As the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF) and its Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC) look forward to another season of field work and dinosaur discoveries, it can reflect with appreciation on the remarkable contribution of amateur palaeontologists in 2004.
After all, it was the discovery of a dinosaur trackway near Tumbler Ridge by amateur palaeontologists (very young ones) that set in motion the chain of events that led to the formation of the TRMF, and the role of amateurs has been essential ever since.
In 2004 first John and Maureen Schulting of Prince George brought a possible discovery of dinosaur bones near Tumbler Ridge to the attention of PRPRC palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley. The Schultings had previously assisted in a dinosaur dig in Montana, and clearly knew what they were looking for. The site they had discovered was in a younger rock formation, from a different geological age, than the previously known Tumbler Ridge dinosaur material. Following up on this find, McCrea and Buckley were able to identify two further sites nearby, which yieldedthe first tyrannosaur and dromaeosaur teeth ever found in BC.
Next Pete Shaw, who has spent many years exploring the Chetwynd and Dawson Creek areas for dinosaur footprints, made a timely discovery of a large block of fragile rock that had collapsed beside a riverbank. Its surface was covered with dinosaur footprints, and he immediately reported it to the PRPRC. Shaw then helped McCrea and Buckley prepare a perfect latex replica of the trackways. Subsequent analysis has revealed unique features, which are currently under study for future description in the scientific literature. Soon the replica will be on display. Because of the fragility of the rock, time was of the essence. Indeed, a subsequent flood and exposure to the elements have already destroyed the rock surface. Mr. Shaw has donated other important fossil specimens from his private collection and has made his collection available for study by PRPRC palaeontologists.
Mr. Shaw continues to work with the palaeontologists at the PRPRC and is participating in an initiative to promote the fossil resources of the Peace Region.
Like many others, geologist Kevin Sharman has been gripped with dinosaur fever ever since the first announcements were made in 2000. Kevin patiently and meticulously searches for tracks and bones, and his earlier discoveries have been well publicized. In 2004 he used his geological skills to trace exposures of known dinosaur-bearing rock strata, using data provided by Professor Guy Plint of University of Western Ontario. The powers or predictive stratigraphy were dramatically demonstrated when Kevin found new trackways and footprint sites close to Tumbler Ridge. These will be documented in 2005.
The contribution of these amateur palaeontologists to the scientific knowledge of the region, and ultimately to its economic development through tourism, is immense, and is greatly appreciated by the TRMF and the PRPRC. McCrea and Buckley commented: ?The role of amateur palaeontologists and rock hounds has always been an important component of palaeontology ever since the beginning of this branch of science. There is little doubt that amateurs will continue to make significant contributions to palaeontology. The Schultings, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Sharman are examples of how good the relationship between amateurs and professionals can be. Since these people reported their finds to palaeontologists their discoveries will be prepared and cared for and will be available for viewing by visitors to the region, as well as its residents for years to come.?
As a result the region is richer, with properly housed fossils which will be available for all to enjoy, educating people about this area?s past, and promoting tourism. The amateur palaeontologists benefit by participating in and making significant contributions to a field of research that they may have dreamed about doing, but never pursued as a career. And they may even achieve a little bit of immortality knowing that a specimen they found will be part of the collection of a museum that will continue long after they are gone, and that they may even have something named after them if it is new to science.
Other rock hounds and fossil enthusiasts in the region who know of similar finds are encouraged to follow the inspiring examples set by Mr. Shaw, Mr. Sharman and the Schultings.