For many palaeontologists around the world summer is the time of year when labs empty and the usually empty, great open rocky places become filled with sounds of digging and hammering. Except of course in the UK, or at least with regards to most vertebrate remains. The UK plays host to a great many talented palaeontologists, and through the years many amazing fossils have been found, but despite most of the country being great open spaces, the climate means that nearly all of the country (at least down south) is covered in vegetation. It's what makes England so beautiful, but sadly means that fossiliferous exposures are tough to come by.
|Typical English countryside, sadly no rocks...|
Anyway, enough of my ranting, and onto my experiences. I am one of the lucky ones in that I have had the pleasure of doing field work a few times and can't get enough of it (my experience is dwarfed by pretty much all students in the USA/Canada, and it would be cool to hear their experiences). If you are keen and willing there are a lot of opportunities out there that don't cost you money (beyond normally getting yourself to the location/crew). My first two adventures into the field arose from my volunteering in the Bristol prep lab. For the most part that was just acid prep work on the Bristol dinosaur but I worked hard and the preparator kindly spoke to some colleagues around the world for me about joining their crews. It was one of the great things about going through Bristol was that there are many many connections to other universities and Bristol palaeontologists seem to be everywhere. Anyway, the first trip was off to Montana to join the Museum of the Rockies crew (Jack Horner's bunch for those who don't know) in the Hell Creek Formation. I was only going for 2 weeks at the end of their season so knew I wouldn't be there making any crazy discoveries. Plus being a big guy I knew I would be the one getting to carry heavy things. I flew out to Montana where I was met at the airport by one of the crew, we picked up supplies and then drove out to join the crew. As far as field camps go (I'm told) it was fairly cushy with everyone tenting in a field, but a big kitchen tent, an outhouse, and a camper van which sometimes had wifi, and a small wooden house (to which people ran when tents were flattened in some of the thunderstorms).
|MOR camp site in Montana, Hell Creek. circa July 2010|
|Triceratops dig site. Large brow horn at bottom right|
|Me looking far too happy hammering in a shade guy line, before falling down the slope.|
|View to the East, Happy Jack Camp, June 2011.|
|Daspletosaurus skeleton. Skull to left, ribs and vertebrae top left, pelvis right. Photo from Phil Currie.|
|Turtle carapace, with leaf (near the scale bar although an awl went through it)|
|Hotel Rolex (you know its posh with that name), Ariyalur. January 2015|
|Exploded sauropod femur. Doesn't look like much but articular surface is the rounded bit mid/left|