The 4th graders at Barrett Elementary in Arlington, Virginia, have been learning about fossils and following the excavation online. Some of the students emailed questions for Alan Titus, BLM Paleontoligist working on the excavation. Below are some of the questions and answers.
Barrett Elementary hosts an impressive "Project Discovery" program funded by Arlington County, Virginia, Public Schools. Project Discovery links Barrett Elementary School in hands-on/minds-on activity centered learning to promote an in-depth understanding of mathematics and science. For more information on the project, contact Laurie Sullivan, Discovery Teacher and Program Coordinator at the school.
Q. Hi. I am in the 4th grade. I wanted to ask you a question. My question is about how much of the dinosour have you found?
Dr. Titus: We have found a little less than half of the animal. The other half eroded away by natural weathering. We believe it was all there at one time.
Q. Dear Archeologist,
How are you? You must be tired from digging.
My class is studying about fossils. So could you answer these
How do you dig for fossils?
How do you find them?
How do you save them?
That's all! Thanks!
Dr. Titus: Yes digging can be tiring. It is hot and very dry out where we are working. It is technically a desert, even though there are trees, and it can easliy get over one hundred degrees in July and August. Also, in June, we have very annoying gnats that bite. But the excitment of seeing the bones come out of the ground is more than worth any discomfort or hard work. The digging is done mostly with hammers, chisels, picks, and smaller tools like brushes to keep your working area clean (so you don't accidently break bone instead of rock). To find the bones, you must do a lot of walking, and be trained to know what to look for. To some, bones look just like rocks. There are important things to look for that are best gained by experience. To save the bones we sometimes use glues and other chemicals. The bones are fairly hard and stable on their own if you store them in a dry place that doesn't freeze (in a museum).
Q. I learned about a dinosaur named Sue.I have a question for the archeoligist: how does it feel to dig up a new dinosaur?
Dr. Titus: To me, it is one of the most exciting experiences you can ever have. It is literally seeing the dead come back to life!! To think that this animal lived 75 million years ago, and you are the one allowing it to be seen by everyone. You have to experience it for yourself sometime.
Q: I would like to ask you a couple of questions about
digging dinosaurs. How long does it take to dig up a dinosaur? Is it
hard to find them? How do you know where to look? I learned today that
you can't tell a dinosaur's color. I read on the internet that some
people think that dinosaurs evolved into birds. Do you believe this?
Dr. Titus: This dinosaur has taken almost a month to dig up so far, but it is not a complete specimen. If it were complete, it might take two or three months to dig up. But that is only the beginning. After that, there will be at least a year of cleaning the bones in the lab, and then scientific study. In southern Utah, it is not hard to find bones, but it is rare to find one where all of the bones are still connected together. That is one of the reasons this specimen is so great! No one knows a dinosaur's color because that is something that is not preserved even in the best fossil dinos. A new find in China may offer us some insight into whether they had scales or feathers. It is now clear that some dinosaurs had feathers, which leads to your last question. Yes, I do believe that birds and dinosaurs are closely related.
Thanks for all of your interest in our project. It has been great to have you involved!!!