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Tracking baby dinosaurs

Staff at the Morrison Natural History Museum have again discovered infant dinosaur footprints in the foothills west of Denver, near the town of Morrison. Dating from the Late Jurassic, some 148 million years ago, these tracks were made before the Rocky Mountains rose, when Morrison was a broad savanna full of dinosaurs.

The fossil tracks represent infant sauropods, according to discoverer Matthew Mossbrucker, the museum's director. Sauropods are giant, herbivorous long-necked dinosaurs, sometimes known as "brontosaurs." The sauropod Apatosaurus was first discovered in Morrison in 1877. As long as three school buses parked end to end, and weighing as much as eight Asian elephants combined, Apatosaurus is the largest dinosaur found in the Denver metro area.

The tracks are on permanent display at the Morrison Natural History Museum in the recently redesigned "Fossils of the Foothills" exhibition funded by Scientific and Cultural Facility District (SCFD) grants. The Museum is open daily.

Revamped Exhibition Nears Completion

Director Matthew Mossbrucker is pleased to announce the second phase of the permanent exhibition “FOSSILS of the FOOTHILLS” due to be completed May 1, 2010 thanks to a generous SCFD grant. The museum will remain open during renovation.

”The displays orient visitors to the deep past of the Denver Metro area and then introduce historic local dinosaur discoveries,” explains Mossbrucker “then, to bring the story up to date, our docents will share the museum dig crew’s fossil discoveries made here in the Denver area.”

Featured fossils include the first Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus bones ever discovered. The world’s best Stegosaurus tracks will also be on display with infant Jurassic dinosaur tracks. These bones and tracks are from the Town of Morrison, west of Denver.

In some cases, high-grade cast replicas of fossils have been substituted for certain fossils when the local remains are fragile or incomplete. The benefit to the visitor, according to Mossbrucker, is that the viewer is looking at a virtual “clone” of the original fossil. And they can touch the casts.

True to the Museum’s touching-friendly roots; many of the specimens will remain hands on. Visitors will delight in a behind the scenes tour of the working Paleontology Laboratory and perhaps get the chance to assist in the removal of stone from dinosaur bone.

Although condensed, the museum’s collection of snakes will remain on display.

”Live reptiles and amphibians are still a huge part of our exhibition” reassures Mossbrucker who has plans to add some bizarre new animals in upcoming years, like the Australian Lungfish.

Jurassic relatives of this air-breathing fish have recently been discovered by volunteer fossil preparator Fritz Gottron. Volunteers like Gottron provide visitors with the tour of the exhibition. The museum is now recruiting more volunteer help to work with the public and help in the Paleo Lab.

”Interest in volunteering has been strong, and positions are filling fast” Mossbrucker remarks “Saturdays are full, but we can use help during the week.” Soon the museum will return to the “open daily” schedule, opening new positions for perspective volunteers.

Tours of the exhibition-under-construction begin hourly Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, and are included with general admission. No reservation is required, but groups of more than ten should call in advance.

VOLUNTEER SUPPORT

Director Mossbrucker is now holding weekly "open door" sessions to answer your questions and provide guidance. Should you have questions or concerns regarding anything related to your volunteer employment at the Museum, displays, specimens, interpretive techniques or other issues please visit him during one of these weekly sessions. No appointment is needed.

Director Mossbrucker's "Open Door" hours for volunteers: every Thursday afternoon, 12-4 p.m. Other appointments can be arranged.

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NOW HIRING: VOLUNTEER JOB POSITIONS

Two new volunteer job positions have been created to serve MNHM visitors.

  • Museum Ambassador: greet visitors and teach them about local fossils.
  • Museum Docent: teach visitors about the life and Earth history of the Denver area using MNHM exhibits and specimens

For more information about these positions, please click on the “Volunteer” tab on the orange tool bar above.

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FALL/WINTER 2009 SCHEDULE

The Morrison Museum’s schedule changes October 4.

The Museum will be open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon.

Sunday and Monday the Museum will be open by appointment only. If you are interested in a private museum tour, or perhaps a Museum Birthday Party please call or email to make a reservation.

Your appointment must be made two weeks in advance so that MNHM can staff your private museum experience.

A $25 private opening fee plus standard admission fees are charged for this special program.

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FREE ADMISSION FOR TEACHERS

Free Admission to the Morrison Museum for Teachers every Saturday, from September 19, 2009 through December 19, 2009. Teachers must present current school identification.

Are you currently a classroom teacher? Come and tour the Morrison Natural History Museum and learn how Museum programs can support you in the classroom. Visit with Museum educators and scientific staff to get ideas for your lesson plan. Have problems interpreting a scientific concept that you don’t totally understand yourself? Come ask us.

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HOURLY MUSEUM TOURS

The Museum now offers six guided tours of the indoor exhibition and grounds included with admission. Learn about Morrison’s geologic setting, historic and modern local dinosaur discoveries, and get brought up to date on current MNHM research. These tours are appropriate for ages six and above.

Tours start at the bottom of each hour, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and last for 45 minutes. Please arrive at least five minutes prior to the start time you desire to allow for check in time. There is no additional fee to participate. Tours can be cancelled due to prescheduled school field trips, birthday party tours, or lack of attendance. Call ahead (303-697-1873) or visit the MNHM online Event Calendar for tour cancellations.

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Postponed - DINOSAUR WORKSHOPS FOR KIDS

The Dinosaur Workshops for Kids have been postponed until Winter/Spring 2010. Please check back in to this webpage to learn about the new schedule.

The Museum would like to thank Museum Educator Carissa Cooley for designing these fun programs and wish her luck with her newest challenge: teaching high school youth American Government.

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