7: Stones & Bones

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Wyoming, USA
© A. Shinya
Stone & Bones Class

As we start to wind down the 2008 expedition, I must once again comment on the high caliber of the "Stones and Bones" students who, at this point, can perform most of our operations here with little or no supervision. We recorded video interviews with all of them and those interviews should be available on this site once we return and deliver them to the website builders.

In the meantime, I am posting a picture of the seven students here, with the flag they made on evening of the second day at camp (see above photo and Photo #1 below.) Thanks again to the University of Chicago Graham School, through which I teach this field course each year. Some of the brightest juniors and seniors from high schools around the country (and this year, Thailand) come to Chicago to take this course for four weeks. Two weeks training in Chicago, and ten days out in the field. Jim Holstein and I and the rest of the Museum staff out here have become close to the group and will miss them when it's all over.

Tomorrow is student dinner preparation night. This is the night when it's the job of the students to plan dinner, buy food for it, and prepare it. We do this one night each year, and the students usually make one of the best meals of the trip. Once again, these students learn a lot about synergistic collaborations out here in the wilderness, from working together excavating fossils, to working together to provide sustenance and companionship for each other. The ability to form a team that works smoothly and effectively together is key to most successful fieldwork.

After a very successful trip, we've started to sort and identify the slabs of fossils we've cut out of the quarry floor and have lined them up against the quarry cliff wall (see Photo #2 below.) My job for tomorrow is to choose the best of these and begin managing the process of packing to get them back to Chicago in the Museum trucks.

We still have a couple more days of excavating fossils, but we need to get a good start on packing what we've already excavated in order to keep the fossils safe from the weather or simply from getting stepped on by people (including me) roaming around the quarry. One of our staff members, Debbie Wagner, has already started the process of packing (see Photo #3 below.)

Tomorrow is movie night for the crew. In past years, we've had one movie night each season in which we set up a laptop with external speakers on the hood of one of the trucks just after dark. We then park the camp chairs in front of the screen, make popcorn on the campfire, and watch the movie (generally a comedy). The students and staff look forward to this.

For the last two years we've expanded our movie night. Instead of a lap top, we now rent the local movie theater. One advantage of small town life is that we can rent the entire theater for about $50 and the theater owner even has someone availiable to provide popcorn and soda to us. It's now dusk, the sunset is beautiful (see Photo #4 below); and in this high mountain desert climate, the temperature drops like a rock once the sun descends below the horizon. Time to get a jacket.

So long for now,

© A. Shinya
Making the Flag
© A. Shinya
Fossil Finds
© A. Shinya
Packing Fossils
© A. Shinya
Stunning Sunset