Darren Tanke, a technician at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, is probably one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to the history of paleontology in Alberta. I've known Darren for a number of years (and have co-authored several papers with him, including this one), and his enthusiasm for paleo lore is quite infectious. Stick around him for an hour or two, and you'll learn about the clues contained within quarry trash. . .discarded newspapers, plaster bits, sardine tins, and bottles are invaluable for identifying the original excavators of otherwise anonymous quarries. Many early paleontologists only kept the most minimal documentation, but thanks to Darren and his colleagues we now know the exact stratigraphic position for many important specimens from Dinosaur Provincial Park. This unglamorous service, a meld of archaeology, history, and paleontology, has done wonders for clarifying our understanding of Cretaceous ecosystems.
In the old days, vehicle access to places like Dinosaur Provincial Park was pretty darned difficult. In fact, many of the first expeditions were by boat, floating down the Red Deer River. Life is much easier for fossil collectors now. . .but in honor of these early expeditions, Darren is going to collect by boat once again! The Tyrrell's master carpenter, Perry Schopff, is presently working to recreate one of the AMNH's original scows. And come next summer, Darren and his crew of paleontologists will float in the footsteps of legends such as Barnum Brown - exactly 100 years after the first floating expedition.
In the spirit of open science, Darren and friends have put together a blog and Facebook group (search for "Dinosaur Hunting by Boat in Alberta, Canada") with all of the latest photos and updates. Here's to open science, and a successful field season in 2010!