We’ve got three guests in today’s episode: Dr. Caleb Brown, Curator of Dinosaur Systematics & Evolution at the Royal Tyrrell Museum; Dr. Derek Peddle, Professor of Geography at The University of Lethbridge; and Sean Herridge-Berry, a master’s student at the University of Lethbridge, join us to discuss how modern technology is being used to explore ancient fossil beds.
Alberta is known for being a hotbed for fossils, but why? Alberta’s rocks are the right age to preserve fossils, but these rocks have eroded at a quick rate in the badlands of Alberta. These abundant fossils are being uncovered at a high rate, which means this landscape provides a lot of information about fossils.
The standard method of prospecting to find new fossils is pretty low tech: put your boots on, get outside, and keep your eyes on the ground. Generally, fossils look like any other bone. The hardest part is figuring out which fossils are most important.
An interesting fact about fossils is that they are a breeding ground for lichen, a composite organism. There is a bright orange lichen which grows on the fossils, and this orange glow can be used to identify fossils. Furthermore, fossilized material and lichen reflect the sunlight in a certain way, and Sean is currently studying how to use that to identify them in a remotely sensed image.
This technology opens the door to discovering new, yet to be discovered bone beds (layers of rock with concentrated fossils). Watching million-year-old fossils collide with new technology is really interesting and will lead to even more exciting dinosaur bone finds down the road.