engaging. Every detail of the camp was well thought out, and the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts, DCI’s and Science and Engineering Practices were integrated in a seamless way into every activity we participated. Course material and NGSS connections were presented in a way that was applicable and meaningful to educators across all grades. We not only had the benefit of learning from the highly knowledgeable instructors themselves but also from other passionate educators. This was the experience of a lifetime and re-energized me as a science educator.”

Overall, it was a great way to recognize 10 years of the DIG Field School!