College Students Dig Utah
Contact Dr. Ed Crisp, associate professor of geology, (304) 424-8255.
A group of West Virginia University at Parkersburg students and faculty really "dig" Utah.
They recently returned from two weeks in the desert on a dinosaur dig where they excavated sauropod remains, tentatively identified to be genus Diplodocus, a 90-foot-long and 15 to 20 ton plant-eating dinosaur. The bones were encased in a hard sandstone of the 150 million-year-old Late Jurassic aged Morrison Formation.
"Digging was extremely difficult at times and care had to be taken not to damage the bones," team leader and WVU-P Professor of Geology Dr. Edward Crisp noted.
A similar class trip in 1999 resulted in the location of the partial dinosaur skeleton in the desert of the scenic San Rafael Swell area of central Utah. A paleontological excavation permit was obtained to allow this year’s digging and removal of bones from the site.
Camping in the desert near the dinosaur dig site, the nine WVU-P students were able to remove the large (5.5 foot) shoulder blade (scapula and corocoid bones), a portion of the pelvis, several connected vertebrae, a large rib, several broken pieces of rib bones, some of the front lower limb bones, and many smaller pieces of bone.
"The larger pieces had to be encased in plaster of paris casts before removal to prevent damage to the bones," Dr. Crisp noted.
In addition to digging dinosaur bones, the class participants also studied the general geology and Mexozoic stratigraphy of eastern Utah and western Colorado. Dr. Crisp said a typical day in the desert started with a hardy breakfast cooked over camp stoves by the students, followed by about an hour lecture and discussion session dealing with some aspect of the general geology, stratigraphy or paleontology of the region. Dr. Bill Elsaesser, WVU-P temporary instructor of mathematics and physics, and Dr. Dwayne Stone of Marietta College joined him.
The dinosaur bones from the WVU-P site are now in the college laboratory awaiting final preparation for curation and display. Several of the students from the expedition will be working during the summer and fall to help remove the bones from their casts. Dr. Crisp said the students will also be involved in the tedious task of removing the sandstone matrix for the bones; cleaning and gluing broken pieces together and preparing final displays for the bones.
Additional bones remain in place at the WVU-P dig site and plans are being made to return to the site again in May of 2001 to continue the excavation.
For additional information, contact:
Director, Institutional Advancement
Office: (304) 424-8203
Fax: (304) 424-8315