The DinoLab in Science City
Volunteers in the Dino Lab need to observe all safety precautions when in the lab. These include wearing long-pants, closed-toe shoes, laboratory coats, dust masks, safety glasses and latex gloves when appropriate. Volunteers may only use tools, equipment, and chemicals they have been trained to use.
Duties will include cautious cleaning, stabilizing, reconstructing, and replicating fossil bones as assigned. Training begins with hand tools such as dental picks, scalpels, and pin-vices for the removal of loose or soft rock from fossil bone surfaces. As volunteers skill-up, they will be trained to use adhesives to stabilize fossils, and pneumatic engraving tools, electric grinders, and air abrasion equipment to further clean the fossils. Advanced volunteers may use epoxy resin for crack-filling and reconstruction, and may be asked to aid in making compound molds of silicone and thixotropic plastic, and pouring resin casts.
The paleontologist is available to supervise volunteers Wednesday through Sunday during Science City's hours of operation. Volunteers are welcome to come in for training, or to work any time the paleontologist is available.
Matt has been working with dinosaurs since 1998, but has been fascinated with them for as long as he can remember. He officially began as a volunteer fossil preparator in the basement of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum majoring in biology focusing on vertebrate paleontology. Since then, he has worked on dinosaur excavations in Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. He has excavated dinosaur fossils representing various taxa including Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, Dryosaurus, Torvosaurus, and, Falcarius. Matt finished graduate study as a student of vertebrate paleontology at KU in 2004 and immediately helped create the largest fossil preparation laboratory exhibit in the world, the DinoLab at Science City in Union Station, where he is the resident paleontologist and earth science education manager.
Did you know Missouri and Kansas are home to four of the most respected paleontologists in history?
"This is a great area for dinosaur hunters," says Dr. Larry Martin, professor of paleontology at the University of Kansas. "Four of the greatest ones are from here."
Those paleontologists are:
Barnum B. Brown – He is perhaps the most famous paleontologist from Kansas. This Carbondale, Kansas native discovered the first Tyrannosaurus rex fossils. He also named many dinosaurs including: Anchiceratops, Ankylosaurus, and Saurolophus. Brown attended the University of Kansas. He later became the Curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Brown died in 1963.
Elmer Riggs – In 1900, this Lawrence, Kansas native discovered the first Brachiosaurus bones. Riggs, who worked at the Field Museum in Chicago, found the bones in the Grand River Valley of western Colorado. In 1903, Riggs named his discovery Brachiosaurus, which means arm lizard. Riggs attended the University of Kansas. He died in 1963 and is buried in the Oak Hill in Lawrence.
Edwin "Ned" Harris Colbert – This Maryville, Missouri native and vertebrate paleontologist was the curator of the American Museum of National History in New York City. In 1947, he and a team from the museum discovered a bonebed in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico that contained scores of fossils belonging to Coelophysis, a little-known dinosaur. Colbert also named two dinosaurs: Staurikosaurus and Scutellosaurus. During his career, Colbert wrote many papers and books on paleontology, including "The Great Dinosaur Hunters and Their Discoveries." The dinosaur Nedcolbertia was named in his honor. Colbert died in 2001.
Samuel W. Williston – This Manhattan, Kansas native was not only a vertebrate paleontologist, but also a medical doctor, author, entomologist, professor, and founder of the paleontology program at the University of Kansas. His students included paleontologist Barnum Brown and Elmer Riggs. Williston was also an assistant at the Yale Peabody Museum to Othniel Charles Marsh, one of the 19th century's greatest vertebrate paleontologists. Williston searched for dinosaur fossils in Wyoming and Colorado. He died in 1918.
The Dino Lab inside Science City features a real paleontologist working on real dinosaur fossils. The largest lab of its kind in America, Dino Lab is one of only a handful of fossil prep labs located within public view inside a museum. The 1,700 square-foot lab is also the first to show the entire scientific process of preparing dinosaur fossils for exhibition.
Dino Lab is the first major permanent exhibit built inside Science City since the science center opened in 1999. Visitors to the lab will be able to communicate with the paleontologist via a special phone. TV monitors outside the lab will show close-up views of the paleontologist at work as well as video from the Wyoming dig site where the fossils were recovered.
Outside the lab, visitors can sign their name on field jackets (casts that hold fossils waiting to be prepared), use microscopes to view fossils and dino dirt, and try their hand at building their own dinosaur or other prehistoric creature. An interactive exhibit surrounding the lab will provide additional information for visitors.
Dino Lab was created in partnership with the University of Kansas and its Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center. It was funded with $500,000 in remaining Bistate I sales tax money and private donations. The total cost of the project was $1 million.
The completion of Dino Lab marks the first phase of the project. The second phase is the display inside Science City of a full size Camarasaurus, nicknamed Lyle. Lyle was recovered by KU paleontology students and volunteers in 1997 in Sundance, Wy. When Lyle roamed North America about 140 million years ago, he was about 65-feet long, 14-feet high at the hips and weighed more than 60,000 pounds.