Earth Sciences in Mongolia

Earth Sciences doctoral students John Graf and Thomas Adams, who provided the reports for this blog, along with Professor Louis L. Jacobs, are traveling to Mongolia as a part of a multi-international dinosaur expedition hosted by the city of Hwaseong in the Republic of Korea. The purpose of the project is to discover, collect and study dinosaur fossils from the Gobi desert in Mongolia, which is one of the most important dinosaur localities in the world.
In addition to SMU researchers, the multinational team includes researchers from Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) and Paleontological Center, Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the University of Alberta, Canada. The project will be augmented each year by additional researchers from countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and China.

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Fossil tour

Aug%2019.jpg I got my first look at camp this morning. The camp is surrounded by sandstone bluffs and hills on three sides.

After setting up tents, everyone met for breakfast and updated us on this year’s expedition. The expedition members include Yuong-Nam Lee, Nam-Soo Kim and Hang-Jae Lee from Korea; Ligden Barsbold and Bat Lkhaasuren from Mongolia; Phil Currie, Eva Koppelhus, Dave Eberth and Derek Larson from Canada; Yoshi Kobayashi from Japan; Louis Jacobs, John Graf and myself (Thomas Adams) from the USA. We also have two cooks, six drivers, and two workers, for a total of 23 of us in camp.

Over breakfast, John relayed his own experiences of travelling from Dallas to Mongolia. Unlike Louis and me, John had no delays on his flights. However, due to a miscommunication, there was no one to meet him when he landed in Ulaan Bataar. After waiting four hours at the airport, security became suspicious of John. Before he could be detained by officials, Yuong-Nam Lee arrived saying, “You must be John”.

After breakfast, we were taken on a tour of the fossil localities that had been discovered and were in the process of being excavated. These included a Tarbosaurus quarry, a micro bone bed, an ornithomimid quarry with dinosaur tracks, Barsboldia, a hadrosaur, quarry and a therizinosaur quarry.

The ornithomimid and therizinosaur quarries turn out to be the site of fossil poaching, which is a real problem in the Gobi. Poachers, or pirates as they are referred to here, will dig up fossils, take the skulls, feet, and hands, and leave the rest of the skeleton behind. These fossils are smuggled out of the country and sold illegally to collectors. Even though material may be missing from these sites, important fossil specimens can still be recovered. The therizinosaur locality has a large portion of the skeleton that was left behind by the poachers.

(In photo: Barsboldia caudal vertebrae.)

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