Royal Tyrrell Museum | DrumhellerMail
07152018Sun
Last updateFri, 13 Jul 2018 12pm
  • Banner year for local attractions

    The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s new exhibit featuring the nodosaur has been a prime attraction this year, boosting attendance numbers. submitted

    And what a summer it was for local attractions with some posting what might be the best season ever.

    The Royal Tyrrell Museum has seen a feverish pace this summer with visitors from across the country and around the world coming to check out its world class displays. Its new exhibit has certainly been a draw.

    “Why have we been successful this year? I think there have been a whole bunch of reasons,” said Andrew Neuman

    Executive Director of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. “I think there has been a really good media charge around our new exhibit and especially our nodosaur exhibit, we are getting people from all over the place coming to see it.”

    “Certainly from across the country and even the US, we are seeing people specifically identifying the nodosaur, and the exhibit. The coverage it has had both in the scientific medians and National Geographic, has caught a lot of people’s imagination.”

    To put a number on that, the Tyrrell saw 310,000 people come through the gate in the last quarter alone.

    Other conditions that contributed include the BC wildfires, which had people looking for other places to spend their vacations. Neuman said Canada’s 150th birthday appears to have spurred many to travel across the country, and

    Drumheller is often one of their stops. Another factor is the good hot sunny weather.

    “The weather has been a huge factor, we have had about three days of rain the whole summer. People come to the valley for lots of different reasons, but if the weather is good, we have larger numbers.”

    It was commonplace this season to see visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum lined up to enjoy the exhibits. mailphoto by Patrick Kolafa

    It was commonplace this season to see visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum lined up to enjoy the exhibits. mailphoto by Patrick Kolafa

    Neuman says since they have been tracking accurate attendance records, their best year was in 2015, with just under 480,000 people. Already they have almost reached 400,000 visitors with three months to go, and their pace is tracking 8 per cent higher than 2015.

    The Atlas Coal Mine is also having a banner year. Executive Director Sarah Newstead said they might also be on track for one of their best seasons ever, although atfirst it didn’t look that way.

    “We were a little slow in July and that seems to be a trend in a lot of other places in Drumheller, but our August was just awesome,” said Newstead. “We probably had our best day ever on our August Long Weekend and surprisingly, our Labour Day Weekend was also very good this year.”

    Newstead believes their success this year has to do with the valley telling its story.

    “I think the work of Travel Drumheller and Travel Alberta promoting the valley has just gotten more people knowing we are here and there are lots of great things in the valley,” she said. “We are seeing more multi-day trips. More than just one day to see the Tyrrell, but staying here for a couple of days and seeing not only us but the other amazing museums we have in town.”

    It was a year of milestones for the Atlas. It was the centennial of the Atlas Coal Mine Company, the 80th birthday of the tipple and 30 years of operations as a museum. On October 7, they are having a retro homecoming day to celebrate three decades as a historic site.

  • Dinosaur discovery named after Royal Tyrrell technician

    Fossil preparation technician Mark Mitchell receives high honour for the new naming of the nodosaur species that was discovered in 2011. Mitchell spent approximately 5 years and 7,000 hours preparing the specimen for the new Grounds for Discovery exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. submitted

    Already making international headlines, Mark Mitchell has been honoured for his many years of service in the fossil world.

    The new species of armoured dinosaur, named ‘Borealopelta markmitchellii’, was released to the public on August 3, three months after the grand unveiling of the Grounds for Discovery exhibit in May.

    The researchers of the world renowned museum had banded together and decided that Mitchell was a fitting candidate for the new fossil after his many years of preparing the specimen.

    “It was pretty great, I put my hands up in the air and cheered,” said Mitchell.

    Mitchell has also worked on other impressive discoveries including a shark from the Triassic period, several marine reptiles, nodosaur skulls from Dinosaur Provincial Park, and a large Eotriceratops.

    New fossil discoveries can be named for many different factors. It could be based on the location it was found in, the character of the find, researchers and their contribution, or the preparer and their contributions to name a few.

    “Having something named after somebody is a big honour,” Mitchell noted.

    The overall preparation of the animal took approximately five years and 7,000 hours.

    “It was a very challenging specimen to work on,” continued Mitchell. “The rock was very hard and the bone, for the most part, was pretty soft, pretty chalky so it was quite difficult – but in the end, it was all worth while.”

    Nodosaur is the family name of the armoured dinosaur. With two families of armoured dinosaurs; calisaurids and nodosaurids, the biggest differentiation between them is that the calisaurids have tail clubs.

    The specimen found that Mitchell worked on was in the nodosaurid family but with the new species name of ‘Borealopelta markmitchellii.’

    The fossil preparation technician originated from Saskatoon before pursuing post secondary education at the University of

    Alberta in the early 90’s. Afterwards, Mitchell landed a job at the Tyrrell in 1996.

    “It took me many years of applying to get in,” said Mitchell. “Luck and timing have a lot to do with it.”

    The experienced tech is now working on a Plesiosaur from a separate mine in Fort McMurray.

    When the Grounds for Discovery exhibit was released to the public in May, it created worldwide headlines. The extremely rare find was made at the Suncor Energy Millennium Mine north of Fort McMurray in March 2011, dubbed as the remains of the best-preserved armoured dinosaur in the world.

    “When this amazing dinosaur went on display at the museum this past May as part of the Grounds for Discovery exhibit, it received international attention from premier publications such as National Geographic, the New York Times, Sky News Australia, Forbes, the Guardian and CNN,” Alberta Minister of Tourism and Culture Richardo Miranda stated.

    Dinosaur fans can also now rejoice after new technology has now been released about the exhibit.

    “In addition, this project has been well documented in National Geographic with an interactive 3D model of the dinosaur, both how it looked and lived in its day, and how it came to be fossilized for millions of years before its discovery. That coverage continues with a new online interactive graphic that explains the dinosaur’s fossilization,” said Minister Miranda.

  • U of S Space Team discovers bones in Midland Provincial Park

    U of S Leg Bone found in Midland Provincial Park

    While on the hunt for new Canadian International Rover Challenge (CIRC) territory, the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team came across dinosaur bones in Midland National Park on June 1.

    Conservation officers from Alberta Parks and paleontologists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum were on site as well when the team came across the unique finds.

    “We initially noticed a rock that looked surprisingly like a large thigh bone protruding from the ground. It was encased in rock which was lighter than the surrounding stones,” described Danno Peters, University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team captain in an email interview.

    After the group discovered the bones and were confirmed by the paleontologists on site, they further examined the area to find more bones including a piece of a jaw.

    A few weeks later, they were given permission to use the remaining area of the site for the competition.

    So far the exact species is unknown as the bones have not been excavated from the ground but the dinosaur they found is a Hadrosaurid, a duck-billed dinosaur.

    The great space that Drumheller had to offer was an ideal location for the competition due to the minimal vegetation, arid climate, and challenging terrain. The loose iron rich rock and sand of the badlands also closely resembles terrain found on Mars, which the students took advantage of.

    “The amenities in Drumheller and international airports in Edmonton and Calgary made hosting international Mars Rover teams much easier than other, more isolated rover testing sites across North America,” said Peters.

    CIRC Group Photo UAV

    For the competition, the University of Saskatchewan Space Team won first place by a very narrow margin of 0.14 per cent over the Carleton Planetary Robotics Team.

    Teams were invited from across North America to attend and bring their own Mars Rover prototypes and since it was so successful, the USST plan to return for next year.

    “The competition was a great success and plans have already been started for the next Canadian International Rover Challenge in 2018!” said Peters.

    “As a part of the 2018 CIRC evaluation, new and larger sites around Drumheller are being evaluated in order to allow a greater number of rovers from across the world to participate. In addition, we are looking to find more challenging terrain to push the limits of the rovers and their designers.”

    If any landowners in the Drumheller area are interested in allowing rover testing on their property, please contact CIRC@usst.ca as the land could be part of next year’s challenge!