Museum

Active research projects

Marine reptiles of Svalbard, Norway

Size comparison of marine organisms.
Click on the image to read more about the Svalbard Jurassic Research Project.

Dr. Pat Druckenmiller is currently involved in a large collaborative project with the University of Oslo Natural History Museum in Oslo to investigate a prolific new site of Jurassic-aged marine reptiles from the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Arctic Dinosaurs of Alaska

Rock outcrop along the Colville River.
A sunny arctic summer day during the 2010 field season along the Colville River.

The UA Museum hosts the largest collection of Arctic dinosaurs in the world. In collaboration with Dr. Greg Erickson at the Florida State University, we seek to better understand dinosaurs that lived in Arctic Alaska during the Late Cretaceous, approximately 69 million years ago. This work is sponsored by funding from the National Science Foundation.

Marine Reptiles of Alaska

Pat Druckenmiller and collegues pose at the outcrop.
Dr. Pat Druckenmiller (right) with the thalattosaur fossil found from an intertidal zone outcrop near Kake, Southeast Alaska. Click on the photo to read the UAMN news story.

Several exciting discoveries of marine reptiles have been made in Alaska. Most recently a world class specimen of a thalattosaur, a small Triassic marine reptile, was made in southeast Alaska. Other exciting finds currently under study include a large ichthyosaur with gut contents from the foothills of the Brooks Range, a new Middle Jurassic ichthyosaur from the Talkeetna Mountains, and a small, rare ichthyosaur from southeast Alaska.

Jurassic dinosaurs of the Naknek Formation, southwestern Alaska

View of the track site with silputty peels (light green in color) applied to the cliff face to mold the footprints.
View of the track site with silputty (light green in color) applied to the cliff face to mold the footprints.

In 2010, a team of Alaskan scientists, lead by the UA Museum, rediscovered a dinosaur trackway found 35 years earlier near Chignik, Alaska. The tracks were found in the Upper Jurassic Naknek Formation and constitute the oldest record of dinosaurs found in the state. We are currently investigating other possible occurrences of dinosaurs in the formation on the Alaska Peninsula/Becharof National Wildlife Refuges.

Yukon River dinosaur tracks

The crew found dozens of dinosaur tracks along one Yukon River beach. From left: Paul McCarthy, Julie Rousseau, Meghan Shay, Katherine Anderson, Meg O’Connor, Pat Druckenmiller, and Jørn Hurum. Photo by Kevin May
The crew found dozens of dinosaur tracks along one Yukon River beach. From left: Paul McCarthy, Julie Rousseau, Meghan Shay, Katherine Anderson, Meg O’Connor, Pat Druckenmiller, and Jørn Hurum. Photo by Kevin May

University of Alaska Museum of the North researchers have found a major new site for dinosaur fossils in Alaska along the Yukon River.
A recent trip netted about 2,000 pounds of dinosaur footprints for the museum’s collection, according to earth sciences curator Pat Druckenmiller “There aren’t many places left in the world where paleontologists can just go out and find thousands of dinosaur footprints. This is the kind of discovery you would have expected in the Lower 48 a hundred years ago.”
In July 2013, researchers set off in boats for a 500-mile journey down the Tanana and Yukon rivers. Co-discoverer Kevin May, operations manager at the UA Museum of the North, says the goal was to explore as many beaches as possible for evidence of dinosaurs. “Based on what we know about the geology along the Yukon River, the rocks exposed downriver from Ruby suggested they might be a good place to find dinosaurs”.
They found much more than they expected: dinosaur footprints big and small, from both meat- and plant-eaters.
“We found a great diversity of dinosaur types,” Druckenmiller said, “evidence of an extinct ecosystem we never knew existed.”
Read the rest of the news story here.

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