Be our guest paleontologist
Today, the majority of the loud sounds you’ll hear coming from the mouths of humans in the area are shrieks of surprise and utter joy when someone discovers a fossil. And it’s not always professional paleontologists unearthing the ancient treasures. Visitors who sign up in advance for the center’s Dig for a Day Program become guest paleontologists at one of the dig sites. They’re given the same responsibilities, and perks, of being a certified dinosaur hunter. After watching a brief orientation video at the center, the guest paleontologists—some as young as four years old—are assigned tools and find themselves immersed in one of the 130 active sites. Here, under the endless Wyoming sky and the watchful eyes of real paleontologists and archeologists, they can stake their claims for several hours of digging. It may seem like a long time to be sitting in a quarry, but by mid-afternoon when it’s time to return to the museum for the rest of the program, the guides practically have to take the tools out of the eager hands.
Open year-round, the center’s museum receives the most foot traffic. Don’t be fooled by the informative signs and the more than 30 dinosaur skeletons—including the only Medusaceratops in the world—that dwarf you; this is not simply a museum. It’s also a working lab, capable of operating 24 hours a day. In fact, the lab is the first stop for the fossils found in the dig sites. They are painstakingly catalogued, cleaned, molded and casted at the lab’s 10 different stations. Some eventually make it out onto the floor of the museum.
Dig for a Day Program participants are treated to a special behind-the-scenes tour of the lab. There, they can actually work alongside the technicians, using toothbrushes, dental picks and even micro power tools to tackle the removal of millions of years of sediment stuck to the bones. The process may be tedious—for every hour spent digging in the field, there are six hours spent in the lab—but it’s not done in vain. Every new find adds something to the big picture painted by scientists hoping to solve some of the world’s biggest mysteries.