summer 2004



GEOL 210

Field Methods in Vertebrate Paleontology

4 semester hours

An introduction to the techniques and methods of data collection in vertebrate paleontology. Topics covered include introductions to biostratigraphy, taphonomy, excavation technique, and specimen preservation. Laboratory will include practical experience in excavation of fossil vertebrates. Meets the General Education Laboratory Science requirement and may apply toward a biology major by petition. 3 Lec 3 Lab. Travel fee. (Summer)

2004-05, Southwestern Adventist University Bulletin

Note: Course no longer offered. Replaced by GEOL 240 -The Dinosaurs with overlapping content in 2005


  • Arthur Chadwick, Ph.D, (geology, sedimentology, taphonomy)
  • Lawrence Turner, Ph.D., (astrophysics, mathematics)
  • Lee Spencer, Ph.D. (vertebrate paleontology, paleobiology, geology)


        The Complete Dinosaur, ed. James O. Farlow and M. Brett-Surman. Indiana U. Press, Bloomington. 1997. ISBN 0-253-21313-4

The textbook is required. You need to obtain a copy before coming to the site. A most convenient (and possibly the least expensive) way to obtain your copy is to order it on-line from a company such as  (opens in a new browser window).

Field Notebook:

The Field Notebook is required of all students and can be obtained on-site from the Director of the Dinosaur Project. The cost is $5.00.

The  Field Notebook  will be used to record written information concerning the work. After the summer's work all Field Note Books will be collected by the Director, photocopied, and the book returned to its owner at a later date.

General Description:

The summer course is planned to acquaint you first hand with the field methods and principles of vertebrate paleontology. It is also designed to enable you to pursue interests in the discovery of things new to science in paleontology. You may earn 4 semester hours of science lab credit in a course designed for non-science majors. Through lectures in the classroom and in the experience in the field, you will become acquainted with the following areas:

  1. philosophical approaches to the study of nature;
  2. the methods of science;
  3. our home in the universe;
  4. the geologic column;
  5. dinosaur anatomy and their place in the fossil record;
  6. the general nature and science of taphonomy;
  7. technologies of data acquisition and analysis;
  8. the approaches and processes employed in the excavation of vertebrate remains;
  9. the techniques for identifying the fossils; and
  10. the procedures for preserving the remains after excavation.

Evening lectures will cover the basics of geology, the fundamentals of vertebrate anatomy, and philosophical and scientific issues concerning origins. The scope of the presentations will range from the origin of the universe to the process of fossilization. We will be giving consideration to the nature of scientific data and the significance of the research being carried out on the site. The faculty will also present talks on other related research projects they are involved in. You will have a new appreciation for the issues surrounding the history of the earth revealed through the eyes of geology.

Field work will give you experience in the excavation and preservation of the fossil remains as well as practice in careful data recording. You will be part of an on-going basic science research project.


Grades are determined from three broad areas:

Field Notebook

  • quality of material recorded
  • timeliness of records
  • counts 20% toward final grade


  • quality of the work performed
  • quantity of the lab experience
  • attitude in adhering to research experience
  • cooperation toward camp life
  • contribution to the total experience
  • lecture participation
  • counts 50% toward final grade

Final Exam

  • based upon the material covered in the assigned reading and the lectures
  • include lessons learned in the experiential field work
  • essay format
  • counts 30% toward final grade

The grade (and the undergraduate credit) is based upon the full four-weeks research project experience. Occasionally, a student may, because of unavoidable circumstances, be unable to participate the full time. It is possible, with prior agreement, to fulfill some of the field experience by working in the bone preparation laboratory on the SWAU campus during subsequent months. Arrangements also need to be made for any missing lectures or course material. The grade received at the end of the summer session would be an Incomplete. This would be changed to the final grade earned when all the requirements of the course have been met.

Final grades are then computed from the weighted average of percentages earned according to:


90% 100%



80%  90%



70%  80%



60%  70%



  0%  60%



Class Schedule


In addition to scheduled activities will be occasional classroom exercises in preparing and labeling specimens, etc. Chapter reading assignments are in the textbook, The Complete Dinosaur. All times approximate and are Texas time, CDT.


date time activity reading Instructor


Jun 4, Fri Tour of facilities Staff


Jun 6 Sun Crazy Horse Volksmarch


Jun 7, Mon Field Techniques and Preparation Staff

Eye training Introduction to quarrying techniques

Tool check-out and opening quarries

Lab:Quarry Experience

Guidelines for the Project Introduction to the History and Nature of Science Ch 6 Chadwick

Jun 8, Tue Lab:Quarry Experience

The Geological Column Chadwick

Jun 9, Wed Lab:Quarry Experience

God and Science Turner

Jun 10, Thu Introduction to Dinosaurs Chs 1-5 Turner

Jun 11, Fri Lab:Quarry Experience

Travel to Newcastle for laundry and groceries

Jun 13, Sun Lab:Quarry Experience

Jun 14, Mon Lab:Quarry Experience

Osteology and Anatomy: What is a vertebrate? Chs 7,8 Spencer

Jun 15, Tue Lab:Quarry Experience

Archosaurs Chs 15,16 Chadwick

Jun 16, Wed Lab:Quarry Experience

The Saurischian Dinosaurs Chs 17-20 Spencer

Jun 17, Thu Lab:Quarry Experience

The Ornithischians Chs 21-24 Chadwick

Jun 18, Fri Lab:Quarry Experience

Travel to Newcastle for laundry and groceries

Jun 20, Sun Lab:Quarry Experience

GPS and GIS in Dinosaur Research Ch 10 Turner

Jun 21, Mon Lab:Quarry Experience

Evolution and Complexity Chadwick

Jun 22, Tue Lab:Quarry Experience

Rocks and Sediments Spencer

Jun 23, Wed Lab:Quarry Experience

Paleocurrents and the Fossil Record Chadwick

Jun 24, Thu Lab:Quarry Experience

The Planet Earth in the Universe Turner

Jun 25, Fri Lab:Quarry Experience

Travel to Newcastle for laundry and groceries

Jun 26, Sun Lab:Quarry Experience

Where did all the Dinosaurs go? Ch 42 Turner

Jun 27, Mon Lab:Quarry Experience

Study Time

Jun 28, Tue Lab:Quarry Experience

Study Time

Jun 29, Wed Lab:Quarry Experience-close down quarries

Lab: Study Time

Final Exam

Jun 30, Thu Close down and clean up camp

Leave for Keene!


latest revision: 26 May 06