Pearl, the egg thief lizard

A North American Oviraptorosaur, the second substantial specimen of its kind, was discovered by Burpee Museum of Natural History paleontology crews on BLM-administered lands near Ekalaka, Montana last July. The Oviraptor bones came under excavation by Joshua Mathews in Carter County, Montana. Mathews is the Chief Fossil Preparator of the Augustana College Geology Department located in Rock Island, Illinois.

Paleontology crews were working an exposed section of the Hell Creek Formation near Ekalaka when they found claw and toe bones weathering out of a hillside belonging to this species. The dinosaur is the second substantial specimen of its kind to be found in North America. 

Oviraptor fossils have been found with impressions of well-developed feathers, as well as sitting on egg-filled nests similar to the artist’s conception. Oviraptors come in a variety of sizes and features; the overwhelming majority of specimens have been found in Asia. North American discoveries are rare. 

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Bringing Utah’s Amazing Paleontology Resources into the Classroom

One of the major highlights of my internship work with the BLM’s Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is the environmental outreach regularly done in elementary classrooms throughout Carbon and Emery Counties.  Every year, leading up to National Fossil Day, we have the opportunity to go into classrooms in Utah and link 4th grade science core curriculum regarding rock formation and fossils with an understanding of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the lands we administer.

Students are given the opportunity to see, taste, and touch metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary rocks. They study fossil molds and fossil casts; learn of dinosaur bones that can be found across public lands in Utah, and most importantly, they discovered that science is awesome!

We split each class into three smaller groups, fostering better interaction and scientific exploration as they use all five senses to identified local rock and fossil examples. They even uncover their own invertebrate fossils from BLM lands.

The students are exposed to the difference between “observation” and “inference” and why the two are so important to scientific thought. During the activity, we pretend to uncover two sets of dinosaur tracks (trace fossils). One by one the students report on their observations and what they think happened based on those observations. The 4th graders’ creativity leads to endless guesses and extreme excitement about what could have happened to the animals.

My hope is that with a few activities, these students will have learned to recognize different rock and fossil types in their area. But, more importantly, I hope they will have a heightened appreciation for science and the public lands around them.

Thanks to BLM Paleontologist Rebecca Hunt-Foster and the other employees who helped develop such fantastic learning materials. Last year, I visited eight classrooms, engaging with over 200 students in Carbon and Emery Counties!

For more information on National Fossil Day visit:

-Rebecca Conner, Outreach and Education Intern for the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry


It’s all in the Rocks!

Upper Snake Geologist Joe Larsen, Fire Ecologist, Ben Dyer, and Public Affairs Specialist, Sarah Wheeler, taught over 100 children about fossils and rocks. Larsen began his presentation with a short video discussing “Cast and Mold” fossils. Kids were then able to create their own fossil impressions using play-dough, plaster, tiny shells and rubber dinosaurs. Upper Snake Staff also utilized the geology and fossil junior explorer book and did a cutting and pasting activity with the children.

Larsen showed the children a wide variety of different rocks and minerals and explained how much we use them on a daily basis. “This is so cool,” one of the kids said. Hopefully they’ll enjoy their own fossils when they remove the play-dough later this week. 

-Sarah Wheeler