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!

2019 DIG Dates and Application

Apply to the 2019 DIG

We’re excited to announce the 2019 DIG Field School dates! This year’s DIG will take place July 28–August 1 at the Hell Creek State Park near Jordan, Montana.

Interested teachers can fill out an application on our website. The application will remain open until April 12 at 11:59 pm PST.

Please share this post with anyone who may be interested in the program, and be sure to check out our blog, Facebook, and Twitter for additional updates!

DIG Founder and Director Honored by Alf Museum

DIG founder and director Dr. Greg Wilson recently received the presitigous Alf Award for Excellence in Paleontological Research and Education by the Raymond M. Alf Museum. The Alf Museum, located in Claremont, California, gives out this award annually to leading paleontologists demonstrating excellence in research, education, and outreach.

You can read the full press release on Greg’s award here, and can read more about the Alf Museum here. Huge congratulations to Greg!

 

Updates from the DIG Research Community

It’s been a busy fall for members of the DIG team, Wilson Lab, and UW Paleobiology community! Read on for updates on what we’ve been up to.

  1. New paper by Brannick and Wilson
    UW graduate student and DIG instructor Alex Brannick and DIG founder and director Dr. Greg Wilson recently published a paper in the Journal of Mammalian Evolution, which sheds light on the paleoecology of early marsupial relatives. You can read the paper here. Huge congratulations to Alex and Greg!
  2. 2018 SVP Annual Meeting
    Several past and current members of the DIG team recently presented on their research at the annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) meeting. Each year, the SVP annual meeting brings together paleontologists from around the world to discuss cutting edge research in the field. You can read more about the meeting and the society here, and here is a full list of those who presented (you can look up the details in the abstract book here):
    (1) Luke Weaver, (2) Megan Whitney, (3) Amanda Peng, (4) Natalie Toews, (5) Henry Fulghum, (6) Gabriel Goncavles.
  3. Promotion talk by Dr. Greg Wilson
    Dr. Greg Wilson recently gave a promotion talk for consideration to full professor in the Department of Biology at UW, entitled, “The ecological context of mammalian evolution.” You can watch a video of Greg’s talk here or by clicking the link below.

    Photo credits: Alex Brannick, UW Biology

2018 DIG and Summer Fieldwork

We are excited to report that we’ll announce final acceptance decisions for the 2018 DIG Field School next week! Thank you to all who applied, and thank you for your patience in waiting to hear back on your status.

This year we received 94 applications for 35 open spots. We received applications from 24 different states—as well Canada, Algeria, and Turkey—and were extremely impressed by the quality of the applications and the diversity of teaching backgrounds and experiences. Unfortunately we can only accommodate a small portion of the applications we receive, so if you are not accepted please consider applying again!

The DIG is a part of a larger field research project that Dr. Greg Wilson leads every summer, and includes a dynamic group of researchers from a number of institutions. We are gearing up for a very busy summer, and will return to a number of macrofossil sites discovered last year (including some promising dinosaur specimens!), collect as much fossiliferous sediment as we possibly can, and continue a detailed geological survey of our research area. We look forward to sharing the results of our research and the field school in the near future!

Photo credits: Adam Smith, Brody Hovatter

Upcoming Events

Final Sorting Party

The final sorting party of the school year will take place Sunday, June 3 from 11a–2p at the Burke Museum. So far this year participants have made a number of exciting discoveries, including mammal teeth, Triceratops and T. rex teeth, and salamander and lizard vertebrae. Please RSVP to admin@digfieldschool.org by May 31 to secure your spot. We hope to see you there!

Fossil Fridays

Come see fossil preparators at the Burke work on the spectacular Tufts-Love Rex at the upcoming Fossil Fridays event! This exceptionally well-preserved specimen represents one of only 15 mostly complete T. rex skulls ever discovered, and viewing it in person is an experience you don’t want to miss.  Visitors will have the opportunity to experience the specimen (and others!) up close, as well as speak with members of the Burke’s paleontology team. The event will take place Friday, May 25 from 12–4p.

2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium

The annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium is happening Friday, May 18! Undergraduates from across the university we be presenting on a variety of exciting research projects from a number of disciplines. We are excited to announce that Wilson Lab undergraduate student Henry Fulghum will be presenting on his work with Dr. Greg Wilson and Wilson Lab graduate student Luke Weaver investigating the bone microstructure of small-bodied mammals. We hope to see you there!

Photo credits: Brody Hovatter, Adam Smith