Shindig speakers share latest fossil research and fossil collecting skills
July 28, 2023
From the youngest to the oldest attendees at the Dino Shindig July 22-23 in Ekalaka, the participants were fascinated by the speakers from all over the world sharing their latest research and collecting skills. The younger attendees were learning the names of common dinosaur species by coloring masks, viewing the exhibits in the museum and digging in sand for treasures. Older participants were digging alongside experts at active fossil field sites in Carter County.
The Dino Shindig event is in its eleventh year and is coordinated by the Carter County Museum. Overall attendance for the 2023 event reached 744. The highest daily total was Saturday at 290 people. This is the breakdown based on location; 131 came from out of state, 82 Montana, 72 Carter County and 5 International (4 from Sri Lanka and 1 from France). Part of the draw for attendees is that rocks of Carter County preserve the most accessible record of the last days of the dinosaurs, the extinction event, and the recovery period, as stated on the CCM website.
Dr. Sabre Moore, Executive Director of the museum, described the three Fossil Field Expedition sites that the 63 participants were exploring on Sunday. "At one site they are excavating a Hadrosaur jaw and other fossils. At the second site, they are uncovering leaf fossils. At the third site, they are continuing work on a Triceratops frill, that we found last year."
Moore said most of the people on the expeditions are family groups. "We have 20 volunteers assisting with the field expedition. Heath Caldwell from Helena, started as a young shindigger here a few years ago. He attends Montana State University and now he is back as a site leader."
One of the speakers, Dr. Thomas Holtz, began his talk by saying he has presented at all eleven years of the Dino Shindig. Dr. Holtz described his research about "Exploring Locomotion Diversity in Carnivorous Dinosaurs." They were using computers to estimate the top speed of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The speed of traveling could increase the home range of the various dinosaurs. Holtz is principal lecturer in Vertebrae Paleontology from the University of Maryland.
Dr. John Scannella is the John Horner Curator of Paleontology at Museum of Rockies in Bozeman. He described the variations in over 200 types of Triceratops. He showed pictures of the "Yoshi Trike" fossil discovered in Garfield County, Montana in 2010. His research is trying to discover if the holes in a Triceratop's frill are from aging or from a different species. He talked about how Triceratops' horns change shape as they mature based on the fossils record.
Ameilia Zietlow, a speaker from Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum on National History in New York, described Mosasaurine from North Dakota. Her research focused on if Mosasaurs had live births and how wide their jaw bones were and how numerous their teeth were. The Mosasaurs even had a third eye that helped them see light and dive in the dark water.
During Dr. Sabre Moore's presentation "The Next Chapter of the Carter County Museum," she announced the expansion plans. Some of the CCM expansion space will include an exhibition hall, a lab with windows so visitors can watch scientists work, a community education space, an amber lab, an indoor planetarium, offices and more.
During the 2023 Dino Shindig, participants donated $4,310 to the Museum Expansion fund. The live and silent auctions generated $5,295 and the field program added $2,200. The overall total raised during the event was $11,805.
Moore described the lighting project that was completed in the Lambert Dinosaur Hall. The Wyrex fully mounted skeleton had a base extended below the skull and track lighting surrounding the base. The Lambert Hall lighting project was funded by a Tourism Grant from the Montana Department of Commerce.
After lunch on Saturday July 22, a large crowd gathered to watch Robo Rex crush coconuts, watermelons and pineapples with his sharp teeth. Dr. Nathan Carroll described his design of top and bottom jaws of metal teeth shaped like Tyrannosaurus Rex. This structure was his Carter County High School Science Fair project in 2007. Since then he has added a hydraulic lift to power the heavy jaws. The demonstration was a big hit with all ages. The children were excited about the hands on experience of brushing and flossing the T. Rex's teeth afterwards. This healthy practice became part of each demonstration as Dr. Campbell's dentist office in Baker sponsored the event for many years.
Since 2007, Dr. Carroll has completed his doctoral thesis focused on flight feather evolution, studying three dimensional amber, coprolites and lithic fossils. He is the Carter County Museum's Curator of Paleontology and co-founder of the Dino Shindig event.
About 30 people listened to talks and crafted prehistoric pottery at Medicine Rocks State Park on Sunday. Kirsten Meltesen, a PhD candidate at the University of Washington, showed pictures of the fossils she has found at Medicine Rocks State Park. She is researching fossils of small mammal's bones and teeth. By examining the fossils of teeth, she can determine the body size of the mammals and their diet. Meltesen led the group in sifting through some bagged microsite soil. The group used screens and tweezers to locate the tiny Gar Fish scale fossils and tiny mammal teeth fossils.
Jenn Hall Tooke brought sandwich bags of clay and other art supplies to help the participants sculpt either a Tyrannosaurus Rex flat skull or a Triceratops flat skull. Tooke, the Executive Director of the WaterWorks Art Museum in Miles City, guided the students as they worked with the clay and paint. Tooke travels in the "Van-Go" within a three hour driving radius of Miles City bringing art education to other communities.
More speakers presented and more activities occurred at the Dino Shindig. If you haven't attended a Dino Shindig, be sure to add next July's Shindig in Ekalaka to your bucket list. To read more about the event, check out the Carter County Museum at http://www.cartercountymuseum.org.