In the summer of 2000, Burpee personnel began conducting field work in the latest Cretaceous (65-67 million years ago), Hell Creek Formation of Carter County, Montana. This was the time that Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, duck-billed dinosaurs, raptors, and armored ankylosaurs roamed North America. During the late Cretaceous, Montana had a much warmer and wetter climate than it does today. Crocodiles, turtles, freshwater skates and dinosaurs of all kinds lived and died in a coastal floodplain. A vast inland sea, which once bisected North America, was slowly receding. Burpee Museum field crews have made many important discoveries including “Jane” a world famous juvenile T.rex, and “Homer” a sub-adult Triceratops, as well as an outstanding collection of microvertebrate fossils, and many other specimens.
In 2007 Burpee Museum staff began a collecting program in the lower Permian rocks near Lawton, Oklahoma. In this area, Permian (275 million year old) fissure and cave deposits contain abundant and well preserved remains of early terrestrial reptiles and amphibians. In a very short time, Burpee Museum personnel have collected thousands of bones of these intriguing little animals, many of which are currently the subject of scientific research.
In 2008 Burpee personnel began a collecting program in the Jurassic Period aged (150-147million years ago), Morrison formation. A new site was discovered which garnered national attention. The Hanksville-Burpee bone bed is a huge dinosaur “graveyard” which is almost ¼ of mile long and 300 feet wide. It represents an ancient river system which had many sandbars in it. As animals would die and wash onto the sandbars, they would eventually be buried. In the course of 6 weeks, Burpee field crews discovered skeletons from half a dozen different dinosaurs, including the giant long necked sauropods like Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Barosaurus. Other dinosaurs, including the meat eating Allosaurus and the plated Stegosaurus, were also found. The Hanksville-Burpee bonebed is expected to give scientists a better understanding of the late Jurassic Period, which was a period dominated by giant dinosaurs and a much warmer climate than today.
During the summer of 2009, excavation continued at Hanksville-Burpee, and the “Homer” and “Petey” sites in Montana.
During the summer of 2010, a new Triceratops site was found. It is currently being called the Double L Site, and is yielding great results.
In 2011, Burpee Museum started a collection endeavor in the Green River Formation in Kemmerer, Wyoming in collaboration with the National Park Service and Wyoming Bureau of Land Management. The Green River Formation is a lacustrine (or lake) deposit. It was deposited during the Eocene epoch, about 50 million years ago, when this part of Wyoming was a sub-tropical lake setting. Fossils you can find in the Green River Formation include dozens of fish species, insects, leaves (including palms), and even vertebrates like crocodiles, turtles and birds. This endeavor is oriented towards an upcoming exhibit which will show that fossil diversity and excellent preservation did not start and end with dinosaurs. There are millions of other fossils that can tell us about the history of the Earth and its ever changing environments. The Green River Formation fauna and flora help us tell that story!
Burpee continued its excavations in Utah in 2011. This provided thousands of pounds of bones from the Hanksville-Burpee quarry. A new juvenile Diplodocus, nicknamed "Jimmy" was discovered. This individual appears to be fairly complete having portions of its neck, shoulders, forelimbs, ribs, vertebrae, and tail preserved. In Montana, a new juvenile Triceratops site was found and christened “Garny”, after a longtime volunteer/staff member/friend of the museum. Excavation continued at the Double L Site as well. Montana also yielded a turtle site, where one complete and three mostly-complete turtles were found in the space of one week. This site also provided many microvertebrate remains and isolated dinosaur elements. At the end of field work, a possible Edmontosaurus site was found, but was left until next year for further exploration. 2011 proved to be one of our best collecting years ever!
Collections and Research Staff
Scott A. Williams
Director of Exhibits and Science
Scott began volunteering at Burpee Museum in 1988 at the age of 13. After working for several years as a police officer in Ogle County, Scott helped initiate the field programs in Montana. In 2003 Scott retired from Law Enforcement to begin working at Burpee. He completed his A.S. degree at Rock Valley College and is currently pursuing his B. S. degree in the department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at NIU. Scott has extensive field work experience in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, Morrison formation of Utah, Permian of Oklahoma, and local Ordovician rocks.
Fossil Prep Lab Staff
Katie graduated from NIU in May of 2011 and is currently pursuing graduate school opportunites. She has been working at Burpee since the fall of 2003. Her areas of study include micro-vertebrate research. She has a strong interest in hadrosaurs.
Fossil Prep Lab Volunteers
Jim has been a volunteer preparator for several years. Jim was part of the Jane and Homer prep team.
Burpee has a loyal volunteer staff that still has room to grow. If you are interested in preparing fossils and donating you time regularly, fill out a volunteer application form. Click here to learn more.
Arvid Aase - Fossil Butte National Monument
Matthew F. Bonnan, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, WIU; Zoology Associate, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Dr. Bonnan is a vertebrate paleobiologist, dinosaur expert, and functional morphologist. His research focuses on limb action in dinosaurs, as well as the broader evolutionary question of why dinosaurs became giants. Dr. Bonnan is particularly interested in the limb adaptations of sauropod dinosaurs, long-necked herbivores which attained sizes no other back-boned animal has ever approached on land. He currently teaches anatomy, embryology, and evolutionary biology courses, and oversees undergraduate and graduate research on vertebrate anatomy in the Department of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University.
James Kirkland - Utah Geological Survey
Joshua Mathews, MS. Chief Preparator of Paleontology and Research Assistant, Fryxell Geology Museum, Department of Geology, Augustana College.
Josh received his Bachelors of Science in biology and geology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and his Master’s of Science in geography at Northern Illinois University. As a graduate student at NIU, he began volunteering in the paleontology lab at Burpee which led to a position as a preparator. He was part of the team that discovered and excavated the Homer Site which he studied for his Master’s thesis. He is currently at Augustana College where he works on Antarctic dinosaurs however, he is still heavily involved with the summer field program and other research projects with the Burpee Museum.
Robert Reisz - University of Toronto, Mississauga