Volunteers and Science

Volunteers and Science

Paleontology seems unique among the sciences for the large amount of time and effort that volunteers contribute to the research activity and field discoveries.  As the 2013 Bay of Fundy Dinosaur Dig has finished, it is striking how much time and energy people contributed to the field work.  Thank you to all those in the field crew, who now know the effort involve in climbing a 70 degree slope at the end of a hot and physically exhausting day.

Mary Leaman, a geologist with Shell Canada (Calgary), traveled across the country to volunteer several days of her vacation to work at the dig site.  This was a return trip for Mary, as she first volunteered on a similar dig nearly ten years ago while still a teenager.  Gordon and Marliegh Leaman also spent many hours digging and sweeping; a unique family vacation indeed.

Mary and Gordon Leaman digging out the dinosaur site; hard and hot work.

Vicki Daley, Brian Matthews and Kimble Scull also contributed several days of back-breaking and hot work, shoveling, sweeping, jack hammering, as well as hours in sprawled on the ground while carefully exposing 200 million year old bones from the damp sandstone. The energy and enthusiasm of everyone working together was obvious every day, and good friendships have developed.

Leigh van Drecht and Vicki Daley expose dinosaur bones at the research site.

Although not volunteers, the enthusiasm and dedication of Kathy Ogden and Leigh van Drecht was essential to the success of the 2013 dig.  Kathy, Registrar of the Nova Scotia Museum, contributed previous expertise in dinosaur preparation and field work at the site. As a student Leigh was a first timer at the dinosaur dig but contributed excellent sedimentology expertise and field skills. The effort Kathy and Leigh devoted to the team set a positive tone that benefited everyone.

Digging at dinosaur site

Kimble Scull, Kathy Ogden, Leigh van Drecht and Brian Matthews work at the dinosaur site.

Keenan Richard dropped by twice to lend a hand, and he discovered the first exposure of what appears to be an articulated dinosaur digit (toe). Bob Grantham, Dr. Grant Wache, and Dr. John Calder all visited the site – and shared expertise and insight. Dr. Martin Gibling visited twice and was quick to pick up the shovel when required, but also offered additional direction to the sedimentology studies at the site.

Dr. John Calder at Wasson Bluff, with Kennan Richard and TJ Fedak.


Thank you to all of you who contributed so much to this year’s field work; your generosity and passion are greatly appreciated. The success of the 2013 Bay of Fundy Dinosaur Dig would not have been possible without you.


Bay of Fundy Dinosaur Dig & Research

Bay of Fundy Dinosaur Dig & Research

High Tide Dig – 2013 Fieldwork 

A small crew of 12 volunteers and students exposed the dinosaur bone bed site during ten days in the summer. The 2013 dig was a huge success, collecting a dozen small dinosaur bones from the eroding Bay of Fundy shoreline.  Summer field work occurs in other Triassic and Jurassic aged sites in the Bay of Fundy.

Digging Dinosaur Fossils on the Bay of Fundy Shore

Undergraduate students and volunteers work to expose and collect a dozen small dinosaur bones from the eroding Bay of Fundy shoreline.
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New Year

New Year

The Earthquake Dinosaurs (eDinos.ca) website was created two years ago to provide an opportunity to share information about dinosaur paleontology research work being done along the shores of Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy.  The website has provided an opportunity to share information about new discoveries (like the mammal-like reptile tooth) and share updates about new field work to collect new dinosaur specimens.

During the past two years the website has been used to explore new innovative online educational presentations, including YouTube tours of the field site, and high-resolution (GigaPan) presentations that allow the online community help find new fossils among sediment samples.


The dinosaur research in Nova Scotia is important for several reasons.  The dinosaurs found in the Early Jurassic sandstones near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, are the oldest dinosaur in Canada, and some of the oldest dinosaurs in North America.  These prosauropod dinosaurs were herbivores (plant eaters) that survived the large mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period, 3-4 meters in length, and were likely social animals traveling in small herds. From the research done since 1997, new Nova Scotia dinosaur specimens have been discovered in a rich bone-bed of  dinosaurs that were killed and buried together at the same time.  The location of a rich bone-bed of dinosaurs is very rare, and important for research studies. The scientific description of the bone bed specimens was the focus of my PhD research, and formal publication of the findings in peer-reviewed journals is ongoing.

The website is called Earthquake Dinosaurs because of the close association of the dinosaurs with large tectonic faults that cut through the sandstone and bone. When these dinosaurs walked across the landscape 200 million years ago, the supercontinent Pangaea was just starting to break apart, causing continent sized fractures in the earths crust. These fractures (faults) developed by monumental earthquakes, the scale of which are hard to imagine.  The evidence of the earthquake faults are still visible in the rocks, and even the dinosaur bones are fractured by the faults.

Future plans for the eDinos.ca website include adding more detailed information about the geology of rift-basins and faulting, as well as the numerous dinosaur specimens  collected during the past fifteen years and the people involved in supporting the research. Dinosaurs are not studied by one or two people, it takes a small community of dedicated museum staff, university students, and passionate public (you) to volunteer in the field and lab.  As the work continues, there will also be new  new educational resources for students and teachers added to the website.

Wishing a Happy New Year to all of the supporters of the Nova Scotia dinosaur projects.

Thrill of Discovery

Thrill of Discovery

There is perhaps nothing quite as thrilling as uncovering the first part of a dinosaur skeleton. These ancient creatures, encased in a sandstone tomb for 200 million years – as sunshine touches these bones after so many years – it’s very humbling and exciting.

Whether in the field or in the museum lab, the feeling of discover is always inspiring and contagious. The only thing better than making a new discovery, is sharing the discovery with  colleagues and the interested public. By sharing the discoveries, we are share the thrill and learning.