A Look Back At This Past Week in the Field

In the Field 2013

The below are excerpts from the team’s daily field log from this past week near Riley Creek.  This is the best way for me to share at least a small part about their exciting experiences.

Tuesday, July 30

Weather continues to be great – warm, sunny and mid-70s.

Hiked up through the mountain pass and hung a right along the ridge line towards the top of unnamed mountain. Located over half a dozen ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) footprints.

Tony taking notes about a find

Located a crayfish burrow – This tells us something about the depth to the water table.  This is an additional piece of data to reinforce position that this climate used to be warmer than present.  A climate very similar to the climate at the Canada/US border.


Also found numerous plant fossils – angiosperm leaves which represent flowering plants that were part the understory of the forest and river channel margins millions of years ago  Very good day!


Wednesday, July 31


Completed the initial ridge line. Followed a sheep trail along the side of a different peak and dropped to the right into a “virgin” valley never been into before.  A small valley that empties into a tributary of the Sanctuary River.


From here we also got a great vantage point to explain the evolution of this entire project from where we started and have been for the duration – about 8 years. Not a lot found today.   One horned dinosaur footprint in that little bowl.  Lack of finds can be explained by fact that the slopes we explored were covered by igneous blocks of rocks.

View of general area mountains from where we found the horned dinosaur footprint

Weather started out good but as day progresses storm clouds building. Ultimately we got off high ground because of thunder and lightning.  We converged into a low level area of the valley, put on rain gear and waited.  The storm took a beeline for us and lasted about 20-30 minutes.


Thursday, August 1

Early call in to Park Communications Center to check in as per arrangements.

Had SKYPE call with WFAA at 9am but ended up being later than expected due to poor signal quality. Returned to same valley we went into yesterday – crossed two passes, followed the sheep trail and decided to drop into the valley on the left instead of right.  Started day finding several footprints – ceratopsian (horned dinosaur), hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur), elephant skin (fossilized microbial mat) and hopping insect trace (invertebrate fossils).

hadrosaur footprint
hadrosaur footprint



Our Sheep and Caribou neighbors stopped by to visit us. Weather was once again very pleasant for much of the time.


Friday, August 2

Second call to Com Ctr. per pre-arrangement.

Wow, what a big day! We took a ridge we worked two years ago, but the weather had been awful – cold, rainy, snowy so we didn’t complete our studies. Returned today and dropped off the other side of the ridge and looked at rocks more in place, bedding surfaces, and found 10 new track discoveries: duck- billed dinosaurs, horned dinosaurs, and birds.


Plus, large two-toed theropod tracks, much bigger than any found before on the other side of the ridge.  These tracks were likely made by an animal much like the Troodon on display at the museum. Made a large mold of one of the bedding planes containing these large two-toed tracks.  The mold took 5 of our kits.


Saturday, August 3

Awaiting helicopter extraction.

This past week was remarkable, arguably one of the best weeks during the course of this entire 2013 project.  We found new things.  We were able to develop predictions about where to find tracks within the different rock layers and what kind they might be.

The evenings were filled with discussions of the day’s work and planning for the next day, or even year.  The focusing of our various skill sets on the same questions brought depth and breadth to the significance of the finds and our science.  We have taken another step in understanding dinosaurs that seemed to have thrived in an ancient warm Arctic world.  Though we have answered some questions, many more have been raised and we can’t wait to get back again to continue our discovery.

Posted from Healy, Alaska, United States.