Check out photos from our 2014 adventure!
Paleo Expedition 2014 Blog
The atmosphere around Sam Noble Museum is charged with excitement! We “dug in” to paleontology and geology right away with the Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, Nick Czaplewski. Thanks to some fun activities from our peer mentors, Shanna and Lauren, we also got to know each other. Paleo Expedition has a really great team of students!
George H.: Today was the first day at the Explorology camp. We got to know each other and worked together to make towers and dinosaurs. Both of mine weren’t very grand but it was still a lot of fun. I think that these two weeks that I’m going to spend with the other participants is going to be spectacular. In a minute, we are going to our hotel rooms where we will find out who we are rooming with and go to sleep.
Amanda H.: Today, we got the expedition started. We played a couple games to get to know each other like Ships and Sailors, a game where we sat down with a partner back to back and tried to stand up without using your hands. The first time, with two people to a group was easy, but then we added more people and it became really hard. Especially when we slipped on the mat. Then we looked at some fossils, talked about how they are formed. We found out how track ways are formed, too. They form when a footprint is made in one kind of mud, then it is filled in with a softer kind of mud. When the softer mud erodes later on, a track in the harder rock is exposed. It’s really neat. After that, we went outside for a little bit and talked about observing nature. Then we went back inside, looked at some fossils and rocks. Next we went on a quick tour of the museum and took a bunch of pictures. Later, we played some engineering games. One was building the tallest free-standing tower with nothing but newspaper. The other was building the tallest dinosaur out of pipe-cleaners, a clothespin, a piece of tape, Popsicle sticks, and two feathers. It also had to have a distinctive head and tail. That’s all.
Shanna K.: So today is the first day and it was so much fun!!!!! I don’t think I can even explain how exciting everything was. First off everybody arrived and we got to know each other. We had everybody say their name, what grade they are in, where they were from, and one interesting thin about them ( like if they were a cat or dog person.) Then we went into playing fun games. We all broke into groups of four and were told that if we were in an emergency situation, what would we bring? Then were given a situation. One group was stranded in a cloud city, one had to stop the zombie apocalypse, one was stranded in Atlantis, and my group was stranded in an alternate universe where everyone had a double. Then using our objects we had to all figure out how to escape. Next we went over the rules of the program and then we played a few more games before we ate dinner. We played Back to Back and Ships and Sailors. It was sooooo much fun!!!! Then we ate dinner. Afterwards Dr. Nick talked to us about Paleontology and how to observe stuff in the field. It was really cool. Then we took a tour of the Ancient Life gallery in the museum. I cant wait to see what all we do for tomorrow.
Maggie Z.: Today I spent the entire afternoon and evening getting to know all thirteen students, mentors, and Nick, their senses of humor, their hometowns, and a humbling dose of knowledge in the field of paleontology. (I still don’t know where I’ll be staying tonight, parents) Haha, but I most definitely trust everyone here! Some of the activities this year are the same as last time I was here (Oklahoma Science Adventure) and it gives me a vague sense of nostalgia to be back perusing through the displays and memorizing odd things I notice around the museum. Very excited to go camping and spot some “aware friends,” otherwise known as ticks, and collect fossils untouched by any other human until ME!! I cannot wait! I hope that we’ll all stay safe and that this experience will truly be one of a lifetime, as Jess touts. 🙂 I trust that it will by all the wonderful people I’ve met.
Monica H.: First day: DONE! The Explorology Program started out with a paleontology overview presentation with the participant’s families. The participants came from all across Oklahoma, ranging from as close to a thirty minute drive to three or more hours. Afterwards, we learned more about each other with ice breakers that were actually pretty fun. One game we played was called “Ships and Sailors”, which was similar to “Simon Says”. Before this camp, I volunteered at a camp with toddlers where we played the same game, so it was funny seeing teenagers being competitive and taking the game very seriously. I learned the names and random tidbits of info about each person, and so far they each seem to be really awesome people. Then, we learned more about the requirements of being a fossil, such as death, collection of sediment, pressure, and passage of at least ten thousand years. We took a brief nature walk outside to the front of the museum, which would seem rather short and uneventful, except that was the purpose. Dr. Nick spoke about the benefits of perceptiveness and went so far as to notice the license plate number on a passing car, the age of the driver, and the song of a nearby bird as he was teaching. At end the day, we constructed two engineering projects with newspaper and pipe cleaner. While the first experiment proved a complete failure, I’m happy to say we tied for first at 22 cm in the second experiment. All and all, today has been a very eventful day, and I’m looking forward to the next two weeks!
Jacob L.: Today was day 1 of Explorology. Today consisted of team-building activities and learning to observe. The people leading the program have given us free gear we are going to need, consisting of a backpack, water bottles, a field journal for our studies or personal thoughts, and a camera (so no worries, their will be plenty of pictures when I get back). All in all, today was a lot of fun and I look forward to more fun days ahead. Also, a shout-out to my friend, Ashley, and my step-dad, Todd. You guys, along with the rest of my family, helped to make this possible. Oh, and a shout-out to Tim too, thanks for all the fossils and books and stuff you bought to help prepare me for this adventure. Good-bye and good night for now. See you when I get back!
Caleb W.: Today we were all given an explorology backpack and two explorology water bottles. We got to play a couple of games. One of them was where one person would call out commands and everyone else had to do those commands and if you didn’t do the right command then you were out. We never had one winner; we always had two. Another game was where two people had to be back to back and we had to help each other get up without using our hands. After that we had groups of four and then six. The first group of six to stand up won. I hope the rest of the trip will be just as entertaining as today, and I’m sure that it will be. Goodbye for now and goodnight.
Zach I.: This first day was pretty fun. We all got to know each other by talking and participating in some fun team building games. After that we ate some delicious pizza and Dr. Nick came and talked to us about paleontology and we learned a lot of cool/interesting things. We ended the day with a couple fun engineering challenges. Today was a good start and I am looking forward to the next two weeks!
Lilly H.: Blam! First day… Done! Gosh today has been absolutely fantastic! Everyone is absolutely great. Its only been a few hours but I can already tell that this Expedition is going to be a success. The food is good and the leaders and educators are even better. Haha, Its pretty much only been games and learning so far. (which I obviously have no problem with) I trust that we will continue to have a wonderful time over the next few weeks but, Im sooooo excited to get down in the dirt. Sorry for the short post, time is of the essence. And im falling asleep 🙂
Lauren C.: This Paleo Expedition is off to a great start this year. Shanna and I are really excited about some of the group activities we have planed for later. The getting to know you games we have played already, have allowed the group to open up to one another. Nick began the adventure by edifying us on the process of fossilization. He also gave great insight on how to improve our observation skills.
Thank goodness the clouds broke and the sun shone through this afternoon. The nice weather gave us the chance to bond as a team on the ropes course today. Earlier, we met another one of the museum’s scientists, Steve Westrop, curator of invertebrate paleontology, who gave us the scoop on fossils from animals without backbones! On Wednesday, we’ll visit our first field site and start collecting fossils. Trilobites, brachiopods and crinoids, here we come! Now we’re off for a relaxing swim break before making some notes in our journals and heading to bed.
This morning, we headed to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge to “read the rocks” for a close look at geologic time – the physical history of the Earth seen in rock layers. Following our geology walk, Nick Czaplewski taught us some of the survival and tracking skills he knows as a trained survivalist. Now we’re looking forward to tonight. After a campfire and s’mores, we sleep under the stars – in tents that we set up ourselves of course! Look for our next blog post on Thursday when we return to Norman!
We are back from our two days of camping! We tracked bison-from a safe distance-and explored the prairie dog town at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. From the top of Mt. Scott, you can see the prairie dog town because it’s covered with yellow flowers!
Last night, we camped at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area after a morning at White Mound, fossil site that is over 400 million years old. Steve Westrop, the Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology met us there for some invertebrate fossil collecting. Brachiopods are everywhere but we also found some corals, crinoids, and even a few trilobites. The trip was made even sweeter with a quick stop for some post-fossil collection ice cream!
Once we arrived back at the museum today, we met up with Katrina Menard, Curator of Recent Invertebrates. She had a really fun activity for us about insect adaptations and survival and we showed her the photos of the invertebrates (insects, spiders, centipedes and millipedes) we found during our explorations camping. We were even able to locate some of the invertebrates from our photos during our behind-the-scenes tour of the recent invertebrates collection. Way cool!
Shanna K.: These past few days have been amazing! I can’t believe that it is already day five. On Monday Dr. Steve taught us about invertebrate paleontology. I think that was one of my favorite parts of the day because I plan on going to college to be an invertebrate paleontologist. Then we went upstairs and had the chance to see the invertebrate fossil collection. Dr. Rodger how the get fossils photo ready. First they blacken them and then they burn a chemical that produces a whit smoke. The smoke leave a whit residue that make all the details appear. It was so cool! I hope that one day I can do that. Next we went to the ropes course to learn team work skills. The first few things we did was really easy. For example we had to learn every body’s name and played the name game where two teams sent one person each and they were separated by a tarp. Then the tarp was dropped and each person had to try to say the name of the other person first. If they got your name, you had to go to the other team. We did a lot of other really easy exercises. Then we had to play this game called the Helium Pole. We all had to hold up the pole with the back of our index fingers and bring it down to the ground with out loosing contact with the pole. It took us forever to do it and we all got so frustrated. But in the end, we conquered it. We also came up with experiments to do at White Mound. The two we decided to do was the average size of brachiopods and which fossil will have the highest density. The next day we learned about geology an the different time periods. We even had to make a time line to scale to show all the different time periods. Then we traveled to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge to study geology. Dr. Nick also showed us survival techniques. We even found gooseberries and wild black berries on Mount Scott and we got to eat them!!!! It was amazing!!!! On the fourth day we went to White Mound and collected fossils and performed our experiments. I found three trilobites! Then we went to Sulpher and stayed the night there. It rained and stormed in the middle of the night. It was kinda scary when the winds got high but it was still fun. Today Dr. Katrina tought us about insects and showed us the collection. The coolest thing in the world was the bees Lauren and I caught last year! It has been so much fun!
Amanda H.: The ropes course today was a lot of fun. We played a lot of games to get to know each other better. Some of them were blind fold games where you have to trust your teammate to lead you in the right direction so you don’t hit a tree. It was really fun. They were mostly about communication and trust. When we got to the Witchitas, we went up to Mt. Scott and ate lunch. The boulders are huge and you can jump from rock to rock. We came with Dr. Nick and he gave us a survival lesson. He showed us a lot of plants between the rocks that are edible that we just walked by! He showed us some currant berries and he found some black berries in a huge crevice. They tasted really good. Then we went to see the volcanic dike. When we got back to camp he showed us how to make fire with a bow-drill. He made it look pretty easy. Then he let us try and I got a little smoke before I got really sore. That night there where a LOT of chuck-will’s-widows and great horned owls. We were visited by a raccoon too. It’s funny, I slept better in the tents than I did at the hotel. At White Mound, we met up with Dr. Steve. We had to go off road to actually get to White Mound, and that was fun. There was one big bump where the seat belts tightened up on us so we wouldn’t hit the roof. When got there, they let us loose to look for fossils. They where everywhere! We all found a ton of brachiopods, horn corals, colonial coral, and crinoids. I found two trilobite impressions. I showed one to Steve to make sure, and he said that it was a rare one! It’s really cool. Then we went to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur and pitched our tents. We had to put our rain-flies on them because it was supposed to start storming in the morning. At around 1 or 2 in the morning, it started pouring like crazy. In the morning, we packed up our tents and headed back to Norman. We stopped at the Vendome Well in Sulphur and talked about the sulfur in the water. There is a fountain in the wall so you can taste the water. We all tried it and it tasted like bottle water with an egg after-taste. A long time ago, people used to take the water home, because there is supposed to be some medicinal value in it. Then we got back to the museum and we met Dr. Katrina and she showed us the bug collection and how to use the butterfly nets. It’s really cool.
Monica H.: The last two days have been packed from morning to night. A blessing and a curse, each day has felt like two or three days. There has been too many activities to list each one by one, and we did not even complete all of the activities planned! A notable point is that so far that this camp has been different from the many math and science camps I’ve been to in previous years. At those camps, we often learned about very general, common topics that scarcely skimmed the surface. At this camp, we go over and beyond, always looking into minute details and touring the behind the scenes. For example, several years ago I went to Mt. Scott with Earth Cycles at Oklahoma University. We hiked around and were told to look at the different types of rocks and obvious climate differences from northeastern Oklahoma. However, this time around, Dr. Nick challenged us to find what most people do not see. In the Wichita Mountains, there are cacti and bison everywhere, so we were shocked to learn that he had found a blackberry bush within the first five minutes of arrival. After that, we managed to find cervices of water, juicy gooseberries, and fragrant herbs. This type of in depth observation is an often overlooked lesson that I want to maintain for the rest of my life. Afterwards, we located evidence of volcanic action and sea life during different epochs in Oklahoma.
Zach I.: We have done a ton of cool stuff over the past few days. We have also learned lots of new and interesting things, all the while getting to know and become better friends with the other participants. On day two, Dr. Steve came and talked to us about invertebrate paleontology and things we would be seeing at white mound. After that, we went to the ropes course and participated in some fun, and frustrating at times, activities. On day three, Dr. Nick came and talked about geologic time and other cool things and then we drove up to the top of Mt. Scott and ate lunch up there. While we were at the top, Dr. Nick Showed us some wild berries that we could eat and they were delicious! Day four we went to White Mound around Sulphur, where we found a lot of cool fossils, though most of them were just brachiopods. we have done a lot of cool stuff and sounds like we have lots more planned!
Kyle A.: On day 2 through 4 we have encountered many different experiences. On day 2 we did team building exercises at the ropes courses. Many of which were challenging but had hidden solutions. On the other hand there was one activity that was known as the helium pole that was very difficult and had no hidden solution. On day 3 we went to the museum for the morning and prepared for our camping trip. Later in the day we began our journey to the campsite, where we set up our tents and ate. Later that night we learned how to start a bow fire. Although earlier on day three we traveled to Mount Scott and we did boulder jumping. After jumping we proceeded to eat our lunch’s on top of the mountain. On day 4 we went out to White Mound and dug for fossils. We mostly found bronchiopods (looks like clams and is, Symmetrical), Coral, crynoid stems, and a peice of a trilobit. After the search at white mound we went to a new campsite where we pitched our tents and ate stew. After dinner we played some games then went to bed. This night however it began to rain, but we had rain tops for the tents. Lastly, Today we took a look into the world of insects. We learned how to catch them, how they preserve them, and even about dirmestic beetles, Which they use to clean bones. When we went in they were using the beetles to clean the bones of a rhinoceros that the paleo group from the year before were able to pet and feed. So far the trip has been very fun and i cant wait to see what we do next.
Jacob L.: The last few days have been fun but exhausting. Visiting Mount Scott was a lot of fun, even though I’m deathly afraid of heights. Dr. Nick showed us around nature, and I now have eaten wild berries and onions. We have gone camping and out to White Mound, where we found fossils for a project we’re doing. We hypothesized that the most abundant fossil would be brachiopods, and judging from the 204 me and my partner collected, I’d say we were right. The group have also become storm troopers, after sleeping in tents through the storm that happened recently. I’ve had some good times, being one of the few to find a trilobite, camping out with some good friends, and singing Disney songs on long car trips. Overall I am very happy here and am looking forward to days to come, though, I must say; I miss my nice comfy bed. Goodnight to everyone reading this (unless you see this in tomorrow, in that case, good morning) and I wish everyone as good a day as the ones I’m having.
Maggie Z.: Tuesday: First day at the campsite Doris. Highlighted by the hour-long dishwashing session all the campers participated in. Had the pleasure of Nick Czaplewski showing us how to light a fire with a bow, tinder, and wooden stakes. Taking us on a nature walk–we found evidence of a baby turtle egg hijack by a skunk-sized creature, wild sage, gooseberries, and wild blackberries. Felt as if it would take a year or so to finish all the captivating lessons in nature. Didn’t have s’mores. Tired. Excited for White Mound! Wednesday: Moved to Sulfur, OK at White Mound. Spent the day at White Mound collecting ancient BRACHIOPODS. Took an excessive number of nature walks in the evening and made observations in nature. Went walking in the creek next to the lake. Had Delicious stew courtesy of James and Brad. Played mafia with camper. Slept in a thunderstorm. Thursday (today): Drove back to SNOMNH, had a blast with Dr. Katrina Menard and the invertebrate collection upstairs in the “treasure chest.” Observed beetles eating down the bones of a rhinoceros skeleton and later sorted out brachiopod measurements for the project we are working on. It consists of answering the following questions: “What are the most common fossils at White Mound?” and, “What is the average size of the brachiopods there?” (As you can tell, we hypothesized for the first, which led to the second.) Our data will provide some conclusions, and we can already tell there are some potential mistakes in the act of our data collecting. Precision/Accuracy. Going to Golden Corral. Good night! Stay safe at home and hope we continue to see how AMAZING everything and everyone is! So excited to go to Black Mesa for even more camping. The sleep is overall very good (especially in thunderstorms) 🙂
George H.: These past few days have been amazing. We got to go to Mt. Scott to boulder hop and hike. Dr Nick taught us different ways we could have survived if we got lost. he told us how to find water and shelter and found Gooseberrries. We even got to eat them. At the campsite, Dr Nick showed us that how to make fire. It was so cool. At night, a Raccoon came into the area and ate 7 granola bars. the next day, we went to White Mound to go find fossils. My partner and I found over a hundred fossils. We even got to keep them. That night, we played Mofia and I was Narrator. at around one in the morning, a thunderstorm hit, but i didn’t wake up. in the morning, we went to a Sulphur spring and drank from it. It smelled and tasted like rotting eggs. Then we drove back and went to see how beetles clean bones. This is the best camp I have ever been in!
Katerina O.: So far everything we have done has been really fun. On Monday we learned about invertebrate paleontology and got to see the collection room where the many fossils the museum owns are kept. Then we went to the ropes course to do many team building games and challenges. On Tuesday we went to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. We ate lunch on Mt. Scott, and then Dr. Nick taught us about several edible plant. It was amazing how quickly he could find and identify everything. Then we arrived at our campsite and pitched our tents. That night Dr. Nick showed us how to use a bow drill to make fire. On Wednesday we went to White Mound. It was amazing how many fossils we on the surface. I mostly found brachiopods but I also found some snails, coral, bivalves, and crinoid stem. Sadly I was not able to find a trilobite. That night we camped at Sulphur. On Thursday we came back to the museum and learned about insects from Dr. Katrina. It was amazing how many bugs could be caught using the nets. We got to go to the collections of recent invertebrates. It is amazing how many specimens the museum has stored in the rooms.
Caleb W.: For the past few days we have learned so much. Everyday is something new and I am always gaining more experience in every field of science. I slept in a tent for the first time in the wilderness and learned how some of the mountains were formed and why they look the way that they do. Today we got to see the museum’s insects collection which is ginormous! We saw insects from Germany, Africa, Australia, and Japan. I can’t believe how fun it has been and how these days are passing by faster and faster. Last night was pretty fun too. We played a game called Mofia and James almost got rid of everybody and I was proudly not one of those people so thanks for not putting me in the warehouse. After that we went to bed and it rained for awhile and the lightning and thunder was acting crazy. White Mound was really hot but we found a lot of cool fossils too. On one of the nature walks we did we saw so many collared lizards and we kept trying to catch them but they didn’t think we were good enough for them, so they ran away. Except for this one lizard who seemed really proud of himself and defended his log. Josie had experience in reptile behavior so she walked up to him and grabbed him. The lizard did bite her thumb but she said it didn’t hurt that bad so she was going to be okay. We’re running out of blogging time so that’s all I’m going to say for now. Goodbye!
Lilly Hughes: These past few days have been so exciting. It’s amazing how time flies when your having a good time. Monday Dr. Steve taught us the basics of invertebrate paleontology. Did you know that invertebrates make up 97% of all living things on earth?? Haha now you do! Then we went upstairs to see and learn a but about the invp. collection.with Dr. Rodger. how the get fossils photo ready. After a super tasty lunch, we went over to the ropes course to work on some basic team building skills. Later we returned to the museum to form two hypotheses from the information we had learned about White Mound. The next day we had a crash course in geology and learned about the basic time tables. Then we traveled (by van) to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge to study geology. I have to admit I didn’t think we would make it up Mt. Scott. Dr. Nick then explained basic survival techniques. I ate some if the berries… I didn’t die so I guess Dr. Nick was right! Finally on day four ( I think) we went out to the field to do some big girl work! We tested out hypotheses On White Mound. The next night we were in a small southern town called Sulphur. That night there was a HUGE storm. Luckily for me I was alone in my tent snoozing away so I wasn’t bothered. I’d also like to thank whoever provided the amazing tents because mine didn’t even think about leaking… But sadly for me I left one of my shoes slightly outside the rain tarp so the next morning it was full if water… Today Dr. Katrina explained what she does with insects in the museum then showed us the collection. Then she handed us all bets and had us catch all the bugs we could stand. Sadly fir me I had to refrain from wandering into the grass because my hiking shoes were STILL soaked… But I still managed to have a lot of fun.
Today was all about paleontology and getting ready for the field work at Black Mesa. We spent some time learning about the history and geology of the site and then spent most of the day with Kyle Davies, Fossil Preparator for Vertebrate Paleontology and Jennifer Larsen, Collection Manager for Vertebrate Paleontology.
If you think the dinosaurs on display in the museum are awesome, then you should check out our pictures to see what happens behind the scenes! Jen showed us fossils that were found right here in Oklahoma, including some that we might find during our field work. Kyle taught us how to properly identify and excavate fossils – they are very fragile and need to be protected once we uncover them.
Tonight, we’ll watch Jurassic Park on the museum’s big auditorium screen and then sleep under the dinosaurs in the Hall of Ancient Life!
So exciting! We learned all about comparative anatomy techniques, which is how paleontologists know so much about how ancient animals lived. Since fossilized animals are extinct, we can’t watch them move, eat and behave. Instead, we look for modern animals that have bones and features similar to the fossils we find. Then, because we can see how modern animals interact with each other and their environments, we can make predictions about how the extinct animal might have behaved. It’s really awesome.
Once we had the basics of comparative anatomy down with some fun activities at the Sam Noble Museum, we went in-depth to compare skeletons of modern animals at the Museum of Osteology. Then we headed to the OKC Zoo to see some of those same animals eating, moving and interacting with each other and their environments.
Speaking of interacting, we had some great up-close and personal time with the zoo’s rhinos. This was a great behind-the-scenes opportunity that the zookeepers gave us. We even got to touch and feed the rhinos. They are really amazing.
Tonight, we’ll be sleeping at the zoo in the tree house. We’re really looking forward to the night tour and more chances to interact with the animals!
We woke up bright and early with the zoo animals and took a morning walk with one of the zookeepers. We’re beginning to understand how these animals behave at different times of the day, which has been valuable for imagining how the dinosaurs we’re going to excavate might have behaved. On that note, we’re heading up to Black Mesa today. It’s going to be a long drive, but we’ve got a lot of activities to keep us busy! Our next post will be when we return to Norman on Friday!
Black Mesa was absolutely beautiful! We worked side-by-side with some awe-inspiring scientists. Nick and Katrina took us on a hike to get a sense of the geology and ecology of the area and as an added bonus, we hiked to Three Corners and stood in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado at the same time.
Excavating was awesome – we met Anne Weil from OSU. She, Nick Czaplewski, David, Kyle, and Jen were great paleontologist mentors, pointing out specimens and teaching us how to excavate the fossils carefully and professionally, just like they do! As we excavated, we mapped each of our finds, making notes on the position and location of the fossil. For each new find, we sketched the fossil exactly as we saw before beginning to dig a trench around the perimeter of the fossil. Once we finished the trench and made sure we knew the boundaries of the fossil, we wrapped it in plaster-covered burlap to protect it until it gets back to the lab. We found some really great and diverse fossils that gave us an idea of what other kinds of animals were living alongside the dinosaurs.
Not only did we work with paleontologists, but we also had the opportunity to visit an active archaeology site and do some work with Lee Bement and his team surveying petroglyphs. They are from the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey in Norman and came to Black Mesa to document these petroglyphs before they are destroyed by weather and vandalism.
Working with Katrina has also been exciting. She helped us develop our own mini-research projects and taught us how to handle the invertebrates safely. On the last day we were in Black Mesa, we worked with Katrina and Lauren (one of our peer mentors) on a study that they are working to publish. We wanted to understand how digger bees navigate and use visual cues to find their nests. Our work might actually show up in a scientific journal!
The drive back was long, but we made it back to Norman safely. We had a really great trip!
Jacob L.: Sorry for not blogging in a while, we’ve been to the Museum of Osteology, camped at the zoo, and went to Black Mesa for the last long time (forgive me, it was all a blur, so I don’t know the exact number of day). It was a lot of fun though, so much fun in fact, I don’t remember it all. I remember taking a night and early morning walk around the Zoo, flipping a HUGE rib bone and a vertebra and capping them both. They both are actually in the museum in fact, being prepped and maybe someday they will be an exhibit. The Explorology Crew also studied digger bees, which have only been studied one other time, and a paper will be written using OUR study! This means that Explorology will permanently be known for our research. A special thanks to Kyle, David, Anne, Jenn, and everyone else at the quarry. Oh, and thanks to Lee and the archaeology crew for letting us come out and help you guys out, we hope we helped! So with that I say goodnight and farewell readers! Have a nice day! (or night!)
Shanna K.: Our trip to Black Mesa was amazing! We made so many great memories from the wonderful experiences we had. It was definitely my favorite part of the whole expedition. We worked on the homestead quarry with the most awesome paleontologists, Kyle, David, Anne, and Jen. They showed us how to dig up the fossils and put together a field jacket. It was so much fun! I learned so much that I don’t think I would ever have the chance to learn. Nick showed us really cool geology. We saw Quarry #1 which has Triassic age rocks. It had really interesting layering. There was a layer of blue stone and then a layer of red stone over and over with a cap of sandstone on the top. He also showed us dinosaur footprints that we got to walk in. Later Katrina led a digger bee experiment where we tested how the bees tell which nest is theirs. It was so cool! I had so much fun. I just wish I could do it again. I want to thank all the scientists for everything they taught us. It was the most amazing experience of my life!
Caleb W.: We went to the lab upstairs and learned how to catalog fossils into a big official book so that the museum knows what type of fossils they have, we did micro-picking, and we learned how to uncover fossils. The best job in the world includes digging in the dirt and laughing with your friends. It isn’t the easiest job but it is the most exciting. You never know what you are going to find or where all the fossils are going to be. I started out barely braking any rock off of the surface because I was scared that I was going to brake a fossil and get in trouble, but after the first day I started getting use to the idea of where the fossils might be and the feeling of how the tools felt in my hand. We got to cap half of a rib, which was still bigger than my leg, and flip it over on its side and then got rid of the extra dirt so that it would be lighter when they brought it back to the museum. To be able to flip a fossil you have to dig a trench around the fossil. Every time we tried building a trench around this one fossil we kept hitting more and more and more fossils, so finding mud became a good thing. Sounds crazy to think a scientist would be happy to find rocks and mud instead of fossils. Thanks for letting me and everyone else gain experience and help discover fossils. Oh, and thank you for all the laughs too.
Katerina O.: We have done a lot of interesting things in the past few days. On the fifth day we learned more about the insects of Black Mesa from Dr. Katrina. On the sixth day we got to work in the lab. We got to do micro-picking, which is looking through gravel like rocks for small fossils. We also got to catalog fossils and work on preparing a large fossil. That night we got to sleep at the museum and watch Jurassic Park. The seventh day we learned about comparative anatomy and went to the Museum of Osteology to look at modern skeletons. Later we went to the zoo and got to feed and pet the rhinoceros. Then we slept at the zoo. The next day we drove to Black Mesa. Over the next week we got to work in the quarry excavating fossils, learn about the ecology and geology of Black Mesa, work at an archaeological site, and observe Digger Bees. We also got to climb Black Mesa. Everything was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. It was very interesting to be able to have the experience of working in a quarry excavating actual fossils. All of the paleontologists and other scientists were very knowledgeable and I learned a lot.
Zach I.: We have done a ton of cool stuff since blogging last. Before going to Black Mesa, we went to the Museum of Osteology in OKC and then spent the night at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The next day, we embarked on an eight hour car ride to Black Mesa, where we stayed for four days doing lots of fun stuff. We did lots of observing and note-taking of the geology and layout of the nearby area, found lots of fossils in an actual quarry, and studied awesome insects, including digger bees which are pretty cool. Also, this Sunday my partner and I will be presenting a research project of cacti and their importance to insects in the ecosystem at Black Mesa. Last but not least, a big shout-out to Kyle, David, Anne, and Jen for working with us in the field!
Lauren C.: We just got back from the Black Mesa it was fantastic. The first day of field work we learned so much from Kyle, Ann, Jen, and David. Ann and I worked on what at first look like a single coprolite, but the more we dug around it the more bone began to show we were finding more bone than rock it seemed. We got to work with the archaeology team for half a day. It was a completely different experience in how they work; it was great to see the similarity and differences between the two fields. The cave art was very fascinating. The last day I spent all day with Dr. Katrina Menard on our study of digger bees in which we have been planing since last year to help her with research. We gathered data regarding the digger bee behavior for most of the day on Thursday. We have such a great team of Explorology students who help sit for hours observing digger bees. I can’t wait to get started on the paper! I can’t thank Dr Menard, Dr. Nick Czaplewski, Explorology and Witten Newman Foundation and all the Paleontologist, for such an amazing opportunity.
George H.: This week was packed with the most amazing experiences anyone could ever have. First we went to the Osteology museum to see different skeletal structures and learned about comparative anatomy. We then toured the Oklahoma City Zoo and got to touch and feed the rhinos. That night, we slept over in the tree house they have. In the morning we started our drive to Black Mesa. It was an 8 hour drive but it was fun talking to the new friends I made. At Black Mesa, we went to the dig site and found many Croc teeth, turtle shells, and dinosaur bones, we also got to go to the archaeological dig site which has a totally different way of digging. Later we got to help Dr. Katrina with her research on digger bees. We got to alternate their homes to see if it affected them. It was really amazing. I just want to thank Kyle, David, Anne, and Jen for allowing and helping us in the Quarry.
Kyle A.: Within the past 8 days we took a trip to the Oklahoma panhandle and stayed in Black Mesa. During the days we were there we met many scientists including; Paleontologists, archeologists, entomologists, and geologists. Our normal day at black mesa was split into two major groups. One of which involved entomology, geology, and archeology. During these activities we observed digger bees, looked at sedimentary rock formations, climbed the mesa, and looked at an archeological site. The archeological site was really interesting. It involved many cave carvings and paintings, and also we were fortunate enough to be allowed to work with the laser mapping technology, digging artifacts, and mapping artifacts. The second portion of the day involved us digging for fossils. While we were at the dig site, or quarry, we were able to help with many of the different procedures that paleontologist have to do to safely obtain a fossil. We were able to dig, clean, plaster, flip, chip off more rock, clean again, plaster (or cap) the fossil, and then load it into the truck. The trip to Black Mesa was very fun and I was very happy to partake in this trip. I would like to give a thank you to Nick, Kyle, David Katrina, Jen, Anne, All the archeologists, Whit Newman Foundation, and Jeff.
Maggie Z.: Day 5: Insects with Dr. Katrina Menard. Spent the night at the museum under the dinosaurs after going out hunting for insects in the backyard. We met Emily, who takes care of the museum collection invaders (dermestids) and who also showed us the mounds of beetles eating meat off the bones of future skeleton displays. The beetles make noise when they eat!! (You can tell we got into it by the number of times I used “museum” in the sentences above. Day 5 was exciting.) Day 6: Field Jackets in Lab. Got introduced to the paleontology lab upstairs and worked with both macro and micro lab work along with recording different field findings in fancy books. Met Jen Larsen, Kyle, and the woman in the micropicking lab. Speaking of which, micropicking is the most horrific thing in the world! You get headaches from staring into the lense of a microscope identifying millimeters of tiny bone and scale fragments. It really is like finding a needle in a haystack. Day 7: Zoo and Osteology Museum. Pet Nikki, Shasta, and Rudy at the OKC Zoo. We trekked all day long and did not forget to apply sunscreen nor to drink water. Successful day ended with a night tour at the zoo and a restful sleep atop the treehouse. Not to mention we also met Poppy the armadillo! Day 8: Traveling and Meet and Greet. Spent the day traveling 8 hours with 16 people in 3 vans, with one goal: BLACK MESA. Upon arriving, we found the Whitten-Newman Foundation Field House and met various people like Jen again, Anne the Paleontologist, Kyle again, Jeff, Lee, K.C., Nick again, among amazing others. Goodnighted under a pitch-black sky scattered with glittering stars. Breathtaking. Day 9: Morrison Formation Quarry. We dug dirt holes and hunted for dinosaur bones. We worked with the scientists at the Morrison Formation Quarry and drank water and applied sunscreen. We ate dust and bugs buzzed into our ears and face openings. Got a taste of the desert life. Day 10: Quarry and Mesa Peak Hike. Favorite thing about the quarry is the scientists and their abundant wisecracks. It’s the love-hate relationship of wanting to find more bone and the ever-present desire to avoid messy excavations that keeps them going and joking. Kyle, Jen, Anne, David, and (others, sorry!) are one big family that thoroughly appreciate what they do. The latter part of the day we hiked the 4-thousand-something feet up to the peak of Black Mesa. Exhilarating and breathtaking, this three-hour hike felt amazingly like, well, 20 minutes MAX. I would do it again, as long as all the cacti are dead. Yucca too. They will cut you open. Day 11: Archaeology Site. K.C. and Lee have such cute dogs!!! Their dogs and family are permanent residents of 34-CI-7-something archaeology site. Of the archaeology site, explorers had a taste of the meticulous processes at this messy cenozoic site. No lie! Both paleontology and archaeology are so messy, not simply because both take place in the dirt. Looters dig up what they want and steal away, unknowing of what they do in removing the context of an ancient civilization. In more commonplace terms, NEVER graffiti on rocks! Day 12: Last Day and Digger Bees. Plastered and flipped dino bones and dino poop (corprolites) and experimented with digger bees under the hot sun. Day 13: SNOMNH. We’re back! 🙂 Working on our presentations, which teacher and parents and mentors alike will be observing in the near future!
Amanda H.: When we got to Black Mesa, we went to meet the paleontologists: Kyle, Jen, Daved, Anne, Marco,Jeff, and some grad students. They are all really cool. They helped us out a whole lot. It was fun to pick at the rock with chopsticks and trowels, then brush the dirt away and find a fossil. On the first day we were asking about almost every big chunk of rock that looked kind of rounded. Later we were kind of getting the feel for it, like if we found a piece of rock that had little holes inside it, it was a bone. Then we would still ask to make sure. Most of the easiest things to know that it’s bone were the huge fossils and the croc teeth. The paleontologists were giving us a lot of really good advice and showed us all kinds of tricks and ways to do things, like licking the rock to see if it was bone or not. They found some chevrons, and some coprolite. One piece of poop even had little bones in it. They said that it might be a piece that hadn’t been passed yet, which is really cool. On the last day, they had us plaster some fossils, and then we flipped another jacket so we could reduce the bottom. The rib was actually not that hard to do, but we had to do it fast. George found a turtle shell in the bottom of the jacket while we were reducing it, so we had to work around that. It was fun to work at it, and then find something that popped out. After we were working in the quarry on the third day, we went to an archaeology site. It was completely different from paleontology. They pedestal everything they find so they can map where it is and it’s elevation, in the quarry, we just mapped where it was in the quarry, no elevation. They also were mapping out the whole landscape immediately around the site. Lee and Cacy showed us some petroglyphs, arrowheads, and some beads. It was really neat. Katrina had us do an expirament on digger bees at the camp and we came up with all kinds of ideas about them. It was really neat. Then we did some expiraments to find out about different bugs. George and I were a team and we started with damselflies, but that didn’t work out because we couldn’t find anything. Then we did dragonflies, so that worked out better. Then Nick showed us some berries that were edible and some different plants. The berries had a very strong citrus flavor that was very good. We saw a lot of mule deer, jackrabbits, and pronghorns, they were really cool and Nick told us a lot of stuff about them. Kyle, Jen, David, Anne, Jeff, Marco, Lee, Cacy, Genna, Chelsea, Nick, Katrina, and everyone else, if you are reading this: Thank You for letting us help, for showing us everything, and making it a lot of fun! (I’m sorry if I spell your name wrong.)
Two weeks passed by so quickly! Today, we went on a campus tour of OU that ended with lunch on Campus Corner. We also worked on our presentations to show our friends and families everything we discovered during the past two weeks. Just like our scientist mentors, we’re looking forward to presenting our findings. It’s pizza for dinner tonight – we’ll be busy getting ready for the closing ceremony tomorrow. We look forward to seeing our families tomorrow and know it will be hard to say goodbye.
Zach I.: Lots of cool things but it is the people I have met and become friends with that are going to be making me sad when I leave. I will miss everybody so much when we have to part ways. By the end of these two weeks we were family. Though I am sad to leave these people, I am very thankful for the lessons I have learned from them and the experiences I have had with them. I am also extremely thankful for the scientists and organizations that have made this possible for us. I will miss you all and I hope we may see each other again.
Jacob L.: Today has been filled with the stress and anxiety of our final presentation, after so much traveling, it was a shock to sit down and just work. It was a lot of fun though, because we’ll be showing these to the families of the other Explorology members. Though, to me, everyone here is my family already. We eat, play, and live together all the time, and I wish I didn’t have to leave. My experience here has changed me, and I am SO glad I came. I’ll miss them, but at least I can finally go home, you know, my OTHER home, that’s not the museum. This is the last day I’ll blog, so I hope everyone out there enjoyed these. Goodbye and goodnight, and who knows? Maybe I’ll apply next year too. See ya!
Lauren C.: Well Paleo Expedition is coming to an end, I honestly am so grateful for all of the students who came this year I feel we really learned from one another. Maggie and I have worked really hard on our presentation and are excited to present it tomorrow. This group became so close in such a short span of time. It will be hard to say goodbye tomorrow. I really have made so many great memories I will never forget!
George H.: The end of the paleo explorology camp is is in the near future(tomorrow). I am going to miss all of the friends i have made here. Today we got a tour of the OU campus and got the hours to any major you wanted. My favorite part of the tour was the Library. it was the best library I have ever been to. Later, we made our presentations to present to our family tomorrow. I really will miss everyone here. Special thanks to Dr. Nick and Dr. Katrina for teaching us and helping with our experience. I also want to thank Brad, James, Josie, and Jes for being there and helping us.
Caleb W.: After a long tour of the OU campus we came back to head quarters, aka the museum. Then we started our group projects and finished our slide shows. We got to eat at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, and I ate the shredded beef nachos. The nachos were amazing and I didn’t finish them because there was so much! This camp has been everything I wanted to expect and more. I have made lots of great memories and friends, that I hope I will keep for the rest of my life. Its sad that tomorrow is our last day together and that we have to go home tomorrow, but it just means more new beginings and longer friend ships. I hope everyone likes all our presentations and has a good night. I’ll see you all tomorrow!
Shanna K.: I can’t believe the expedition is pretty much over. It makes me almost want to cry. We all are one big family and it’s really hard to leave everyone. I’m not saying that I don’t want to go home and see my family, but I just don’t want the trip to be over. We had so much fun from the jokes, to the games, and to the awesome adventures we had all over the state. It’s so hard to realize that it is all over now. I’m going to miss everyone so so so much! Again I want to thank all of the scientists that taught us everything we now know about all the “ologies” and to our awesome educators. I’ll miss you all so much but I will never forget any of you! =]
Lilly H.: Oh gosh these past two weeks have gone by so fast. Ive had such an amazing time with all my new friends. I loved learning so many new things. Paleo Expedition has changed my life in such a positive way. Im so proud of my fellow explorers. Im so happy to have had the wonderful opportunity to work along side them these past few weeks. I’d like to send out a special thanks to Dr. Nick Czaplewski for teaching us survival basics and for the intro to geology class. I’d also like to thank Dr. Katrina Menard for helping me get over my basic fear of almost every bug. A thanks to Dr. Ann Weil for giving me the encouragement i needed to keep pursuing my dreams of going into science. Thanks to Kyle David for showing us how to properly make a field jacket and how to do lab preparation for fossils. Jen Larson for showing us the collection and also proving to me the importance of women in the science field. I’ve had such a wonderful time and I’m sad that i have to return to the real world. I will miss my paleo family.
Monica H.: The past few days have been some of the most insightful and altogether eye opening days I’ve ever experienced. Living in Oklahoma all my life, I have been surrounded by cattle in pastures, quaint little cul-de-sacs, and overall peaceful yet stagnant small town settings. It has been a shock to find evidence of active volcanic activity, marine life, and monstrous dinosaurs in the same state. Just by driving for a few hours east or west, we have encountered vertebral organisms smaller than a dime and dinosaurs larger than a whale. However, I would never have experienced this without the educators who devoted their time and unlimited patience to deal with high school students. I have gained a respect for paleontologists, archaeologists, geologists, and incredible academics across the field. We made many mistakes, were loud and rambunctious, and sometimes ignorant, yet they never gave up us and never made us feel at fault. So out of these two weeks, the greatest thing is appreciation and respect for all those willing to spend their time and efforts to help others. Thank you so much!
Maggie Z..: Special thanks to all our mentors, educators, scientists, and sponsors for giving us such a hands-on experience on ExplorOlogy Paleo Expedition 2014! Thank you to Dr. Katrina Menard and Dr. Nick Czaplewski, Kyle Davies, and Jen Larsen for working with us at the SNOMNH and at Black Mesa, thanks to Dr. Ann Weil for being so kind to let us help her at Homestead Quarry, thanks to Dr. David Froehlich, for being so patient with us out in the field, thanks to Dr. Steve Westrop, Roger Burkhalter, and Dr. Lee Bement, K.C., and the team for letting us see your work and step into the past with you. We are so privileged to have enjoyed your time and to have learned about the daily life of a paleontologist and archaeologist. We admire your dedication and the work that you do, and have personal interests in science after these two unique weeks of immersion in your field and in the field (pardon the pun). 🙂 We are also glad to say that we have been preparing research presentations on what we found most interesting and are looking forward to sharing it with you all! Thanks to my fellow explorers for having one goal in mind: to have fun learning science. I hope this experience has had the impact you’ve been expecting (and even more so) and that you will continue to be explorers…appreciating and positively impacting the world around us. Thanks for all the sponsors. Sam Noble Museum, OSU, OU, OK Archaeological Survey, and The Whitten-Newman Foundation for being so gracious as to provide us with this opportunity.
Kyle A.: When I first signed up for the Paleo expedition I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I wouldn’t be able to say I was half prepared for what happened during my time at this camp. On day one I was unsure about everything kind of nervous and in a room full of people I had no knowledge about, but as the days progressed and we got closer to the last day of camp I was no longer in a room full of strangers but a room of fellow explorers and friends. Every amazing moment that happened during the course of this camp did not happen because we did it alone but rather because we did it together. It didn’t matter what the activity was we found a fun way to do it. I would like to give final thanks to Dr. Nick and Dr. Katrina for helping us out throughout the trip. This camp was an unforgettable experience and without the help of all the scientist, foundations, mentors, peer mentors, and other camper it just would not have been the same. This is one camp that we wish would go on forever.
Katerina O.: Tomorrow is the last day, I am going to miss everyone from the expedition. It has been a lot of fun and I have learned a lot. Today we did a tour of OU in the morning and worked on our presentations all afternoon. We final finished our presentation after a lot of work. Tomorrow we will have to present. I am so glad that I was able to participate in Paleo Expedition this year.
Amanda H.: It’s crazy that the camp is already going to be over tomorrow. It’s sad that we probably won’t see each other again after we’ve been together for 2 weeks. I’m going to miss all of the friends I’ve made here. It’s neat that everyone we have met is really cool. I can’t wait to see my family again!
We had an incredible Paleo Expedition 2014! Our team was strong and worked together to accomplish our goals. The scientist mentors did a fantastic job helping us understand what real field science is all about. We’ll miss all of our new friends and we know everyone will stay in touch on our ExplorOlogy® Facebook page. We also look forward to seeing everyone at our reunions and at the ExplorOlogy® In Motion visits we’ll make to their schools this next year.
Thank you to our scientists Roger Burkhalter, Nick Czaplewski, Kyle Davies, Jen Larsen, Katrina Menard, Anne Weil and Steve Westrop, our awesome student participants, our peer mentors, the Sam Noble Museum and our supportive families. Without you, Paleo Expedition would not be possible. Have a wonderful summer!