summer 2007



GEOL 240

The Dinosaurs

4 semester hours

A field course covering the taxonomic relationships, environment, and fossil record of the dinosaurs. Includes extensive training in field methods of vertebrate paleontology and participation in the dinosaur research project.
Prerequisite: GEOL 112 or permission of instructor.

2006-07, Southwestern Adventist University Bulletin

Click for preliminary Class Schedule


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


The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs:  Fastovsky and Weishampel. ISBN 0521811724

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 classroom aspects of dinosaurs as a group, and with 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. 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. the systematics of dinosaurs;
  4. dinosaur anatomy and their place in the fossil record;
  5. the general nature and science of taphonomy;
  6. technologies of data acquisition and analysis;
  7. the approaches and processes employed in the excavation of vertebrate remains;
  8. the techniques for identifying the fossils; and
  9. the procedures for preserving the remains after excavation.

Evening lectures will cover the fundamentals of vertebrate and dinosaur anatomy, the history and systematics of the dinosaurs, the nature of their fossil record, 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 and quantity of the field work
  • 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 for the full four weeks. 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%