Posts

UGS paleontology work at Stike’s Quarry September 2013

The UGS paleontology field program, Jim Kirkland, Don DeBlieux, and Scott Madsen, recently complete 2 weeks of field work at our Stike’s Quarry dinosaur site in eastern Utah.  This spectacular site has been the subject of news reports earlier this summer and is the site where a episode of the Discovery Channel television show Dirty Jobs was filmed in 2011.  This site contains the well-preserved remains of numerous dinosaurs, including adult and juvenile Utahraptor skeletons.  We have had difficulty removing the bones from this site because there are so many clustered together.  Because they are packed so closely together, we have had to use plaster and burlap to jacket a large block with the hope of one day using a large cargo helicopter to fly the block – now on the order of 5 tons – off of the large mesa on which it is located.   The large number of bones at this site, along with the nature of the sediments that they are preserved in, leads us to hypothesize that the animals were trapped in a dewatering feature (something similar to quicksand).   Our work this September focused on further excavating, isolating, and pedestaling the main block.  Work was initially hampered by several days of rain which pinned our team in camp unable to work or leave because the ground and roads became muddy and impassible.

As the weather cleared,

we were able to make good progress with an electric powered jack-hammer and pneumatic chisels to remove rock from around and under the block.  This was not the fine-detail, dental pick, and paint brush paleontology that many picture – but back breaking manual labor more akin to highway construction!

Many tons of rock where removed by hand and a tunnel was completed under the jacket leaving it on two large pedestals.


The exposed rock around the bone was covered in plaster to protect it from the elements.  Our final task to ready the block for transport, is to construct a wooden timber frame and box around the jacket to reinforce and stabilize it.  We hope to complete this work in the Spring of 2014.  We were assisted in the field by several volunteers from the Utah Friends of Paleontology.  The excavation was conducted under a permit from the State of Utah.  The BLM allowed us access to the site.

Utah Paleontologists Featured on DIRTY JOBS

Digging in the dirt does not sound like a glamorous job, but it caught the attention of the cable television network’s Discovery Channel.  The show, DIRTY JOBS recently went on a dinosaur dig with some paleontologists from the Utah Geological Survey (UGS).  The show is set to air on Tuesday, December 20.

According to the show’s website:  “DIRTY JOBS profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways. Our brave host and apprentice Mike Rowe introduces you to a hardworking group of men and women who overcome fear, danger and sometimes stench and overall ickiness to accomplish their daily tasks.”

State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland and UGS paleontologist Don DeBlieux traveled with the cast and crew of the show to an undisclosed location in eastern Utah for the one day shoot to look for and dig dinosaur bones out of the side of a steep hill.  “We picked that site because it is such a spectacular location, but it is a difficult location and one which requires lots of hard and strenuous work,” says DeBlieux.

In fact, the weather was very uncooperative as they were driving to the site.  “It rained for a couple of hours in the morning and we were afraid that we weren’t going to be able to film, and they only had one day to shoot.  But luckily, the skies cleared and it turned out to be a nice day.”  The show points out that you have to have patience, strength and a love of playing in the dirt in order to be a paleontologist.

“We are excited to see the show because we have only seen the trailers,” said DeBlieux.  “But based on the trailers, it should be pretty amusing!”

Some of the episode’s trailers can be seen at: http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/dirty-jobs-sneak-peek/

The Utah Geological Survey provides timely scientific information about Utah’s geologic environment, resources, and hazards.