Burpee staff, volunteers return from Hell Creek, Mont.

September 12, 2012

Staff Report

It was the most successful expedition since Jane was brought back in 2002.

Staff and volunteers of Rockford’s Burpee Museum returned from a highly successful field expedition to the Hell Creek Formation of Carter County, Mont.

The Hell Creek Formation, which dates from 65.5 to 67 million years ago, records the very end of the Cretaceous Period (when T.rex, Triceratops, the “duckbilled dinosaurs were common).

Burpee has been collaborating with several colleges offering opportunities for students and professors to provide real-world field experience. This year, professors and students from Augustana, Beloit College, Elmhurst College, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and University of Maryland accompanied Burpee teams.

Dr. Thomas Holtz, a noted paleontologist from the University of Maryland and a regular on the Discovery Channel, History and National Geographic, worked with Burpee teams for a week.

One quarry continues to produce exciting results. In 2011, Scott Williams, Burpee Museum’s director of exhibits, discovered a mass mortality site of fossil turtles. The team returned this season to widen the quarry and found 10 total turtles representing four species of fossil turtles. Several of the specimens are partially articulated and even have skulls.

Burpee began a scientific collaboration with Dr. Tyler Lyson, researcher at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lyson is a noted paleontologist who focuses on fossil turtles from the late Cretaceous. He has visited the site and is working with Williams on an upcoming presentation about the quarry at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in North Carolina.

Burpee also returned to an active quarry where over the last two years teams have been excavating a skeleton of a very large horned dinosaur (probably Triceratops). This individual will be significantly larger than Homer (who is a “teen-ager”) and likely represents an adult specimen.

Additionally, Burpee crews discovered two different duckbilled dinosaur sites. Duckbilled dinosaurs, like Edmontosaurus, were large herbivorous dinosaurs that lived along the late Cretaceous floodplains. They likely lived in herds and could grow up to 35 feet in length. Burpee will be working this site over the next few summers.

Many of the specimens collected in 2012 will be part of the “Homer’s Odyssey: From the Badlands to Burpee” exhibit.

Burpee Museum of Natural History is at 737 N. Main St., Rockford, and can be reached at (815) 965-3433 or online at www.burpee.org.

From the Sept. 12-18, 2012, issue

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