Geosciences in Alaska


Arctic Alaska Dinosaur Project

Team Members

Preparatory Field Trip to Pt. Reyes

Field Research in Alaska

Geoscience Conceptual Framework


The Arctic Alaska Dinosaur Project: A History of Collaboration


Timeline in brief:

1985: Exploratory excavations and stratigraphic studies along the Colville River reveal significant dinosaur bone beds.

1987–1990: Thousands of specimens are collected, new sites are discovered, and data added as the work on the Colville River progresses under the leadership of UCMP.

1991 to the present: The Arctic Alaska Dinosaur Program develops, and the center of research shifts to the UAM. Discoveries include trackways and new bone beds. The collections grow to become the largest and most diverse Late Cretaceous polar dinosaur collection in both hemispheres.

2002: The two museums collaborate to provide a program of geoscience education for K–12 teachers in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, adding a new dimension to the partnership.

Roland A. Gangloff, Curator Earth Science Department University of Alaska Museum

1985. During the summer of 1985, a team of geologists and paleontologists from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, the University of California, Berkeley, and the United States Geological Survey completed a set of exploratory excavations and stratigraphic studies along the western and northwestern bank of the Colville River near Ocean Point, in Alaska. This work clearly established that a series of stratigraphically separate bone beds contained significant numbers of dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs.This work was the beginning of a collaborative research and curational program involving the University of Alaska Museum (UAM) and the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP), which laid the foundation of what continues today as the Arctic Alaska Dinosaur Program (AAPD).

1987–1990. During this very productive period, several microvertebrate sites were discovered. Over three thousand teeth and bones were collected, mapped, and curated, and the first specimen of a pachyrhinosaurid outside of Alberta, Canada was located and collected. Scientists from the United States Geological Survey and two independent researchers from Great Britain and the University of Arizona added valuable information regarding ancient environments and climatic patterns from invertebrate and plant fossils associated with the dinosaurs and other vertebrates. Work during this interval, including a detailed analysis of the fossilization process (taphonomy), concentrated on the largest and most fossiliferous accumulation of bones, known as the Liscomb bone bed. Work during this period was led by UCMP and underwritten by two grants from the Division of Polar Projects, National Science Foundation and resources from UAM.

1991 to the present. Leadership of the research program, now formally named the Arctic Alaska Dinosaur Program, shifted from UCMP to UAM during this period. A primary goal during the first five years was the continuation of detailed taphonomic mapping along the entire length of the Liscomb bone bed. Continued research included further evaluation of the original bone beds and the discovery of the first dinosaur trackways, the first pachyrhinosaur bone bed, and the first evidence of a pachycephalosaur. Cooperation by both institutions over the last five years is resulting in the complete transfer of all specimens from the North Slope of Alaska to the Earth Science Collections of the UAM. Students and senior researchers from both institutions continue to collaborate on research and curation of what has become the largest and most diverse Late Cretaceous polar dinosaur collection in both hemispheres. This collection now contains over 8,000 skeletal elements.

2002. UAM and UCMP created a program of geoscience education for K–12 teachers. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the West Contra Costa Unified School District, and Mechanics Bank, a group of K–12 teachers will spend a month in Alaska learning about geologic processes and principles first-hand. The teachers will learn geologic field skills and basic vertebrate paleontological field techniques, followed by the fundamentals of collection curation. Following the field trip, the team will work together to develop and implement a K–12 Earth Science curriculum for the district.

Project partners and sponsors:
West Contra Costa Unified School District   UC Museum of Paleontology   University of Alaska Museum    National Science Foundation    The Mechanics Bank
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