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An Ancient Arctic Dinosaur Ecosystem

July 26– August 25, 2006 | Colville River, North Slope, Alaska


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Jason Petula
Tunkhannock Area High School
Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania
Paul McCarthy
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska
    Anthony Fiorillo Researcher
Anthony Fiorillo
Dallas Museum of Natural History
Dallas, Texas
    David Norton Researcher
Dave Norton
Arctic Rim Research
Fairbanks, Alaska

An anole skull fossilized in amber.

Jason Petula joined researcher Paul McCarthy and colleagues on the Colville River on Alaska’s North Slope in efforts to provide the most complete documentation to-date of an ancient arctic ecosystem during a "greenhouse" period in Earth's history. This study will result, for the first time, in a detailed understanding of Cretaceous period dinosaurs and their high latitude environments in the ancient Arctic 65-70 million years ago. The research team hoped to test existing hypotheses regarding the ancient arctic terrestrial ecosystem; establish a timeline of rock layers; identify and better understand the arctic dinosaur environment and provide insights into what a warmer Earth might look like in the future.

Jason Petula teaches Astronomy, Earth and Space Science, and Honors Earth Science at Tunkhannock Area High School in eastern Pennsylvania. In addition to teaching, Jason is also a full-time graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University and is currently completing his Ph.D. in the Curriculum & Instruction program with an emphasis in Science Education. In 2001, Jason gained invaluable polar experience at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station as a Teachers Experiencing the Arctic and Antarctic (TEA) teacher. Jason finds himself in the unique position to explore Antarctica’s counterpart, the Arctic, and work with a new group of scientists conducting research at the opposite end of the globe. Jason is very excited to observe science collaboration between different researchers in different research areas first hand. Jason can’t wait to get to the field, and believes that the research he will be conducting is a "bull’s-eye" in regards to his personal interests and relevance to his classroom.

Paul McCarthy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Paul feels the TREC program will aid in spreading the word to K-12 students and the broader public about both the results of the project and the manner in which science operates. He hopes to gain insight in to the kinds of questions teachers and students have about science in general, and geology in particular. Moreover, Paul feels the project will generate interesting data about what a warmer Earth was like in the Arctic. As an added benefit, the project is very appealing to students and teachers because it deals with arctic dinosaurs and their environment.

Other key members of the science team are Anthony Fiorillo, Curator of Paleontology at the Dallas Museum of Natural History in Dallas, Texas, and Dave Norton, an ecologist based in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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