Nova episode highlights Alaska dinosaur research

two men chisel a bone from a rock slab
Photo by Kevin May
Pat Druckenmiller and Greg Erickson chisel out a bone from a rock slab along the Colville River on Alaska’s North Slope.

Scientists who study the planet's northernmost dinosaurs will bring PBS viewers to their field sites and labs in a new episode of the science documentary series Nova.

"Alaskan Dinosaurs," produced by GBH, follows University of Alaska Museum of the North director and researcher Patrick Druckenmiller, along with Florida State University scientist Gregory Erickson and other collaborators, as they discover fossilized bones, footprints and an Arctic dinosaur nursery.
The show premieres Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 9 p.m. Alaska time on KUAC TV 9.1 and will air again on KUAC on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. It will premiere on public television stations nationally Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 9 p.m. Eastern/ 8 p.m. Central and will be available for streaming at and via the PBS video app timed to its broadcast debut.
During the past year, the Nova crew joined Druckenmiller and his colleagues at field sites on the Colville River on Alaska’s North Slope and in Denali National Park, and in the paleontology lab at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Their excursions included a rare winter visit to the Colville River site.
“We went there at that time for safety reasons; we dig along cliffs that are at risk of collapsing unexpectedly in the summer when the permafrost thaws,” Druckenmiller said. “We wanted to dig the single most important dinosaur-bearing layer of rock in Alaska, and we successfully pulled it off. The film crew was there to record it all.”
The team’s studies have resulted in the discovery of multiple new species of prehistoric animals and offered surprising insights into the lives of dinosaurs during the Cretaceous Period.
“These polar dinosaurs lived at the extremes,” said Druckenmiller, who is also a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Natural Science and Mathematics.
While the world was warmer 70 million years ago, Alaska was at a higher latitude, which meant months of cold and dark. Scientists can learn a lot about dinosaur paleobiology by studying the ones that lived with environmental extremes such as those found in the far North, Druckenmiller said.
“It addresses big-picture questions about all dinosaurs: Were they warmblooded? Did they migrate? How do they overwinter?” he said. “It helps us create a whole new picture of what dinosaurs were and what they were capable of.”
ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Pat Druckenmiller,, 907-474-6989.  Nancy Tarnai, KUAC TV,, 907-474-1890. Jennifer Welsh, Nova,, 978-985-9835.
MORE INFORMATION: View the trailer on the NOVA website.