Dinosaur Excavation and Taphonomic Research Project

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We are young only once, after that we need some other excuse.


The Dinosaur Excavation Project is a serious scientific study dealing with fragile specimens that must be handled carefully with data that must be determined accurately and recorded errorlessly. It is vital that all participants working with the bones observe the project's protocols to process the specimens properly. Generally, the project utilizes university students and science teachers of all grades as well as interested adults. Participants are instructed in the appropriate procedures and quickly gain experience but work under the supervision of the quarry supervisor and the project leaders.

The Dinosaur Project is not a children's "dino dig" nor is it a "summer camp."

We have established an upper age limit of 12 for the group we classify as children. We expect that all children will be accompanied on-site by their parent, guardian, relative, or other adult who is responsible for them and supervises them. We also have guidelines that limit the total number of days a child normally might spend on the project. In view of the limited participation of children, we have reduced the amount we charge. We wish to encourage families!

College students, generally 18 or older, should not need parental supervision and are expected to contribute fully in the activities of the project.

High school students who have finished their junior year in high school may earn college credit. These students also participate without a parental supervision regardless of age. High school students who have finished their sophomore year in high school may earn college credit; however, they must be accompanied by a supervising adult. For all high school students we do require that certain minimum criteria be met.

It is the minors that are 13 through 17 and not earning college credit that fall in the middle of the two well-defined groups. They should not be treated as children, but may or may not be suited to an extended stay without adult supervision from a parent, guardian, or responsible relative.

Each year we have offered a Dinosaur Mini-course for middle and high school students. The course runs for three or four days and the group of minors is closely supervised by teachers and adults from their school as well as the experienced college students and adults.

Our experience suggests that many minors do not have the maturity and attention span to work successfully in the quarries for an extended length of time or independently for any length of time. They may not have had experience in living in a group without supervision.

Because of the nature of the scientific work the same protocols for handling the bones and safety rules must apply to all participants. If, in the opinion of the quarry supervisor and/or the project directors, any participant (child, minor, or adult) is not following the needs of careful safe work, then he or she may be asked to leave the quarry and, in the case of a child, the parent will be required to watch the child. The project leaders and quarry supervisors have their own responsibilities and cannot closely supervise minors (or children or adults) for an extended time.

It is not only the time spent actually excavating the fossils that is of concern. The group in the field spends considerable time together in and out of the quarries. It is vital that everyone cooperate and carry out all assigned responsibilities including chores and adherence to the camp rules and guidelines including observance of quiet times. Not adhering to safety rules (such as not wearing eye protection in the quarries) cannot be tolerated.

It is important to understand that the chronological age of a person is not necessarily the best criterion. We have had a few early teen participants that performed better than some university students. Maturity, interest, attention span, desire, responsibility, willingness to pay attention to instruction, and the ability to learn quickly and follow guidelines are some of the important attributes.

While a few days living in the camp and working in quarries might be a wonderful enriching experience that any person will remember fondly, too much of a good thing often has a deleterious effect! This is especially true if noncooperation leads to reprimand or limits for a lengthy time period. Under these circumstances the normally enjoyable season may become a negative experience for the person, the parents, and the other participants.

In summary, consider carefully these guidelines:

  • minors are generally to be accompanied on-site by a parent or responsible adult
  • minors are to be supervised both in and out of the quarry by a responsible adult
  • the best experience may from a limited time in camp—perhaps only a week or two for a minor
  • the best success comes from a participant who has expressed a real interest and can follow instruction and cooperate with guidelines
  • exceptions are considered after some experience and knowledge is gained—a minor that has shown responsibility in a previous season


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