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Re: Interest in dinosaurs (was Re: Third Jurassic Park Movie Coming in 2000)



  My interest comes about in a very indirect fashion (and, frankly, when
I moved to Alaska in '69, I felt my only opportunity with anything
fossilliferous would be confined to what I could find to read).
  Living in Maryland, at the ripe old age of 17 I came across an
exposure of shark teeth back along a little stream while I was chasing
water snakes (nasty things to catch by hand...they bite and bite and
bite even as they are evacuating their bowel contents from the opposite
end so you receive both injury and insult in one terrible-smelling,
foul-tempered package; Lord knows why I ever caught them since I almost
immediately released them). Intrigued, I began to excavate it in the way
of rank unknowing masses then began to encounter various invertebrate
remains such as skate plates, pices of sand dollars and sea urchin
shells.  When I started encountering the giant Piscataway clams (which
are bivalves about the size of a very large grapefruit, often found
pretty much intact and fairly commonly) I was not only hooked but
determined to learn how to do this dig properly.  With a scholarship
from the Smithsonian to their invert. paleo. class tucked under my arm,
I got a sufficient grounding to know if not what to do at least what not
to do.  The next two summers were fantastic as I got deeper and deeper
into distinguishing one marine invert from another, the various types of
sharks, etc.
  Then came the news we were moving to Alaska!
  Like most folks I had very little idea what Alaska was like and
envisioned a flat, fairly featureless plain as far as you can see (as
one fellow from the North Slope up here describes his neck of the woods,
"It's so flat you can watch your dog run away for a week") with maybe
waist-high trees, if I was lucky.
  Of course, I was about as far from the truth as possible and 30 years
later I am hooked on this place.
  Transplanting my interest in invertebrate paleontology to the only
locally-availible equivalent, I began to work in late Pleistocene
mammalian faunas, eventually working up a collection of over 3,000
cataloged specimens which I donated to our university museum here in
Fairbanks.  Invited on a mammoth dig (i.e. the mammal, not the size of
the dig) in '83 I got my first  OJT in how to properly lay out a grid,
how to trowel down through layers, cataloging and field notes done
properly, etc.
   It wasn't till some years later that the presence of dinosaur fossils
in Alaska was finally becoming widely recognized and when a class was
offered last year that emphasized high-latitude dinosaurs, taught by Dr.
Roland Gangloff, I took that and found it incredibly fascinating.  Not
only was the subject matter enthralling but the idea that a) these are
very important specimens given they lived in areas that even then likely
had some snowfall or below-freezing temperatures, b) the deposit on the
Colville which he is working is very large and extensive, and c) there
are deposits already found in other mountain ranges in the state, the
opportunity of being part of the ground floor of what years from now
should be a flourishing series of finds of Alaskan dinosaurs is pretty
well irresistable.
  So, what with still collecting Pleistocene mammals, now and then doing
a little work in invertebrates from the Alaska Range, and soon to be
working on dinosaurs, I'm intriguingly spread out across the ages.
....Art, in Alaska