Research website of Dr Gilbert Price

Archives for May 10, 2015

Live from the dig- Day 3

Our final day in the field kicked off with the same great weather that had made the past couple of days so wonderful. It’s just such a good time for field work. We only had a short day in front of us as we had to get back to Brisbane by the late afternoon, so we all got up and made our way down to the fossil site bright and early.

Marsupial tapir

Lower jaw of the marsupial tapir, Palorchestes parvus, found by Kyle on Day 2

Our first task of the day was to plaster jacket some of the larger specimens that the team had partially excavated on Day 2. The fossils included a wonderful atlas vertebra of the large wombat-like Euryzygoma, and a femur and enormous tibia of a giant long-faced kangaroo, Macropus. We’re not sure on the exact species yet, but it is one of the Pliocene guys that are closely related to the modern kangaroos of today, such as the greys, reds and wallaroos.

For the task of making the plaster jackets, we were joined by a small team of students from the Steiner School. They were super enthusiastic, and under the supervision of Joanne and myself, they did a wonderful job in jacketing the specimens. The first step was to apply soggy newspaper to the bones. This acts as a barrier between the plaster and fossils, plus also protects the bones during transport. Joanne mixed up the plaster, while Tara cut up a bunch of hessian strips. The students then soaked the hessian in the plaster and applied them to the specimens, much in the same way that a doctor might plaster a broken leg. It’s a messy job, but one of the fun parts of fieldwork!

Plastering fossils

The crew plastering a fossil femur of a giant kangaroo

While we were working on the plastering, Mel and Julien ducked off to collect a fossil that Mel had spotted yesterday- an enormous humerus of Euryzygoma. The specimen is a cracker, measuring around 70 cm in length. It was a bit of a rush job as we didn’t have the time to perform a more controlled excavation. The specimen came out well, and will eventually end up at the Queensland Museum for preparation.

We made our way back to Brisbane, arriving around 4 pm. All in all, it was a wonderful reconnaissance trip to a really significant Pliocene-aged fossil site. We got everything done that we needed, but do wish that we could spend more time out there. Our prospect for conducting future research in the area is dependent on funding. We’re desperately trying to secure research grants to continue the work. It’s a difficult climate at the moment for science and research funding, but we’re hopeful that our efforts and work achieved to-date on a shoestring budget will demonstrate to the powers-that-be that this research is particularly important and deserving of further support.

This trip would not have been possible without the generous assistance of Cec and Doris Wilkinson, the Chinchilla Gun Club, Samford Valley Steiner School, Joanne Wilkinson of the Queensland Museum, and Julien Louys of the Australian National University. Their support has been absolutely brilliant. If you followed us on the Twitter hashtag #LiveFromTheDig, we hope that you enjoyed the adventure!