Mesalands plans summer dinosaur classes

Kimberly Hanna

Mesalands Community College will offer three field classes in paleontology June 6-10, June 20-24 and July 25-29. Officially listed by the college as geology 120, paleontology field discovery (4 credit hours), the class provides a week-long experience of excavating fossils and processing them in the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.

Students will search for and learn to excavate dinosaur-age vertebrates in the Quay County area. Basic laboratory methods will be studied in the natural science laboratories at the museum. Students will also learn about the local rocks and age determination and will study the major groups of fossil vertebrates found in this area, including dinosaurs and dinosaur tracks.

This year, the field classes will take place in the Redonda Formation of the Late Triassic Age (200 million years old) in the vicinity of Tucumcari. This site has proven to be very successful for finding dinosaur bones. Three years ago, students and museum staff found a 200-million-year-old hip bone from a dinosaur similar to the Coelophysis (New Mexico’s state fossil and the best known early dinosaur).

“Very few people have the opportunity to excavate fossils. For many people, including myself, it’s amazing to find something after 200 million years. You simply have to experience it for yourself to understand,” Axel Hungerbuehler, museum curator, said. “We have already had some nice discoveries this year during another field class we had two week ago. There were so many bones found that we will have to collect the rest of them during the upcoming field classes.”

The cost of each field class is $650. A non-refundable deposit of $100 is required at the time of registration. This cost includes tuition and fees, the use of tools and field materials, transportation to and from the excavation site, sack lunches, water and soft drinks for all five days, an ice breaker party, a barbecue dinner, and a specially designed T-shirt as a memento of a unique experience. The fee does not include travel to Tucumcari, accommodations, breakfast, or dinner except for the barbecue dinner, and additional snacks or beverages students might wish to take along during the day. According to Hungerbuehler, there are scholarships still available for the field class. Please contact him at 575-461-4413, ext. 252 for more information.

The college will also be offering a dino digging class for children ages 7-13. The class will be held July 18-22. The cost of this class is $60. Another program for children this summer is the chance to “sleep with the dinosaurs” July 24, which will include many museum activities including a pizza dinner, movies and museum games. The cost of the class is $45 per person for non-members of Fossil Friends, or $35 for members of Fossil Friends.