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Tyrrell Museum investigates rare marine reptile at Syncrude site

    Cooperation between Syncrude and the Royal Tyrrell Museum has produced another spectacular fossil. On November 14 Maggy Horvath, a heavy equipment operator for Syncrude, uncovered the remains of a long-necked plesiosaur.
    “I think it’s great that I’m part of this,” said Horvath. “It felt pretty good to call my son and let him know that I found a prehistoric fossil.”
    Long-necked plesiosaurs, more accurately known as elasmosaurs, were a group of marine reptiles that lived from the late Triassic period, roughly 210 million years ago, to the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, when they went extinct.
    The group is characterized by having  a large body, four flippers, a small tail, long neck, and small head. They would have eaten a wide variety of marine life, including fish and cephalopods. The long neck would have helped them ambush and quickly strike at prey.
    Horvath exposed a series of vertebrae and stopped digging  in the immediate area. Horvath then told Syncrude’s geologist, who notified the Tyrrell Museum.
    Last week the Tyrrell Museum dispatched a team of four to the site. Dr. Don Henderson, Curator of Dinosaurs, Jim McCabe, Preparation Lab Supervisor, and technicians Mark Mitchell and Joe Sanchez assessed the find.
    The team searched the site thoroughly for more material, but as of yet have not found anything more. Working with Syncrude employees, the team has been able to isolate the large rock, estimated to weigh in excess of 6 tonnes, containing the fossil.
    The latest find is the tenth to have been discovered on Syncrude leases. Other remains include an ichthyosaur, a dolphin-like marine reptile that oozed oil, and a short-necked plesiosaur skull. Both are on display at the Tyrrell Museum in the Alberta Unearthed exhibit.
    The last elasmosaur from the same area was recovered ten years ago and was given the name Wapuskanectes. The specimen was only represented by the shoulder girdle and part of a front flipper.
     “We are hoping that this is another specimen of the same kind of plesiosaur,” explained Dr. Don Brinkman, Director of Preservation and Research at the Tyrrell Museum. “The new specimen is particularly important because it looks to be nearly complete.”
    The new specimen is roughly 110 million years old, about 2 millions years younger than the previous specimen.
    “It may be something new, it may be the same thing, we’ll find out when we get prepared,” said Brinkman.
    Preparation of the specimen may take some time. Weather conditions have prevented the Tyrrell team from bringing the specimen to the museum until spring. When conditions become favourable, museum crews will be able to stabilise the massive fossil and safety transport it to Drumheller.


ATCO employees go Mo for the month

    Last Thursday was a day dozens of women in the valley were looking forward to.
    December 1 signals the end of Movember. It is the day that their men could head to the bathroom, lather up and rid themselves of the soup strainer on their upper lip. No longer did these poor girls have to feel like they were kissing a caterpillar, watch their man itch, or live in fear that he might actually like it and heaven forbid, maybe even keep it.
    While dozens have volunteered this season, one of the most successful pushes came from employees with ATCO Electric. While the campaign was centred in the Drumheller area, they had a total of 51 participants from Drumheller, Hanna and Three Hills.
     While the totals are still rolling in, it is expected they will be over the $6,000 mark in their efforts to raise funds for men’s health issues.
    Patrick Charron was the captain of the ATCO Electric Movember team. This was the first time they took on the fraternal campaign.
    The kicked off the campaign at the beginning of the month with a breakfast, and a clean shave, and commenced the growing of the moustaches.
    From the outset, he said participants did not need to raise funds, and could just join in by growing their best Tom Selleck.
    “Just being a part of the team raises awareness, so that was great,” said Charron.
    Many did jump in to support the cause and collected sponsorship from family and friends.
    Last week the crew got together for a fundraiser at Flavourz Restaurant in Drumheller on Saturday, November 26. They were able to collect more than 30 items from local sponsors and held a dinner and silent auction. ATCO Electric chipped in with an iPod Touch and then held a Loonie Drop, which in itself raised about $400.
    “All and all, we raised about $1,500 for our team (at the event),” said Charron.
    The team put together a trophy, which was up for grabs for the “mo-champion". The winner was chosen based on a criteria which included the state of the ‘stache, donations collected and participation. Dustin Andrew, who raised more than $1,200 alone, was presented the trophy on Thursday.
    Charron says he is grateful to ATCO Electric, which was supportive of the team and allowed him time to work on the campaign. ATCO also has an employee volunteer program called ‘Time to Give,’ and Charron’s volunteer efforts on another project allowed him to make a donation to Movember.

Hedo releases final album

    After 5 is the sixth, and maybe the final offering from local artist Fraser Ritchie, commonly known as Hedo.
    Hedo has lived a life of music, playing and writing in LA for many years. He made his way to the valley in 1999 and continued to make music and teach guitar to eager students.
    It looked as though his career would fall victim to a neuromuscular disorder, which was robbing him of the use of his hands. As his abilities were declining, he released a CD in 2004.
    Four years later, he figured out how to make music again. He was shipped a synthesizer and in 2008 released Axe Free. He hit a prolific point in his career releasing an album every year since.
    In early 2011 he released an album simply called 5. This week he is releasing his second work this year called After 5. It contains 18 tracks and is coming out a day shy of his 52nd birthday.
    This album has a few departures for Ritchie. He has included a couple cover tunes and is accompanied on one track by Chris Conley playing a Les Paul. The combination of live guitar playing and synthesized music was a pleasant surprise, and demonstrated he was on the right track. In listening to the track neither musician could tell which was which.
    This album also allowed Ritchie to strum some strings again. He found on a borrowed lap steel he could still play, and uses it in three tracks.
    It has been a tough year for Richie and his album is dedicated to his mother Margaret who passed away of cancer. It is also dedicated to Jasmine, his faithful dog who also passed away.
    These events have had an effect on Ritchie - he has announced this will be his last album.
    This is not an abandoning of his creative endeavors. Before he dedicated his life completely to music, he was a promising writer. He excelled and earned his English Degree at the University of Regina, and his professors saw great potential for his writing.  After three decades, he wants to explore this talent. While music will always remain an important part of his life, he has decided to go back to writing.
     He released his album on Tuesday, November 29. It is on sale at Riverside Value Drug Mart, and the proceeds of the sale go to the University of Calgary for neuromuscular research.


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