Dinosaur Dreaming dig season opens

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by Lisa
Publish date
16 February 2012
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Lisa works in the Public Programs Department at Melbourne Museum but also volunteers in the Palaeontology Department and has been on several fossil digs.

Last weekend hailed the beginning of the annual Dinosaur Dreaming dig season at Inverloch in Victoria. The crew will spend the next three weeks searching for the fossils of animals including dinosaurs, mammals, turtles, freshwater plesiosaurs, fish and pterosaurs that lived on and around the floodplain and in the forests that existed in the area 120 million years ago.

We can only access the dig site while the tide is out far enough to expose the shore platform, and before we can start hunting for fossils we need to prepare the site. First we remove the sand with shovels, which is often a bit of a smelly job due to the bits of rotting seaweed that have washed into the hole (the name we give to the part of the site which is being worked at any given time) with the tide.

Preparing the fossil site dig Left: The crew removes sand, boulders and seaweed from on top of the rock layers. Right: John Wilkins and Dean Wright remove one of many large boulders from the dig site using a boulder extraction contraption John invented and built for us.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Next we use large chisels, crowbars and large drills to remove the overlying layer of sandstone. Once we have access to the fossil layer we can begin searching.

Some of the crew use large chisels and sledgehammers to remove large chunks of the fossil layer and the rest of the crew sit further up on the shore breaking these large rocks into walnut sized pieces in search of fossils.

Breaking rocks to find fossils Left: Travis Park uses a sledgehammer and chisel to remove a large chunk of fossil-bearing rock. Right: Gerry Kool uses a much smaller hammer and chisel to break down chunks of rock in search of fossils.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

While the main aim of the dig is to find fossils, there is much more we can learn about the site. Dean Wright, a surveyor, and Doris Seegats-Villiers, a PhD candidate at Monash University, used a Leica Total Station to collect data which will be used to map geological features such as the different rock layers and fault lines. Dean plans to overlay this data onto a 3D map of the site he made last year and this information will assist scientists to better understand the geology of the site.

measuring geology of fossil site Dean Wright and Doris Seegats-Villiers taking data points which Dean will use to create a geologic map of the Flatrocks site.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Some of the interesting bones we have found so far this season:

dinosaur bones found at Inverloch Left: A cross-section through a dinosaur limb bone. Right: A cross-section through a dinosaur toe bone.
Image: Lisa Nink
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Dinosaur Dreaming blog

Infosheet: Dinosaur Dreaming - the Inverloch fossil site

Video: Dinosaur Dreaming

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Bernard Caleo 22 February, 2012 11:28
Ah Lisa, looks great down there: hope you find some great stuff!
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