National Park Foundation Grant Will Help Preserve Fossils at Dinosaur National Monument

A grant from the National Park Foundation will help Dinosaur National Monument develop a long-term monitoring and preservation program for its 150-million-year-old collection of fossils, such as these Camarasaurus remains. NPS photo.

A grant from the National Park Foundation will help officials at Dinosaur National Monument develop a monitoring and preservation plan for 150-million-year-old fossils in the monument's new exhibit hall.

"Preserving fossils in-place, as at Dinosaur, presents many challenges not experienced in a traditional museum setting," said Dinosaur Superintendent Mary Risser. "With the new Quarry Exhibit Hall opened, this is an opportune time to begin repairing existing cracks and damaged bones, documenting the current conditions, and establishing a system to monitor changes. This project will ensure the long-term preservation of the site for which the monument was established in 1915."

The 10,500-square-foot Quarry Exhibit Hall opened last October to the public. The hall, built over the site of the world-famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, provides close viewing of almost 1,500 dinosaur bones from the Jurassic Period, all exposed on the cliff face where they were deposited about 149-150 million years ago. The exhibit hall also features information and displays about the Jurassic environment and its inhabitants.

A previous facility in the same place was closed back in 2006 and demolished because of stability issues that brought into question its safety. Funds eventually were obtained via the American Recovery and Reinestment Act to build a new, stable hall. With that facility now in place, crews can begin addressing the long-term preservation of the fossilized remains.

"We finally have a building that’s stable. We can address some of these other long-term concerns," Dan Chure, the monument's paleontologist, said Monday. "It was hard to do before when the building was twisting and turning.”

Changes in the exposed cliff face are not new. Back in the 1960s cracks, which ran 10-20 feet across the wall and through fossils, were patched, he said. "And we can see where they’ve pulled apart. So there’s still continual growth in those cracks," said Mr. Chure.

Nearly $7,000 in Impact Grant funding from the National Park Foundation grant will enable the monument staff to work with personnel from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, who are considered experts in fossil preservation, to develop baseline conditions for the cliff face.

"We’ll be photographing all the bones on the cliff face and the crack system," Mr. Chure said.

At the same time, the effort will develop a monitoring system to track changes on a regular basis, he said. However, additional funding will have to be obtained to implement such a monitoring system.

"The Carnegie Quarry and its fossils at Dinosaur are one of our most important windows onto the world of the Late Jurassic," Mr. Chure previously said in a release announcing the initiative. "Bringing together the diverse skills and knowledge of paleontologists, geologists, and museum specialists to tackle the conservation and monitoring issues at the site will preserve the bones for future generations of visitors and scientists."

The National Park Foundation's Impact Grant program gives parks critical financial support of up to $10,000 needed to transform innovative, yet underfunded ideas, into successful in-park programs and initiatives.

"With these strategic grants, we have been able to positively impact hundreds of national parks across the country," said Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the Foundation. "This unique program helps parks enhance the visitor experience, engage more people, and ultimately build a stronger community of park enthusiasts who share an appreciation and commitment to protecting America's Best Idea - their national parks."

The National Park Foundation, in partnership with ARAMARK through the Yawkey Foundation, The Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation, and The HISTORY Channel, awarded Impact Grant grants totaling more than $500,000 to 62 national parks across the country. A full list of grantees is available on the National Park Foundation website.