Editor’s Note: MSU China Paleontology Expedition is a project led by Frankie D. Jackson and David J. Varricchio, professors in the Department of Earth Sciences, Dinosaur Paleontology at Montana State University and Jin Xingsheng, paleontologist and Vice Director of the Zhejiang Natural History Museum in Hangzhou, China. This is the second year this program sent students—primarily from small junior and tribal colleges—to China for paleontological work. This year’s students are currently in China, studying dinosaur eggs as well as Chinese culture.
Students view Therizinosaur at local Tiantai museum. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).
Monday morning we packed ourselves into a minibus and headed for the town of Tiantai. After several hours of listening to music, reading, holding our breath through the numerous tunnels, and of course sleeping, we arrived at our destination. Once we settled ourselves at the hotel, we visited the local museum, where we looked upon a multitude of entertaining caricatures, traditional looking paintings, but most importantly dinosaur fossils and eggs. After exploring the remainder of the museum, we were escorted to the basement to look at a new Therizinosaur being worked on by the students of Dong Zhiming, one of China’s most eminent paleontologists. From there we walked up the hill past our hotel to visit the local temple.
Local temple at Tiantai. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).
We explored just about every part of the temple we could and eventually stumbled across dinosaur eggs within a little museum. Of all the places to find eggs on display this was the last place we expected; it was quite an incredible find.
Our group heads for the field. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).
The following morning we set out for the field lead by a local farmer. The first site was a large shed built into the hill protecting a jumble of hadrosaur bones in situ, which means still in place within the rock. We began by spreading out across the hillside to prospect (look) for eggshell.
Amanda and Betsy discover the first pieces of eggshell. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).
Amanda and I were fortunate enough to discover the first pieces of eggshell; already we were doing better than last year’s group. The shell fragments were Troodontid, which are smooth and black with no ornamentation, much like a bird’s egg. The black color helps the shell to stand out against the red mudstone, however we still needed to get down in the dirt to find the fragments since they are quite small. We continued moving up the hillside following the trail of eggshell hoping to find a whole egg weathering out; however we weren’t quite that lucky… at this site.
A particularly large outcrop composed the second site. While we were all scrambling around the outcrop, Hannah managed to end up on a ledge with a bit of a drop below her. The rock was a crumbly mudstone that proved difficult to climb. After awhile she was pulled up by Zheng Wenjie, from the museum, with a bamboo stick he cut down from the surrounding jungle; it was quite the harrowing experience.
Hannah’s harrowing rescue. (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).
On a less dangerous note, we also managed to find some pieces of eggshell and a possible egg that will be excavated at a later date.
Off to the next adventure! (Photo by Josette Wooden Legs).
Overall those two days helped to provide the group with some fundamental principles of field work. The following post will recount out time spent in DongYang working in the field. Hope you’re enjoying sharing in our adventures.
About the Author: Betsy Kruk is a senior in paleontology at Montana State University. Originally from Chicago she came out to Montana for the mountains and dinosaurs. Since she was little she has always wanted to be a paleontologist and recently decided to pursue a career as a professor. On a less serious note, she loves to read, run, ride horses and play video games.
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.