Posts Tagged 'fieldwork'

Making field jackets

IMGP2957Something genuinely practical for the ‘Practical Palaeontology’ section this time out, making palaeontological jackets. For those who don’t know, a ‘jacket’ is the name given to the bundle of plaster (or other materials) used to wrap up specimens to transport them. Whenever you see photos of palaeontologists working in the filed they are nearly always accompanied by large white blocks of jackets made up to protect the fossils that have been excavated to get them back to the lab safely. They can be time consuming and awkward to make and there is a certain art to their construction. I thought it would be useful for potential palaeontologists to have an idea of how to make these and perhaps be of interest to more general readers.
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Bad luck when digging – taking a chance

I wrote the other day about making decisions in the field and how only luck and experience can save you from mistakes and sometimes not even then. I was specifically thinking of one incident that occurred to me during the recent dig in Henan which I thought I would relate…
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Fieldwork as a costs / benefits analysis

It always seems to me that palaeontological fieldwork consists of a series of a constant stream of decisions that mirror classic cost-benefit analyses. While this is true of many jobs and many things in life, I don’t think I have ever quite experienced anything like it. Unless you have a huge amount of time, or resources, or both, you constantly have to make decisions based on relatively little information and constantly reappraise previous decisions as the situation changes.

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More on things that look like bone and aren’t

gyp1My post last year on “things that look like bone but aren’t” went down well, but certainly suffered from a lack of illustrations. This time out I had a camera handy and was able to take a couple of snaps of a few bits of gypsum on the surface (above) and weathering out of the rock (below) both of which have a great bone-like appearance thanks to the fine grain of the crystals that look very like the texture of bone and the white-ish colours.

If I see a few more examples of ‘not bone’ I’ll keep them coming.

A rather unusual field site

imgp28841Time for a little more from the dig in Henan to give a bit more of a feel for the place. It’s an interesting and relatively little known place but also little researched and combined with my general ignorance of geology there is sadly not too many more details I can give of the various beds we were working in.
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Back from the field

imgp2873Well after an ‘interesting’ 15 hour bus journey I got back to Beijing at around 6 yesterday morning. The fieldwork could not be described as a major success – we didn’t find much and ran into trouble with the local authorities and an ‘emergency’ find in Shandong stripped some of our team to a cross-country dash to excavate some other stuff at very short notice taking the off-road vehicle with them.

Still, it was some more experience and I got to see some new people and new places and get my hands on some new fossils. I have actually been to Henan province before but was then looking at stuff close to the KT boundary and here was down in the lower part of the Late Cretaceous. Both zones are famous for producing dinosaur eggs in huge quantities and of fabulous qualities. While the former has also been producing some excellent bones as well (such as Huanghetitan and Zhongyuansaurus) the latter has had little to shout about in terms of skeletons so far.

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Once more into the, errr, field, dear friends

Yes this week I am heading back into the field to go and find some more dinosaur bones in the Chinese wilderness. Last summer we were in Inner Mongolia to the north west and this time out we’ll be going down south to Henan province. I have actually been to Henan before a few years back, but the ‘fieldwork’ was limited to a procession of vists to old quarries without actually getting ‘down and dirty’ to look for specimens beyond collecting a few eggshell pieces on the surface. As a result I am looking forward to getting out again and seeing more of another part of China.

fgh-358The obvious flipside is that getting any posting done is likely to be tricky. Bar the odd trip into town I doubt I’ll have too much internet access for the next three weeks or so. As a result don’t expect much to come up here for a bit and do remember that I can’t approve comments or reply to others in that time. Don’t abandon me though – I’ll try and make sure a few things appear here when I can and my access might be much greater thjan I fear in which case I’ll be posting fairly normally. See you in May!


Pseudofossils are an interesting aspect of palaeontology that crop up from time to time and can make life both interesting and frustrating. I have already commented on the problems of identifying fossil bones in the field but these are a bit more specialised. Of course if you has as many different shapes as are available for all the fossils out there (think of the various shapes of the bones in just the human body, then add to that all other vertebrates and their variations, then add in shells, tracks, eggs and the rest) and the sheer number of rocks and pebbles that have odd shapes and can end up looking like fossils and you can probably see where this is going. Basically there are lots of bits of rock out there that are not fossils, but do look just like them.
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More field stuff pt. II

fgh-399As before, this is just an excuse to churn out a few photos from my time in the field in Inner Mongolia this year to show off the great time I had in the desert looking for dinosaurs and dead bits of camel. That is all the blurb you are getting, so here they are:

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More field stuff pt. I


The Musings are pretty text intensive at the moment with all the taxonomy and systematics posts flying around, so I thought it was time to bust out a few more pretty pictures of this summer’s fieldwork. I’ll stick up some more stuff from China tomorrow, but today I’ll deal with Mexico.

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Bayan Mandahu field work

fgh-383I have been promising a post on this summer’s fieldwork in Inner Mongolia since my return, but the almost immediate trip to Mexico, followed by ‘grant season’ has left me with a huge backlog of real work and distractions (not to mention things like Epidexipteryx) so I have simply not been able to get beyond those few early posts. As I have mentioned before this was my first proper time doing fieldwork so it was both eye opening and exciting, not to mention getting the opportunity to see a lot more of China close at hand. Continue reading ‘Bayan Mandahu field work’

Not exactly fieldwork

dsf353I still have not got around to writing up the report on this summer’s fieldwork, either the stuff from Inner Mongolia in August, or my September trip to Mexico. I will get around to it once I have some time to get a clear run-up, but despite the flurry of blog posts, I’m actually incredibly busy right now. In the meantime, here is a photo of the jackets of material brought back from the Chinese fieldwork currently awaiting preparation in the IVPP outstation. There was actually a fair bit more than this collected as several of the smallest jackets are hidden at the back of the pile, two of the largest are elsewhere undergoing preparation (and yes, we do have something very nice and very exciting in there), and finally there are plenty of bags of bits of various levels of excitement back in the IVPP. It will inevitably be months before we largely know what we have collected and probably a year or more until any of it makes it into press, but at least it is there in waiting.

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