North Dakota to Expand Popular Fossil Dig Program Next Year

Saturday, December 1, 2018

High school students help at a fossil dig site overseen by the North Dakota Geological Survey near Medora, N.D. The North Dakota Geological Survey is expanding its well-received fossil dig program in 2019.  MIKE MCCLEARY, The Bismarck Tribune via AP

The North Dakota Geological Survey is expanding its well-received fossil dig program.

After attracting people from 31 states last year, the program doubled in size this year. North Dakota fossil scientists now plan to spend 46 days in the field next year to help people find prehistoric fossils, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

North Dakota now has one of the top public fossil dig programs in the country, according to senior state paleontologist Clint Boyd. This year, the program attracted 326 people who spent approximately two days in the field.

"What's happening on these digs is not just a tourism opportunity for people, but these people are helping us make real significant discoveries about the history of North Dakota at the same time," Boyd said.

The expansion of public fossil digs has also become a chief source for providing new fossils to the state fossil collection. Participants at a public dig south of Bismarck set Geological Survey records after discovering outsized Tyrannosaurus rex teeth.

"They've really done a fantastic job," said Ed Murphy, a state geologist. "What started off as a very sleepy program, now we've got interest from throughout the nation for people to attend this."

A new Geological Survey donor program called NDGS Paleo Pals has been launched to help fund program expansions.