22 Nov 2011

I Dig Dinosaurs

One of the reasons I became a children's writer is because I've never grown up. I never have grown out of my fascination for arm-farts, explosions, or dinosaurs.

That's why my recent trip to Alberta's famed Royal Tyrrell Museum was such a dream come true. The Tyrrell sits smack on the pre-eminent fossil-hunting grounds of Drumheller's badlands, and boasts one of the best dinosaur collections in the world. Most of the awe-inspiring fossils in the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in New York actually come from Drumheller ("stolen" by fossil gold rushers, but that's another story); still, they can't hold a candle to the displays at the Tyrrell.

So without further ado, I'll share some of my photos and experiences with you.

T-Rex, Albertosaurus and Edmontosaurus all hail from Drumheller.

Say "Cheese!"

This feller, called Deinonychus, isn't actually a dinosaur - it's a reptile.
 In our family, we always called him "The Potato Chip Monster."

In addition to a huge range of skeletons, the Tyrrell also has fabulous dioramas, including one that shows what the waters of ancient times may have looked like. 
Awww... it's a baby....and her just hatched egg.

And living "fossils"  - some Madagascar cockroaches, complete with the hiss.

We were taken behind the scenes, into the workroom where the scientists prepared and studied the fossils.

I love the toy ankylosaurus on the workstation. That's what this researcher is
working on - an incredible find uncovered by accident by miners in the oil sands.

Here, he's showing us the distinctive shape of the scaly skin. Too cool.

Science Writer Claire Eamer contemplates
a rather impressive ammonite specimen.

Here, we're being shown what is so groundbreaking about this mesosaurus
fossil. But shhh - I can't tell you what it is until theTyrrell
researchers publish their findings.

A walk through the warehouse was perhaps the most amazing and mindblowing part of the whole adventure. It reminded me of a stroll through IKEA, but instead of Billy Bookshelves, these racks held row after row of Triceratops heads.

The tour concluded with a scouting trip out into the Badlands to find some fossils of our own.

Can you spot the dinosaur bones sticking up from the ground in this picture?

The visit to the Tyrrell is one I'd recommend to anyone, especially if you have kids in tow. Try camping out in the museum, or going on a dig of your own through one of their comprehensive education programs.

I learned so much on this trip, I've turned it into two nonfiction book proposals, a proposal for an enhanced e-book series, and have even decided to use the museum and badlands as the setting for my sequel to Trouble in the Hills, my young adult adventure novel.

Who knows how a visit to Drumheller will inspire you?

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