Triceratops Gulch Project
The Triceratops Gulch Program in Glenrock, Wyoming is a joint program offered through the Morrison Natural History Museum and Glenrock Paleon Museum. For dinosaur lovers and families who want a ringside view of the county where the holotype of the first Triceratops fossil was unearthed, this is the dig for you!
Starting as far back as the late 19th century, the plentiful dinosaur remains in Wyoming came to the attention of scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. This began the “Dinosaur Wars,” as these two rivals battled for supremacy. In the process, they, and others like them helped unearth a treasure trove of Cretaceous dinosaurs and mammals in the fossil-rich Lance Formation. From the tiniest freshwater snails and salamanders to fully articulated dinosaur skeletons, the Lance Formation seems to have it all.
What to Expect:
The Triceratops Gulch Project is operated like an informal field school, where participants are introduced to project-based paleontological field work that supports current research projects. You’ll be working with museum crews as they explore fossil sites of the Upper Cretaceous Lance Formation of Wyoming. During the course of the program, you’ll learn basic geological concepts to put fossils into the context of time. You’ll learn how to prospect for new fossil sites and how to distinguish fossils from rocks. And maybe make a huge discovery of your own. Most importantly, you’ll be collecting fossils both large and small, from the tiniest dinosaur teeth to the massive bones of a Triceratops—all of which will help to better understand the life of Late Cretaceous Wyoming. Finally, you’ll learn mapping and important field jacketing techniques for the safe recovery of fossils bones.
As a scientific venture, all the fossils you recover will be curated in the permanent collection of the Glenrock Paleon Museum.
The nature of fossil collection and excavation requires participants to be physically independent, with the ability to carry a backpack with a water bottle, and sit, kneel, crouch, and lay on the ground for extended periods of time in hot outdoor conditions. The activity will also include standing and walking for extended periods of time in primitive outdoor conditions. But, the true reality is, you will be unearthing fossils that human eyes have never seen. What a sense of discovery! And for those who are wondering, there is portable outhouse onsite, a true luxury not seen on most digs.
The weather in Eastern Wyoming is very windy and very hot. There is no shade, so it’s important to wear clothing that will protect from the sun and wind. In the event of thunderstorms, we’ll work inside at the Museum’s lab to learn fossil preparation, molding and casting of fossil bones, general anatomy clinics and collections management. These are all topics that paleontologists receive as part of their training.
Each day is packed full to take full advantage of time out in the field. The day starts at 8:00am for orientations, and to travel to the site. Fieldwork runs from about 9:30-4:30 with a break for lunch. In the manner of true paleontological field schools, you will also be invited to attend academic lectures about the geologic and fauna of the Cretaceous each evening.
Click here for more details on what to expect on a paleontology dig.
There are three programs available this season:
The Enhanced Program balances time in the museum and fieldwork area with optional activities after supper. If you haven’t dug for fossils before, are exploring paleontology as a future career and want the full instruction experience, this program is for you.
The Excavation Program is intended for those who have worked with the Triceratops Gulch Project in the past. The emphasis is on time in the field for those who are more experienced. It emphasizes advanced test excavation at potential sites and formal excavation at established quarries and will include field jacketing.
The Prospecting Program is intended for those who have worked with the Triceratops Gulch Project in the past. It emphasizes prospecting (looking for fossils) throughout the field area and initial test excavation at potential sites.
What's Included in the Cost:
All training, tools, equipment and transportation to and from the field area is provided each day. Also included for all participants is a cold breakfast, a hearty field lunch, snacks, beverages and dinner back in Glenrock. Dinner for three nights can be added for an additional $50.
Not included in the cost of the program is transportation to Glenrock, Wyoming and accommodations.
For accommodations, participants must make their own arrangements, and Triceratops Gulch suggests taking advantage of the 10% discounted dig rate at the Higgins Hotel in Glenrock.
What to Bring:
Due to the hot and windy weather, you’ll want to wear loose-fitting, long pants and sleeves. Broken-in boots and moisture-wicking socks are a must. A broad-brimmed hat with a windstrap, bandanna, and gloves are essential. Don't forget your favorite water bottle, sunscreen, quick-drying jacket and a small backpack. A notebook and writing utensils will help you to document your experience.
Matthew T. Mossbrucker
Director & Chief Curator
Morrison Natural History Museum
Glenrock Paleon Museum
What makes Triceratops Gulch significant?
The Lance Formation in Wyoming is rich in fossils. Glenrock Paleon Museum and Morrison Natural History Museum are fortunate to have access to dozens of sites where partial skeletons of Triceratops have been recovered over the past two decades. What was Cretaceous Wyoming like when the giant three-horned dinosaur was thriving? Can we document unknown aspects of this famous dinosaur’s biology? That is what our project aims to understand.
What has been most surprising about your discoveries at this location?
Diversity of life is the most surprising find in our field area. When found and studied together, this reveals wonderful insight into the lost world of Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus. My personal favorite site, Bert Quarry, has yielded a diverse assemblage of fossils - including shed infant dinosaur teeth last season.
What are your current research objectives at your site?
This season we are processing multiple sites, new and old and collecting and exploring newly discovered quarries. We are laying the groundwork for identifying various depositional environments and the fossils found at each. The aim to reconstruct the diversity of habitats and the community of life that was present through time.
What was most important or rewarding find at this site?
We’re not trophy hunters, we are time travelers. All of the fossils in our field have significance, whether individually or as a community. From humble snails to ancient magnolia and mighty Triceratops, these remains, when woven together, help us to view the tapestry of ancient life at our field area through time.
All the digs featured on Ancient Odysseys are non-profits and rely upon visitors and donations to continue their important scientific work. Please consider donating if you would like to support this organization's mission. All donations are tax deductible.