December 21, 2010

Updates from Antarctica

Two weeks ago, a team of paleontologists from the museum began their journey to Antarctica for a two-month fossil hunting expedition. If you missed the video we posted about what the actual trip down to the southern-most continent is like, watch it here.

Well, they made it:
Exiting the plane at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
The Burke team is joined by scientists from The Field Museum, Augustana College, the University of Alberta, and the Iziko South African Museum. Together, the group is looking for dinosaurs and other fossils in the Transantarctic Mountains.
If you’re curious to know more about what it’s like to conduct field work in such an extreme place as Antarctica, The Field Museum has an excellent expedition website with lots of totally fascinating information about this 2010-11 Antarctic expedition.

I easily got sucked into the site, which includes photos of camp life, dispatches from the field, and more about the fossils that have been found in Antarctica so far. Here are three surprising things I learned from The Field Museum’s expedition site:

• Back in the day (i.e. 250 million years ago), the Earth had no polar ice caps. Antarctica was part of the super-continent Pangaea and was actually temperate in climate, hence the abundance of plant and animal fossils from species that would never survive in polar Antarctica today.

• Of the species found in Antarctica so far, many were wholly new to science, such as the first dinosaur found on the continent, Crylophosaurus.

• Because of the severe cold and altitude, many of the traditional tools used to stabilize fossils (e.g. fossils and glue) don’t work in Antarctica. As a solution, excavators will wrap small fossils in toilet paper to protect them in transit back to the United States.

Before leaving Chicago to meet up with our crew from Seattle in Antarctica, two of the paleontologists from The Field Museum recorded this video about their expedition. Watch it to learn more about what their goals are for this trip:

Find more online at The Field Museum.

Posted by: Julia Swan, Communications

Dinosaurs in Antarctica? – Antarctica Video Report #1 from The Field Museum on Vimeo.

December 15, 2010

The Burke Museum is 125 years old today!

Today marks the anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Washington State Museum (later to become the Burke Museum). This picture shows the original museum in 1885, home to the museum's founders, the Young Naturalists Society. At that time, the University of Washington was still located in downtown Seattle:

To view a slide show of historic photos of the museum, click here.

Happy Birthday to us!

Posted by: Julia Swan, Communications

December 13, 2010

2011 Environmental Writers Workshop

Greetings from Burke Education. This is a short save-the-date notice for our 2011 Environmental Writers Workshop. It will be held April 23, 2011.

I am again excited about the instructors who have agreed to work with us. They are Bruce Barcott, Langdon Cook, and Carol Kaesuk Yoon. They bring years of experience as writers, journalists, bloggers, and teachers. Each is an attentive observer who weaves together history, science, and field time into well-crafted, thought-provoking writing about the natural and cultural world.

Breaking with tradition, we have decided to run the entire workshop at the Center for Urban Horticulture. The cost of $100 is the same as last year and includes lunch. Student scholarships are available.
We hope you can attend.

Posted by: David Williams, Education

December 04, 2010

Video: how do you get to Antarctica?

Think your holiday travel plans are extreme? Can you imagine if you were traveling to Antarctica? That's exactly what Burke Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology Christian Sidor and two UW graduate students, Adam Huttonlocker and Brandon Peecock, are doing this Sunday, as they depart for a two-month trip to search for fossils in Antarctica. Along with an intrpeid group of paleontologists and geologists from across the country, the Burke team will explore the rocks of the central Transantarctic Mountains for evidence of ancient life.

So how does one actually get to Antarctica? Unsurprisngly, it's not quite as simple as just booking a flight. I sat down with Adam and Brandon the week before their trip to talk more about what it takes travel to the world's harshest, coldest continent. In this short video, they discuss what it will be like to arrive in Antarctica for the first time:

Stay tuned for more stories from their trip.

Posted by: Samantha Porter, Operations