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Found 7 results

  1. How an Amateur Collector Changed Paleontology Forever To those of The Fossil Forum, I wish to share with you the story of Maiasaura peeblesorum and Marion Brandvold, both good mothers. Maiasaura was discovered forty years ago in June of 1978; this is the month and year of the Maiasaura. Marion and her son, David Trexler, found fossils fascinating long before Jurassic Park popularized dinosaurs. They would often take a vehicle out and go prospecting in their backyard geologic formation known as the Two Medicine. One hot summer evening when walking back to the vehicle, Marion took a small detour and came upon some tiny fossilized bones. In 1937, the Trexlers had opened a rock and jewelry store, and over the years had created a successful jewelry manufacturing and wholesale business along with their ranching interest. However, Marion's heart was always with the land and the animals, and when her husband passed away, she opened a retail store for her merchandise rather than try to keep up with the wholesale business. That way, she still had time for the ranching and rock hunting that she loved. Marion and David had discovered a partial dinosaur in 1971, and they traveled the State of Montana to compare it to all the wonderful previous discoveries they had read about that had been made in Montana. To their surprise, the only dinosaur on display in the entire State was in a little museum in the basement of the high school in Ekalaka, Montana. It had been assembled by a couple of ranchers who had worked with paleontologists from elsewhere who had come to the State, collected, and left. Chagrined that nothing was left behind when professional work was done, they decided to start a small museum in the back of the family store. The goal was to display a dinosaur skeleton from their local area. After all, if ranchers from Ekalaka could do it, so could they. As far as professional training was concerned, Marion had to rely on her familiarity with the ecology of the modern world, as she had no formal education on the subject. However, a ranch foreman when she was young had taught her the art of tracking, and had shown her how each organism interacted with other organisms and its environment. So, when looking for fossil skeletons, Marion expected to see very young and very old animal pieces, but not much in-between. On the fateful evening mentioned previously, Marion, Dave, and Dave's wife, Laurie, were out collecting what they believed to be a fairly complete duckbilled dinosaur skeleton. It is a long, tedious job collecting all the bones present in a dinosaur, and they had uncovered 15 or so at that point. As tools were being put away, Marion went for a little walk, and when Dave and Laurie caught up with her, she was sitting on a small mound of dirt with a big smile on her face. She said, "look what I found!" She was holding several baby dinosaur vertebrae. Within a few minutes, they had found many more, and Dave had found a piece of a jaw with obviously duckbilled dinosaur teeth attached. However, the entire jaw section could be covered by a nickel! They had a baby dinosaur to go with their adult in the museum. Bill Clemens, a mammal paleontologist from Berkely, had stopped in Marion's shop on his way to dig on fossil fish with some colleagues, and was impressed with what had been done in creating a fossil museum without any formal training. At the fish site, he encouraged Jack Horner, then a fossil preparator at Princeton, and Jack's friend Bob Makela, a high school teacher from Rudyard, Montana, to stop at Marion's shop and see the displays. A few days later, Jack and Bob left the fish site and visited Marion's rock shop and museum. Jack introduced himself to Marion, and for the next few hours, they had a wonderful time going over the specimens Marion had on display. Jack then asked if she had anything else, and she showed him a couple of the vertebrae she had picked up from the baby site. Jack's interest was immediately piqued, and he asked if she had more. Marion directed him across the street to where Dave was reassembling the baby bones they had collected. Jack realized immediately that Marion and Dave had something they didn't understand. He asked, "do you know what you have here?", and Dave replied, "Obviously not, since you are so excited." The concept of babies and old animals dying and being preserved in the fossil record, it turned out, was only partially correct. While that cycle probably did occur, baby bones were generally not preserved in the fossil record. The bones Bob and Jack were staring at turned out to be the first baby dinosaur remains known from North America. Jack asked to be allowed to borrow the fossils in order to write them up in a formal publication. The bones were carefully wrapped and placed in a coffee can, and Jack transported them to Princeton. A visit to the site was also in order, and Marion and Dave took Jack and Bob out to the site. Dave also showed Jack a poorly preserved skull that Laurie had discovered, and Jack offered to try to remove it and clean it up for display in Marion's museum. However, after a few years and the specimen was recovered and prepared, it turned out to be the type skull for Maiasaura, and Laurie donated it to Museum of the Rockies, where Jack was working by then. Baby dinosaurs together in a nest past hatching showed a totally different picture of what dinosaurs were thought to be. Jack returned for many years, and eventually the Museum of the Rockies purchased the land where the babies were discovered. The area has become a mecca for paleontological research. The discovery of all this led to a massive shift in the view paleontologist and indeed science as a whole had for extinct animals and modern reptiles. A realization occurred that dinosaurs were truly living, breathing, majestic animals who cared for their young, much like the life we often see around us today. Hungry and thirsty, often looking for a mate, just trying to stay alive in an unforgiving world were the dinosaurs. Far from terrible lizards, they were much like animals and we humans are today. All this came from Marion’s tiny little find. It was her tiny find which led to a surge of interest and public attention. It was her tiny find which started Jack Horner’s career. It was her tiny find that indirectly caused Spielberg to help create Jurassic Park which in turn inspired many into paleontology and many more into other sciences. Those she indirectly inspired have contributed a near inconceivable amount to mankind through science. They range from medical researchers curing diseases, to those looking for extraterrestrial life, and all the way down to myself. A great many started their interest in the sciences with an early love of fossils and dinosaurs. A love Marion Branvold started and continues through her past contribution. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet her and she passed away in 2014, at the age of 102. Over the course of my short time in paleontology, I had the honor to stand where her tiny find was made. As the search for more discoveries continues I have been privileged to search with both Jack Horner and Dave Trexler. In the great quest for knowledge, she played her part well, now it is for us to carry on with the next act. What a massive contribution from an amateur and so tiny a find. As others ogle over the next major discovery, keep all this in mind and tell us more of your own tiny find. Eric P. Made with great assistance by David Trexler
  2. Badlands Vacation

    We are planning a vacation in June to the Badlands area in South Dakota. I am wanting to do a fossil dig. Somewhere that is not expensive or and would like to keep what I find. Is this just a pipe dream? Where do I start? I am studying to be a middle and high school teacher in Kansas. I have always love fossils. I even have a T-Rex skeleton tattoo! I did contact the Badlands Park and they said you can keep up to 25 lbs as long as it is not a vertebrate. Please help! Thank you!
  3. hello there. my name is Jonathan. and i'm new to fossil forum. next week i'm planning to go to Florida with my family next week and i'm aware that Florida is a great state to look for fossils. but i don't know where to go exactly, if anyone can tell me where i could go, i would appreciate it. i'm going to Fort Lauderdale. so if there's anything nearby, that would be great. also, i'm from Connecticut, and i know that Connecticut isn't the ideal state to hunt for fossils. however i do know that the fossils that are in CT dates back to the early Jurassic ( 200 million years ago ). i'm not sure if they're any dig sites available, and if they are, can anyone tell me the name of the site, the address, the fossils that are there, and whether or not i need permission? i would highly appreciate that. thank you.
  4. I have not run across many San Diego based fossil collectors who go out regularly. I am out 2-3 times a week and am always exploring new "legal" areas to potentially collect from. Besides the occasional trips to the desert, anyone know of San Diego based fossil organizations or people who are active field collectors?
  5. Last night, a friend informed me of the passing of Don Smarjesse and asked me to post this obituary: Don Smarjesse of Novi, Michigan died early this April after a long passage through Alzheimer's disease. Don operated Earth Enterprises for around two decades selling fossils primarily from Devonian quarries in Sylvania, Ohio and Milan, Michigan, along with mineral specimens from the latter locality. At M.A.P.S. and the Denver and Tucson shows, Don did a brisk business offering trilobites, crinoids and brachiopods along with beautiful sulphur and celestite crystals, all of which he personally collected and carefully prepared. People liked Don and Don reciprocated. He had a genuine and entertaining personality which was a source of delight across a spectrum of intimates, customers and chance acquaintances. We will miss that trademark conviviality, stories which never aged by retelling, his humor and those colorful verdicts indicating certain vexatious people somehow failed to offer ongoing evidence for human evolution. Though his illness put him beyond contact for some time now and his collections have been dispersed, his character as a man and sturdy friend will remain touchstones of our conversations. Don's widow and devoted caretaker Gayle survives him. *** I knew Don too. What I remember about him is that he used to share a room in Tucson with a couple of other guys. They were there to sell fossils and minerals but they also wanted people to feel welcome and free to join their conversation even if they weren't going to buy anything. Some people are all-business and shut up when people they don't know enter the room. In the Earth Enterprises room it was like there was a friendly talk show going on all day. The thing about the Tucson shows is that they have been spread out around the city since at least the late 80's. Sometimes, it was (and still is) easier to walk from one place to another, even if it was a bit of a hike (2-3 miles), because of the limited parking at some of the venues especially if it had rained hard the day or two before. It was nice to take a break and shoot the breeze with those guys. I think Don stopped setting up at shows around 2000. The shows seem to have gotten a little more impersonal since then. Jess
  6. I've met some paleontologists who insisted that we should not own any fossils as private collection. They claimed that all fossils no matter how common or rare even a Knightia or Elrathia trilobite should not be kept privately by anyone but instead goes to a museum for research and studies. Another reason they said is fossil collection gave rise to unlawful personals who destroys the site and shooting down scientists who enters the quarry for studies. Hence, any genuine fossil materials should be handed over to paleontologists for investigation and we should only own casts and replicas not the original. By buying a cast, the money will be funded for scientific researches and buying replicas is a way to support and not destroy science. So I personally wants to know from your opinions should we not own any genuine fossils despite they are relatively common?
  7. Recent Display Upgrade

    Here is my recent display change. I was going for a "museum" look. Unfortunately with this display, I can only show the main pieces until I figure out a way to display everything else and have it all still match with what I have set up now. Until then, they are tucked away in their cabinets!
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