Sunday, November 30, 2008

Just a reminder to all Calgary area paleos that we're meeting for all-you-can-eat sushi on Monday December 1st at Sushi BBQ on 16th Ave. Looking forward to seeing one and all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Favorite dinosaur movie.

Someone recently asked me what my favorite dinosaur movie was and I immediately answered "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms". They seemed disappointed and I later learned that they had no idea what I was talking about. That fact disappointed me because it's such a classic. Loosely based on a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story, the movie was released in 1953 with special effects by stop-action animation master Ray Harryhausen. Basically, a nuclear bomb test in the Arctic Circle awakens the Rhedosaurus, a quadrupedal partially-aquatic tail waver, who makes his (her?) way south to eventually rampage through New York City.

Don't ask me why buy my favorite part is when the beast attacks a lighthouse. Perhaps it's because it's done all in silhouette.The beast has a ball stomping cars and eating cops, but eventually must be killed. But I don't want to give the entire movie away, so I'll stop there. I highly recommend this movie because it's such fun. But I may be biased because I am a great fan of '50s "B" creature features and sci-fi movies. Try it! You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wild animals in the field bandwagon

So I've decided to jump on the bandwagon of posting some pics of wild animals I encountered while in the field. I thought you might find it interesting if I concentrated on the animals from my masters research at Little Fish Lake near Drumheller, Alberta. Little Fish Lake is a lacustrine site made up of an attritional assemblage that is punctuated by several episodes of mass mortalities. Well, more on that later as I am attempting to get it written up in 2-3 papers within the next year.

Anyway, while working on the beach my constant companions were the California Gulls who lived on the nearby island within the lake and kept me entertained. Once they figured out I wasn't going to feed them, they pretty much left me alone while keeping a sharp eye on me - in case I changed my mind. For several weeks, I had one (well, I think it was the same one) who would land about 4-5 feet from me and follow me around watching my every move. He'd cock his head at me and walk sideways whenever I walked towards him. If I got too close, he'd take off and hover over head while yelling at me. It was pretty funny.

My other constant companions were the midges (hope you can see them in the pic) and the sand flies. The midges weren't too bad because they don't bite, but they swarm around your head buzzing in a high pitched fashion that could drive one insane. The sand flies, on the other hand, made me want to destroy all insect-kind. I tried everything while out there - deet, lavender scents, Avon Skin-so-soft, bandanas, etc. - until I couldn't take it any more and ended up wearing a mosquito-net hat to keep the little buggers from chewing my ears and throat above my collar to bits. I will admit to a gleeful fit of vengence one day that included hairspray and a lighter...

Since it is a lake (even though while I was working there the water depth was a mere 1-6 inches at any time), there were tons of birds there. At one time or another I saw virtually every type of waterfowl that is native to the area migrating through as well as shorebirds, raptors, song birds, and the odd White Pelican. I've included a pic of a Piping Plover nest that Darren found one day while out prospecting. Since the Plover is endangered, Alberta Fish and Wildlife patrol the beach during the nesting period and cage off the nests. The cage is large enough to let the Plovers through, but small enough to keep out the main predators such as Coyotes, cats and Gulls. I had to be very careful to watch for the Plovers and had they been spotted, abandon my research until the hatchlings were gone, but I never did see them. Darren took this pic and I didn't even know where the nest was until much later in the summer.

Some of the things that surprised me most were the tracks and traces found on the beach of the local animal-life that I never actually saw. This pic is of porcupine tracks that I found on the beach one morning. Other than these tracks and some very chewed branches of the trees, I never saw a porcupine there. I also saw Coyote tracks virtually every day and heard them yipping back and forth at night, but never caught sight of one. I woke one morning (I was living in a holiday trailer in the nearly always empty campground) to find Moose tracks outside my camp and am not quite sure where the big guy went after he passed.

I was lucky enough to have a multitude of animals that were visible like the fox I glimpsed one day while walking down to my site, lots of Jackrabbits and Cottontails living near camp, and White-Tailed and Mule Deer walking through the campground in the early evenings. My absolute favorite was the Long-tailed Prairie Weasel who lived in my wood pile and would come out sniffing for the ever present mice who seemed to enjoy living in the walls of my trailer and in the engine compartment of my car. The Weasel was sleek and quick and always seemed to know when I didn't have a camera handy.

Working at Little Fish Lake was quite the experience. I was a bit concerned when I first got out there as a woman alone in the field, but soon realized that the worst of my worries was trying to figure out how the damn moths kept getting into the trailer and committing sepukku (apologies for the spelling) into my candles at night. Or maybe how I should handle the mouse that crawled into the walls of the trailer and promptly died. Phew! What a stench! But it's also a time alone that I treasure when I learned alot about the site of my masters work and about myself. : )

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November all ready?

The DRI dinner was last night and a lot of fun! It went very quickly for me which may have had something to do with the combination of Tylenol non-drowsy sinus medication (I can't seem to kick the SVP creeping crud) and two quick Smirnov Ice's. There was an excellent turn-out and everyone seemed to have a good time. Personally, I was happy that the skull cut-outs that I made were so well received. "Hunh?" you say. We decided this year to use paper cut-outs of dinosaur skulls to determine the length of tickets that you could buy for the raffle. So for $5 you got tickets that measured the length of an ornithomimid skull, for $10 it was a Centrosaurus skull and for $20 it was twice the length of an Albertosaurus skull. And now I realize that I didn't take any pictures of the skulls on display! Damn those yummy Smirnov Ices! Anyway, they were a hit and I was much relieved. I was also relieved that the Calgary Flames jersey that I donated (after winning it at a raffle earlier this year) went for quite a bit in the silent auction. Yay! The auction had all kinds of really cool goodies in it this year including an original painting by Michael Skrepnick (who also is fighting the SVP cold), a really beautiful Ammolite necklace, an autographed copy of Judy (Horan) Williams dinosaur book, and a guided tour of the Burgess Shale, among lots of other cool things.

The dinner itself was delicious and we were treated to short talks by Victoria Arbour and Derek Larson of the University of Alberta who updated everyone on the latest results of their research. After dessert, Dr. Phil Currie of the University of Alberta gave a longer talk on the latest dinosaur discoveries from Western Canada. We were also treated by the presence of Dr. Michael Ryan who was visiting from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

The night was a success and I'm all ready looking forward to next years gathering. : )