Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hidden Treasures Discovered

Last week a volunteer and I removed panneling concealing shelves of field jackets from the 70's and 80's. I've heard stories from individuals who excavated specimens at that time, that there was a fish fossilized in another fish. This stirred our imaginations and one of the first things we did was look for that field jacket. There are some jackets we haven't gotten to yet but we have discovered a fairly complete shark vertebral column and a fish with its tail still intact. Who knows what else we will find.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Times Square Hits Town of Morden!

Well, all I can say is wow! The Town Council have really excelled themselves with the new sign project on highway 3 at junction 3rd Street in the town of Morden. It really is the most impressive electronic signage I have seen in a small town.

CFDC is so lucky to have a series of ads already on the sign.

To all you Morden locals, please check it out and tell us what you think.

To everyone else in the world, please be patient while we get some pics to post on our blog.



Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Soft Tissue Discovered!

Recently I received an article in an email from a colleague about soft tissue from a dinosaur. I know, can you believe it? I couldn't.

Earlier in 2006 a Tyrannosaurus rex femur (thigh bone) was recovered from Montana. The 70 million year old fossil was found to have soft tissue within it. Somehow the soft tissue had resisted fossilization. It is said the tissue includes blood vessels, bone cells and possibly blood cells. As to whether or not DNA can be extracted is yet to be determined. The likely hood of DNA surviving is extremely rare.

The article is from the California Academy of Sciences, Science Now and I would encourage you to have a look. Images of the soft tissue are available at the site.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


This morning I was working hard in the lab on Betsy's final field jacket removing matrix and separating stomach contents surrounding the pliosaur. So far the remains from the stomach contents have been microscopic to say the least, milimetres in size. So you can imagine my surprise when a larger fish vertebra was recovered amongst the smaller items. The vertebra (backbone) is approximately 1.2 cm in diameter. That's 7-8 times larger.

That was not the end of my excitement for the morning. Soon after about 15 cm away I found a second fish vertebra of approximately the same size. They are currently being cleaned and I will present the images in a future blog with other remains recovered from the stomach contents.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Only 1 Field Jacket Left

Following up on "Betsy" (a short-necked plesiosaur discovered in 2004) we are now down to the final field jacket. Yesterday with the assistance of volunteers we were able to cut the remaining jacket down to a workable level and lifted it onto a work bench. This is the largest jacket from this specimen, approximately 1 metre by 1.5 metres, weighing almost 400 pounds. Most of the skeletal remains including, hips, shoulders and numerous vertebrae are within this jacket.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lab Update....Skull Revealed

Since Betsy's skull was brought into the lab a couple of weeks ago, I have been working hard with a volunteer to prepare it for display in 2007. Approximately 15 hours have been contributed thus far and almost all of the remains have been exposed in the field jacket. It is fractured in many places but overall the preservation is very good for this area.

I have noticed some interesting things while extracting the skull; stomach contents have been found within the skull region including many fish teeth possibly from Enchodus approximately 1cm in length. The interior of the skull also appears to be flipped and is in the opposite orientation of how it should be. Once I have a closer look I will hopefully have more answers about the specimen and possibly some clues as to where the rostrum (front of the skull) is located at the site.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Manitoba Paleontology Symposium

Save the date; SEPTEMBER 27-29, 2007
The CFDC is creating a Manitoba Paleontology Symposium (MPS) to be held at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre! The MPS will allow for Manitoban paleontologists to network and be informed on the current research emanating from the province. This is also an opportunity for other paleontologists originally from Manitoba studying elsewhere to show the province what they have contributed to paleontology. Other paleontologists conducting research relating to the paleontology of Manitoba are also encouraged to attend and present.
The MPS will consist of platform and poster presentations and a Paleo Expo highlighting paleontology resources. There will also be a welcome reception, banquet and field trip to the Manitoba Escarpment. Currently platform and poster presentations are being accepted. More information is available on the CFDC website

Student Assistance

Through the assistance of the University of Winnipeg, Chris West, a future paleontology student was recently hired to assist with the Betsy Stomach Contents analysis. He will be dissociating the fossil remains from the matrix, sorting them and cataloging them in a lab at the university.

It is encouraging to find students in Manitoba pursuing a career in paleontology. There are many paleontology resources our province has to offer that are under utilized. In that respect the CFDC will be hosting a paleontology symposium targeting the promotion of paleontology (both invertebrate and vertebrate) within Manitoba.

I hope Chris will enjoy his time with the CFDC and hope it will lead to future contacts and networking. Welcome aboard.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Field Season Completed

The field season has officially come to an end for the CFDC. Many new specimens were brought in this year, consisting of fragments and solitary bones to partially completed skeletons. One of the last specimens removed from the field was M-06-02-03 (shown above) a partially articulated and complete mosasaur approximately 5 metres in lenght. It will be prepared and identified over the winter months.

A more detailed description of the specimens collected this year will be provided on the CFDC website under Field Research.

I'd just like to thank all of the field volunteers who helped to make this past field season a successful one. Hope to see everyone back again next year.

Collection Room Tidy Up

The Collection Room will undergo a tidy up in November and December in preparation for the upcoming Manitoba Paleontology Symposium in 2007. Some of the larger shelving units used to house field jackets will be taken down and moved to the opposite side of the room creating space for work stations and researchers to examine specimens. This new space will also allow for a new saftey storage area and support casting station. We hope the space will be more efficient and have an open feel to it.

New Bird Fossil

The saying "finds happen either at the beginning or the end of the field season" is absolutely true. On one of the last field days, a school was out with us and discovered the remains of a marine bird. Currently the fossil remains consist of 4 vertebrae (backbones) and possibly a rib. Although the remains seem small (2.5cm in length), this is a large size for birds. This specimen is from the genus Hesperornis as shown above and was anywhere from 1-1.5m in length. Pretty big for a bird. Unfortunately due to the lateness of the season the specimen will have to wait to be excavated at the beginning of next field season.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference

What a succes. I spent the last week in Ottawa for a paleontology conference to present my poster on the stomach contents from Betsy. The conference also included a memorial symposium for Dr. Elisabeth (Betsy) Nicholls entitled Global Perspective on Marine Reptiles and Their Evolution . Good stuff! There were also valuable sessions on preparation of fossil material including paraffin wax.

Promotion of the CFDC was evident and greatly received by colleagues. Emphasis was placed on the upcoming MPS in Morden of 2007.

The Canadian Museum of Nature was fantastic. The new gallery space was stunning and even had that new paint smell. Well done to those who put in all that hard work.

Networking was very productive. There may be a few excavation projects with other institutions in the upcoming field seasons. I'll keep you posted once I have more particulars.

I'd like to thank the CFDC, Town of Morden, the Canadian Museums Association and the Department of Canadian Heritage for funding assistance to attend this conference.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why no blog?

Wow, I just looked at the last posting and couldn't believe its been a month already. I must apologize and will keep up with the postings once a week. That being said, October has been an extremely busy month. I will post about 5 blogs over the next few days to bring everyone up to speed on what's been happening.

My apologies again but there will be some exciting stuff you have to check out, both from the CFDC and interesting news in the paleo world.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Winding Down

The field season for the CFDC is coming to an end soon. I hope the weather stays nice until the end of October.

I am currently finishing up a few things with my volunteer fossil crew. Some last projects include bringing in 4 remaining field jackets of a mosasaur and the back of Betsy's skull, shown on the left.

Betsy Skull

I will be composing a piece for the Morden Times, our local newspaper describing the fossil finds found by the CFDC, visitors and researchers in November.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Road to Success

Recently the CFDC purchased 109 acres along the Manitoba Escarpment southwest from the Town of Miami. The potential for fossil preservation is fantastic, with majority of the fossils in the CFDC collection being collected from that area. The only problem was road access. There wasn't any leading into the property.

Thanks to the Rural Municipality of Thompson we now have the beginnings of a road. This road will allow groups to travel to the dig site and view fossils being excavated.

I can not tell you how excited I was. On Thursday, I took our Executive Director for a ride to drive on it, and all I kept saying was "this is awesome". The scenery just takes your breath away.

So in the spirit of things, all I can say to the R.M. of Thompson is "this is awesome"!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Tooth

Today the CFDC fossil crew were out at Betsy's site (a plesiosaur discovery in 2004) continuing our search for the "nose". No luck with that, however we did stumble upon a nice tooth. Let's see if anyone out there has any guess as to what animal this tooth belongs to.

The search goes on.


Our summer season is winding down with our summer staff departing at the end of this week; their tasks consisted of running Day Camps, digitizing and organizing artifact collections, and conducting field work and public programs. I'd just like to say thank-you to all of them for all the hard work they've done over the past few months. We've had many many laughs and it sure would be nice to see your smiling faces next year.

I'd also like to say thanks to our administator who's done an absolute wonderful job. You'll be missed!

Thanks also to all who gave a helping hand during the course of the summer. With the assistance of its dedicated volunteers, the CFDC will continue to conduct field work until the end of October.

Corn and Apple Festival

Well, as you can see in the pic, the CFDC had it own booth at the Corn 'n Apple Festival in Morden. Although not much of our gift shop stock was sold, we were very successful in being an information centre directing the curious public to the museum for a visit. A new booth will be made next year with some great jazzy paleo stuff to draw people to it.

Our newly redesigned Bruce Gallery, with great new images and murals plus sound effects, was open for the occasion. Actually, a lot of children were really scared with the sounds and so we had to turn the volume down! What a great weekend! In fact, we had more than 500 visitors to our museum over the three day festival, this is about three times more than usual.

Great job all those Board Members, staff and volunteers concerned. Let's do it all again next year. That's all for now.

Dave Wilkinson

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bruce Banner

The banner to be displayed behind Bruce just arrived this afternoon and is being hung as we speak; the finishing touches to this exhibit area will be done over the next week. The space is looking fantastic. I hope those of you who come for the Corn & Apple Festival will take advantage of the time to visit us - it's worth the trip!!! Here's a sneak peek....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bruce is getting a facelift!

The CFDC is undergoing some major changes to its "Bruce" exhibit (for those who don't know, Bruce is the largest mosasaur in Canada). A life size mural, in addition to audio sounds of the deep, are being added to the exhibit to enhance the attraction; the CFDC will have an unveiling of its completed exhibit in a few months. For the time being, we will post progress on our website which will also feature a sound bite of the underwater experience. Hope to see you at the unveiling!

More on the New Mosasaur

This past week the fossil crew has been working hard on the new mosasaur that was discovered. We've continued working back and have discovered more vertebrae, a tooth and other fragments yet to be identified. The gridding has been completed on the specimen and field jacketing will start this weekend. Once in the lab and I've had the opportunity a closer look, I'll add this information and images to the CFDC website.

Monday, August 14, 2006

New Mosasaur

This past weekend the CFDC had a new mosasaur discovery. We'll be heading out to the site this week to continue excavating. All I can say at the moment is that it appears to be 50% complete, consisting primarily of vertebrae (backbones); the preservation is fair and looks a bit weathered. I hope to have some images uploaded to our website at the end of the week.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Geology Survey

Recently, the CFDC staff and volunteers, along with our geologist, conducted a preliminary elevation survey of the newly owned CFDC property southwest of the Town of Miami. The overall objective is to create an elevation baseline through the property and begin to tie in the digsites to the baseline. This will provide a more precise elevation reading and provide insight to the specific levels the fossils are being recovered from.

Core Samples

Last week our geologist and I visited the Manitoba Geological Survey to find information on the geolgy units of Southern Manitoba. Much to our surprise we discovered core samples were taken from the area. This gives us an insight to the stratigraphy of the area.

There is a new location where the geology is a bit confusing to us... we're not sure if it is pre or post glacial. The structural geology is also new and exciting for us. This is something we've never seen in the area before.

We Found the Skull! YES!!!!

In 2004, Joe Brown, one of the CFDC volunteers, discovered a short-necked plesiosaur. Since then, the fossil crew has excavated close to 60% of the specimen and this year is our third season of excavating. A large amount of overburden and overlying rock needed to be removed, leaving us with some doubt as to wether or not there were still some remains awaiting us.

I'm glad to say that YES we found what appears to be the base of the skull from our plesiosaur Betsy. I'm now heading out with the fossil crew to continue the search... all we need to find are the flippers. I'll keep you posted over the next couple of days.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Congratulations to one of our youngest volunteers here at the CFDC. TJ Matychuk has volunteered for over a year now, helping out with summer programs and displays. This past spring, he participated in the Morden Festival of the Arts, advanced to the Provincial level with his speech entitled "Canadian Fossil Dicovery Centre" and placed first in his age category. Way to go, TJ! Both the Director and I have heard his speech and agree that he did an excellent job.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Abstract Acceptance

Recently, I sumbitted an abstract to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology to present a poster on the research I've been conducting on the stomach contents from our Plesiosaur "Betsy". The results are in. It was accepted!! Now the pressure's on to have everything completed by September, and in order for the conference in October.

As promised in previous postings, I've attached images to show the fossil material that's being removed from the matrix, or gastric residue, left behind. Most of the images are at 60x magnification.

Fish Tooth Fish Tooth (10x) Fish Tooth

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The specimen which MacGregor Elementary School discovered last week was excavated by the Fossil Crew. The specimen is of a mosasaur and is comprised of a jaw fragment, 3 vertebrae, 3 ribs and other fragments yet to be identified. I'm glad to announce this class is our Paleo Star of the Week! WAY TO GO!

Jaw Fragment

Only 1 field jacket remains at the dig site and by the end of the week it will be brought in. I'm hoping to have the other remains prepped and ready for display by the end of next week. Make sure you come down for a visit to view the new findings.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

School Digs

Our popular "School Digs" program is off to a great start this season. Students participate in actual digs for the museum. They are supplied with a brush and a list of items that could possibly be found at the dig site.

Individuals often ask if we plant fossils for the students... the answer is no. Everything that is found is genuine. We know fossils have been found there in the past and there's always hope we'll find more.

The students act as museum staff for the day helping us locate new specimens to add to our collection. This past week has been awesome! On Monday, one class discovered parts of a plesiosaur and on Tuesday, a class found part of a mosasaur's lower jaw. We're heading out today with another class. I'll keep you posted if anything else turns up. Keep in mind both of these finds are from the same dig site.

We'll have to wait until the end of the week to find out which class is our Paleo Star of the Week. You can see the "Paleo Star of the Week" on our web page under programs and tours. Good luck to all!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thesis Work

It was a pleasure to have an under-graduate student from the University of Winnipeg visiting the CFDC. The student conducted research on the Pierre Shale Formation and the Niobrara Formation along the Manitoba Escarpment.

We spent the entire week out in the field viewing rock units, measuring, data collecting and sampling. The samples will be analyzed in the fall. I think its been a great experience for the CFDC, the University of Winnipeg and the student. I'd like to see the CFDC partner with more organizations in the future, especially when everyone can benefit.

I'd like to thank everyone who made our student feel welcome, especially those who helped with accommodations. Thank you!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Well its been quite some time since I've posted a blog. I must apologize but the field season is upon us and here at the CFDC we've been extremely busy visiting our new sites, welcoming our summer "Fossil Crew" and preparing for our School Dig Program.

I've just returned from a trip to Albuquerque where I attended a conference on Cretaceous Vertebrates from the Western Interior. It was awesome to say the least!!! I had the opportunity of meeting colleagues from the Western United States and participate in a lecture series on current research for the Western Interior.

Did I also mention I was lucky enough to head out to the San Juan Basin for a field trip viewing Cretaceous rock units? I've attached some images for you to see how beautiful New Mexico is. I must admit we are a little spoiled at the CFDC... we can drive directly to almost all of our dig sites and we don't have to carry any tools or supplies. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Manitoba Schools Science Symposium

Over the weekend it was my pleasure to attend the Manitoba Schools Science Symposium at the University of Winnipeg Duckworth Centre. I offered a Friday Activity entitled Fantastic Fossils. The students were great! They were very enthusiastic and asked many questions about my job and the CFDC. I think they especially liked the fossilization activity we did.

The CFDC also presented the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre Earth Science Award, consisting of a plaque and invitation to excavate with me at one of the dig sites. Winners were chosen from the Elementary, Junior and Intermediate Levels. Their projects were great. I look forward to seeing more earth science projects especially paleontological ones.

Monday, April 17, 2006

How wet is it?

This past week I checked out CFDC dig sites to get a perspective on how wet the sites really were. Almost all of our sites are ready to go with little or not water. The shale is soaking up the water nicely. However the CFDC property, being lower in a valley still had some snow cover. We were unable to trek all the way to the bottom. I tried to pass through a ridge of snow in my rubber boots (being wet and all) and almost lost one of them the snow was so deep. Have no fear though it was only a small patch of snow and should be gone by the end of the week.

It was great to be out in the field once again. It's going to be a great season for collecting. I'll be heading out next week to finalize our field plans. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Microscopic Teeth

I've begun preliminary work on Betsy's stomach contents, commencing with the teeth extracted from the matrix. These teeth are microscopic ranging in length from 1.0mm to 5.omm. Most are intact and very few are missing their tips. Although these teeth are tiny they would have been a fierce attribute for the fish they came from. The edges are flattened like a knife to achieve a blade like structure.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

New Highway Sign

Well, this is it! Our new highway sign which is situated on Highway 3 on the east side of Morden as you apporaoch town about 6 km away.

The sign is actually about 20 feet wide and combined with the Star Attraction signs it should really help visitors to find their way to us.

We are quite excited about this as it is our first ever highway sign, we hope that all our visitors and locals enjoy it.

Dave Wilkinson - Executive Director

Monday, April 03, 2006

Beast Feast

On March 31, 2006 the CFDC hosted its annual fundraiser
"Beast Feast" dinner and dance.

Cavemen and Cavewomen from all different clans dressed up in their finest furs and skins to feast and dance around a fire. The feast included mosasaur ribs and pterodactyl wings. Mmmhhh!

Supporters helped raise funds for the CFDC in the form of live auctions, silent auctions and prize draws.

Best costume caveman and cavewoman dawned crowns and wands for the evening.

Thank-you everyone who contributed including sponsors, volunteers and staff!

Hope to see you next year. See our website for more pictures and information.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We're on T.V.

The CFDC had a very exciting day. We were on City T.V. Breakfast Television. The day was very exciting with the camera on us.

We spent time with Bruce and Betsy and even let the host excavate with me on a field jacket. He only got a small brush and no pick. Baby steps first.

Hopefully there'll be more CFDC on the television in the future.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stomach Contents

This week I'll be spending most of my time at the University of Winnipeg, in the Province of Manitoba. You might be thinking what does stomach contents have to do with the university and the museum. Wonderful staff and a student are assisting me in breaking down stomach contents from a plesiosaur the CFDC found in 2004. A very rare find.

That's right we're literally dissecting out fish bones and teeth from a hard matrix (rock) and viewing our finds under a microscope. The process is a little more tedious and complicated but we love doing it.

I'm hoping to have enough preliminary research to present a poster at the upcoming Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) Symposium in Ottawa. I'll keep you posted. Keep your fingers crossed, everything goes well.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Spring fever is here at the CFDC. All the staff and volunteers are excited, especially myself, with the prospect of heading back out to the field to recover new fossils.

Over the next week staff and volunteers will be working hard doing a spring cleaning at the museum. Yes that means Bruce and Plesi are both being dusted and readied for the summer tourists. They should be nice and clean for all the visitors they will soon meet.


Additional office space is being arranged for summer staff and volunteers with their very own computer. This will make for exciting times at the CFDC.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Celebrating 35 Years

March 1st, 2006

The CFDC has been opperating for 35 years. It began as the "Morden & District Museum" and just recently in 2004 the name was changed to Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre.

We now have the largest collection in Canada of Marine Reptile Fossils from the Cretaceous Period ranging from Mosasaurs to Giant Squid. To see more please visit our website at .

Throughout the year there will be events and discoveries which we will try to mention in this blog on a regular basis. Questions or comments are invited.