Kidsfest and the Millwood

Suzy's skull at Kidsfest.
Yesterday was the last day of Kidsfest in Winnipeg, our first major festival of the year. We spent five days there (I was at the booth on Thursday), and had a great time! Lots of kids had a blast with the fossil dig box, and we were right next to an awesome bug-catching exhibit from Oak Hammock Marsh. Factor in the presence of the excellent food at the Forks and it was time well spent for us at the CFDC.
The dig box. 

Now that Kidsfest is finished, we'll turn our attention back to field work, where a lot of cleanup remains to be done. For example, part of one of our sites is comprised of a ditch that grows into a small gorge. Due to all the rain we've experienced this spring, there's been a ton of water rushing down the ditch, causing it to become much wider and deeper than it was before. We used to have a ladder to facilitate transportation between the ditch and the upper part of the site, but the torrent swept it a ways downstream. I've since recovered it, but the ladder is no longer tall enough, nor is a sufficiently stable spot available, for it to continue to function in any helpful capacity. Now we're required to go around and cross further upstream to access the ditch, but it's still worth taking a trip down there every now and then. Once the stream dries up completely, we'll be able to explore the whole thing and maybe find some fossils that have been washed down to the bottom!
Which object doesn't belong?

On Wednesday, we also explored the Millwood shale for the first time since the rain started. Like the Upper Gammon, Millwood turns into a nasty, sludgy mess when it's wet, so it's been mostly inaccessible to us for the last several weeks. Dry Millwood, though, presents an interesting opportunity for fossil finding; Millwood shale doesn't have much sand in it relative to other local shales, making it clumpy and hard to dig in. Because of this, it's more efficient to search for fossils on the surface than to actively uncover them; we call this method 'prospecting'. Also, Millwood fossils are a dull black color, making them pretty distinctive compared to both the Millwood shale and fossils from the Pembina shale, which form the majority of our collection and sport a stone-grey coloration.

Millwood shale, next to a cattle pond (gross!)
During inclement weather (like what we've been having), the rate of surface erosion (and therefore fossil exposure) increases, making it likely that new fossils will be waiting for discovery at our Millwood sites. We spent a brief period of time prospecting at one site, where Joe, our curator and resident paleontologist, found several belemnites and what is likely a fragment of a mosasaur tooth (all I got were cow bones). Mosasaurs, which superficially resemble large crocodiles with flippers, are what our museum is most known for (Bruce and Suzy are both mosasaurs), while belemnites are tiny little cephalopods (like squid) that are fairly common.

Such have been our latest adventures! The weather's looking pretty nice for the next several days, so we should be spending most of our time in the field and have lots of new stuff to blog about at the end of the week.

Matt Remple
Field Tech