One of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation?s most ambitious projects to date has been rewarded with a $163,650 grant from the Western Economic Diversification?s Softwood Lumber Industry Community Economic Adjustment Initiative (SICEAI).
The Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre (PRPRC) is the only institution of its kind in British Columbia. It is currently housed in the Tumbler Ridge Mini Mall. While the focus of the PRPRC will be to study the local fossil material, the centre is designed to deal with any fossils discovered in the Peace Region.
Palaeontologists Rich McRea and Lisa Buckley are hard at work preparing the PRPRC for the influx of the new equipment this grant promises to bring. They?re also getting ready for this summer?s dinosaur bone excavation, to extract more fossils from the same canyon they were at last year. ?It?s the calm before the storm,? laughs Buckley.
While much of last year?s fossil material is housed at the PRPRC, there isn?t much the two can do with it until the new equipment arrives. ?We?re currently processing some of the material with vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide baths,? says McRea. The chemicals, he says, break down the material between the rocks, hopefully exposing any small fossil material, from microfossils to bits of bone and teeth.
While the rocks slowly disintegrate (the first batch of rocks have been soaking for a month now, and still aren?t completely broken down), the two are focusing their energies on cleaning the equipment needed for this summers digs, coordinating volunteer positions, writing scientific papers, working on more grant proposals, and a hundred other things that need to be done before summer arrives. While the equipment should arrive soon–the two went to Edmonton for the weekend to cost out the equipment–the Research Centre probably won?t be ready to start with the fossil preparation until the fall.
?Our immediate concern is to access the rest of this year?s funding and get it to work,? says Museum Foundation President Carolyn Golightly.
The $163,650 grant, says Golightly, is just over half the projected overall budget for the PRPRC for the year. The figure includes the lease of a field vehicle and a year?s worth of consulting fees, as well as the necessary equipment to allow the centre to operate to its full potential. The Museum foundation is also laying the groundwork for keeping the PRPRC operational in the future. ?This is a place where we can store, identify, prepare, research and display fossil material from anywhere in the Peace Region,? says Golightly. ?In the long term, we have some options, like selling retail items like tee-shirts and dinosaur print casts to raise money.?
One of the main goals of the PRPRC is to increase tourism in Tumbler Ridge. Golightly says that over the last two years, tourism has increased 500%. ?That?s due in part to the public?s fascination with dinosaurs and fossils.? Another option, she says, will be to charge a fee to see researchers at work in the PRPRC.