2014 Travel Highlights

Links and photo highlights from my 2014 travels!



Jane: the most complete and best preserved juvenile T. rex on display at Burpee Museum.


Sweetgum tree leaves at Cahokia Mounds.




Snake gate entrance at the City Museum.




Nick Wiersum and Katie Kirby standing next to the crystal clear hot spring in Thermopolis.


A pterosaur called Rhamphorynchus at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center.


A view from Artist’s Lookout in Yellowstone National Park.


Katie Kirby making the trek up to Inspiration Point at Grand Teton National Park.




Beautifully detailed (and feathered!) Deinonychus models are posed dynamically with other dinosaur models at Museum of the Rockies.


A troupe of young dino diggers survey expansive stretches of Montana land.




Festive EggBot printing at the Milwaukee Maker Faire.




A critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle at SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium.




On the way to Random Acts of Intelligence at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in the Rocket City (Huntsville, Alabama).


Cathedral Caverns has an enormous naturally-formed entrance that spans 126 feet wide and 25 feet high. In addition, it contains some of the largest stalagmites in the world!




Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system, more than doubling the second longest cave system at over 400 miles of surveyed passageways!


Along the Way

  • South Dakota: Rapid City, Wall Drug
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Tennessee: Nashville

Dino Dig 2014: Days 13-14


Some of our crew members celebrate after the successful flip of a 600 lb. jacket containing the skull of Maddie the triceratops. We were able to trim the jacket down to half that size for transport later. From left to right: Dr. Thomas Carr, Marilyn Laframboise, Kevin Aulenback, Leila Boujnane, Dr. Megan Seitz, Eric Olvera, Isaac Krone, and Katie Kirby.

After two amazing weeks in Montana, the 2014 dino excavation field season has now come to a close! We successfully collected fossils ranging from triceratops and hadrosaurs to tyrannosaurids and turtles. Although we are done collecting for the year, there is much work left to do in the fossil prep lab. Dr. Megan Seitz will be busy preparing our specimens at the Carthage Institute of Paleontology on the lower level of the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, WI. Come check out the museum to see what we brought back (no excuses – it’s free admission)!

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Dino Dig 2014: Days 5-12


On Wednesday morning, Nick, Katie, and I visited the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. Highly recommend going out of your way to see this museum!

Katie and I arrived at the Carthage dino camp in southeastern Montana on Wednesday evening, and Nick joined us on Thursday. Our Paleo crew has been making good headway in our “Maddie” triceratops quarry, including successfully transporting a 300 lb. jacket (protective plaster casing) containing parts of Maddie’s skull. We also had the pleasure of attending Carter County Museum’s Annual Dino Shindig events over the weekend – a crazy fun time!

I only have a brief and limited internet connection at present, but will post more later as soon as I can!

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Dino Dig 2014: Days 2-4

Nick and Katie trying to identify birds at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

Nick and Katie trying to identify birds at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

Nick, Katie, and I spent the last few days at Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Outside of touring the typical attractions, our activities ranged from mountain hiking in a hailstorm to mountain-top yodeling to hosting breakfast for a bison in our campground lot.

Nick taking a picture of an elk from the car.

Nick taking a picture of an elk from the car.

Wildlife we saw included:

  • bald eagle soaring with captured prey
  • golden eagle perched on a post
  • grizzly bears, a lone bear and a mother with two cubs
  • black bears (we think), two adults wrestling/playing on a river’s edge
  • elk, including males/females/calves
  • trumpeter swans
  • coyote
  • bison
  • pelicans
  • ravens
  • mule deer
  • pronghorns
  • black-billed magpies
  • squirrels
  • chipmunks
  • pika
Archaeopteryx specimen at Wyoming Dinosaur Center – the only actual specimen outside of Europe.

Archaeopteryx specimen at Wyoming Dinosaur Center – the only actual specimen outside of Europe.

We also had enough time to visit one of the museums that Nick used to work at: Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming. It turns out that Thermopolis is the home of the world’s largest hot spring by volume – 3.2 million gallons pumped per day!

Is the the real life, or is this just fantasy!?

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Dino Dig 2014: Day 1


Dinosaur Discovery Museum mascot Nick Montana rides the Jeep’s resident Ankylosaur. These two keep us company during the long hours of driving.

The best time of year has arrived: paleontology field season! 2014 marks my third year excavating dinosaurs as a volunteer for Carthage Institute of Paleontology. This year, I will do my best to blog every day out in the field, though severe phone and internet restrictions may cause some delays.

My superstar travel team includes Dinosaur Discovery Museum Curator Nick Wiersum, and Brain Scoop Intern Katie Kirby. The first few days of our 2014 adventure will be spent briefly touring Yellowstone/Tetons, and Bozeman, Montana!

To sum up today’s activities: driving. We set out from Kenosha, Wisconsin at 6:30am this morning, and have arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota after approximately 17 hours. Besides occasional gas/restroom stops, we met up with a handful of fellow CIP (Carthage Institute of Paleontology) crew members at the infamous Wall Drug, South Dakota to enjoy a brief dinner.


The Most Colorful Fossil

Plesiosaur verterbra that has mineralized into opal.

Plesiosaur vertebra that has mineralized into opal.

I recently learned about this super amazing opalized fossil at The Field Museum! Isn’t it the Bees Knees? Here is a Brain Scoop post that goes into more detail about it!

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Persistence of White Lab Coats


FMWIS Lecture Poster with Emily Graslie

At the beginning of May, I attended a Field Museum Women in Science lecture given by Emily Graslie, host of The Brain Scoop. One of her topics of discussion was the misrepresentation of scientists as white men in white lab coats (optional: crazy eyes / hair) observing the requisite beakers of neon-colored liquids that every scientist can’t work without!

The thing is, I don’t know a single scientist who fits that mold.

To me, scientists are passionate people with an endless hunger to bring a deeper understanding and new perspectives about the past, present, and future of humanity. Their work is never just “a job”, and their motivation always seems to come from their own deep curiosity. They are incredibly patient people who will happily spend years, if not a lifetime, asking questions that might never be answered – often spurring even more questions. Sometimes they get answers, but not always the ones they expected. They do their best to keep an open mind, and forget everything they thought they knew when new information comes to light. They will spend many laborious hours to present their findings to audiences who will readily critique and dismiss them. But there is nothing else they’d rather do.

To be fair, I often have my own stereotypical image that comes to mind when I hear “scientist” – khaki-clad paleontologists : )

My friend Lindsay decked out in classic dino excavation gear. From the 2012 Carthage dig.

What is a scientist to you?

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Robots and Shipwrecks


On Saturday April 26th, Shedd Aquarium hosted a Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) ROV Competition, an annual underwater robotics competition that takes place in over twenty regions across the world. Students ranging from elementary school to university are tasked with ocean workplace-related challenges in order to build their technical and problem-solving skills and learn about STEM careers.

This year’s theme was to explore “the role that ROVs play in exploring and documenting shipwrecks, studying sinkholes, and conserving our national maritime heritage sites.” (source: MATE ROV Competition Mission).

I had the pleasure of volunteering at this event and am pleased to share these photos!

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Digging for Dinos at the Library


March started off great! Nick Wiersum and I spent yesterday afternoon talking about dinosaurs at the Fountaindale Library. The library had prepared their largest meeting room for our Digging for Dinosaurs program, complete with freshly popped popcorn, coloring sheets, dino toys, and a couple tables filled with dinosaur books. At the end of our interactive presentation, I was able to show a preview of the short dino digging documentary I’m working on.

Jeff from the library informed me that we had about 87 people at the peak, and checked out as many as half of the dinosaur books! Although most of the attendees were too young to participate in future field work, they may be future visitors at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum. Overall, it was a success!

UPDATE: Fountaindale Library’s Media Center, Studio 300, also posted about our dino program!

Photos courtesy of Charlie Shields.

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Yoohoo! Oaken Text Tones


Download “Yoohoo”
Download “Yoohoo! Big Summer Blowout!”
Download Both Tones

Made some Oaken iPhone text tones because the movie Frozen is amazing.  There is a “Yoohoo” and a “Yoohoo Big Summer Blowout” one downloadable from the link above. Credit to Abby Williams for the idea!

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