Youngsters learn about paleontology with Dino-Dig

Christie Mastric
The Mining Journal

Marquette — They weren’t fictional paleontologists coming upon a relic from the past and surrounded by various dangers, but digging for a dinosaur – even an artificial one – proved interesting for area youngsters.

Erik Johnson, a board member at MooseWood Nature Center, put on a Dino-Dig on a recent Saturday in a sandy area by the center and the Superior Watershed Partnership.

His creation – a combination of a velociraptor and a utahraptor – was the subject of the Dino-Dig, The Mining Journal of Marquette reported.

In a photo from Aug. 14, 2021, Erik Johnson, MooseWood Nature Center board member, shows Ava Stampley, 8, of Minneapolis a wooden bone, which replicated a dinosaur fossil, during the center's Dino-Dig in Marquette, Mich.

Presque Isle raptor is the name of the two raptors put together, he said.

Johnson mentioned the movie “Jurassic Park,” which he thought was cool when he saw it for the first time.

“Kids have the misconception that the velociraptor is this cool thing that can open doors,” Johnson said. “The velociraptor is the size of a turkey. It doesn’t open doors.”

The utahraptor, which was found in Utah, was about 8 feet tall. So, he used that as part of the model for the Presque Isle raptor.

The makeshift raptor was buried between the center and the SWP, with the goal of the event to have the youngsters dig it up and put it together on a stand, with MooseWood to be its eventual home.

The Dino-Dig also served as a small lesson about paleontologists, who study fossils of animals and plants.

“They can go through and identify what kind of species the animal is, what kind of plant may have been growing,” Johnson said.

He provided an example of this type of science.

“Do you ever see a dead animal on the road?” Johnson asked. “They die in the ground, and they’re covered up real quick, and then every time it rains you get sediment coming in, it covers it up.”

The process is similar with a dinosaur.

“It presses down on the dinosaur, and eventually over time, over a long period of time, this becomes bones, and then water leaches in and brings down minerals and replaces the bones,” he said.

Drawing the pretend dry creek bed was part of Saturday’s exercise too.

“We’re going to think that the dinosaur came down, went to get a drink and just died,” Johnson said, although the reason for the demise was unknown.

“Are you a good drawer?” Johnson asked Ava Stampley, 8, who was visiting from Minneapolis.

“Kind of,” the youngster answered.

However, the event wasn’t competitive, with the main purpose being to give kids a taste of paleontology – scaled down a bit.

“These bones are actually found in hard rock, so this could be a big massive rock they pull out someday,” Johnson said. “But for us, we’re digging up in pieces. Let’s see what we can find.”