"Elena, this is going to take
time." Ms. Coleman replied patiently. The
native corporation is going to have to find
a paleontologist qualified to do the excavation,
and try to get a government grant to pay for
it. Then the paleontologist will have to write
up an extensive plan on how he will excavate
the find and submit it to the state for approval.
"So, how long does all that
take? It's September now, in a month there will
be snow on the ground." Elena asked downhearted.
Ms. Coleman looked sympathetic. "You're
right, there probably won't be any major work
done until next summer. On the bright side,
Mr. Evanoff was talking to a professor at the
University of Alaska. The professor's name is
Dr. Parker. He is very interested in your dinosaur
bones. If the weather is good Saturday, he will
be coming out to take a look."
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Elena
exclaimed. "Is he qualified to do the excavation?"
"I suppose so... He's the leading
authority on Alaskan dinosaurs." Ms. Coleman
had already turned back to her work. "You'll
just have to see if you can talk to him on Saturday."
Elena wiggled through the remaining
four days of school. She spent every morning
on the Internet and every afternoon in the library.
The rest of the time she spent sketching pictures
of the bones and how they might fit with other
bones. Sketches of whole dinosaurs and parts
of dinosaurs. Her teacher, Mrs. Carmen, was
very impressed with how dedicated to her dinosaur
research Elena had become. She had however;
asked her to put her sketchbook away until after
she had done her math.
Saturday morning was clear and crisp.
The stars were still shining when Elena woke
up and tiptoed into the kitchen to pour herself
a bowl of cereal. She was sitting there organizing
her notes when her mother came out to start
the coffee. Her mother yawned and looked at
her bleary-eyed. "Do you know it's Saturday?"
she laughed. Elena had been doing an hourly
countdown since Monday after school.
Elena smiled sheepishly. "Do
you think I'll be able to talk to Dr. Parker
Mom? I've been so excited, and now I'm worried
he'll think I'm just some kid..."
"There is no way to tell how
other people will act Elena. Mr. Evanoff did
say that you could come along to look at the
site with them. I'm sure Dr. Parker will be
impressed with you. Not only did you find the
bones, you knew what they could be and told
the right people. Then, as if that was not enough,
you've been doing your own research. Even if
you just get to listen in, you will have the
opportunity to learn a lot of new things. "
Elena sighed, "That's true,
I've just suddenly gotten nervous." The
sound of an airplane interrupted their discussion.
Elena jumped up, That's the 8 o'clock flight
from Aniak. Gotta run." Elena grabbed her
school backpack and headed for the landing strip.
Mr. Evanoff and some other council
members were standing at the edge of the runway,
talking to a tall bearded man. Elena leaned
her bicycle against one of the airport sheds
and walked shyly toward the group.
"Well, here she is, our own
resident paleontologist," teased Mr. Evanoff
in a friendly way. "Elena, I would like
you to meet Dr. Parker from the University of
Alaska. Dr. Parker, this is Elena, she is the
one who found the bones."
"It's very nice to meet you,
Elena," Dr. Parker replied. "Everyone
has told me so much about you. Could you tell
me a little about how you found the bones?"
Elena looked up at him with a grateful
smile, and began to tell her story. She finished
by pulling out her notebooks and showing him
Dr. Parker was obviously impressed.
"I see you have the makings of a real paleontologist
here, Mr. Evanoff. I can see why you are all
so proud of Elena. Shall we have her show us
Elena quietly put her books back
into her backpack, but inwardly glowed with
the praise and excitement.
The group rode four wheelers as far
as the berry-picking field. After that they
hiked the same trail Levi had scrambled up.
Remembering that it was Levi who had really
found the bones, Elena told Dr. Parker about
how Levi had thought they were dog bones. She
felt humbled to remember that it was not really
her own find. Levi really shared the credit.
She would be sure not to complain next time
Mother asked her to watch him.
When they reached the shale hillside,
Elena showed Dr. Parker the bone fossils. Dr.
Parker opened his backpack and took out a camera,
a measuring tape and some other tools. Dr. Parker
took a brush and brushed the dirt and dust off
of the bones. Placing his measuring tape next
to the fossils he photographed each of them.
Then he took out a notebook and began to take
Elena waited as patiently as she
could throughout Dr. Parker's inspection. She
wanted to ask him a million questions. She sat
on her heels watching him, her lips pressed
together to keep from blurting out. After Dr.
Parker was done writing, looked up at Elena
and smiled. "This is an amazing thing you
have found here Elena. Do you see this fossil
of a shell? This is a fossil of an Innoceramu.
An Innoceramu is an index fossil.
That means that this kind of animal only was
around for a relatively short time in history.
So, if you find one, you know about when the
rocks around it were forming. So, what this
tells me is that the rocks formed around these
bones in the Late Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic
Elena was both excited to get this
definite information and a little bit disappointed.
The dinosaur she had thought it might be was
not from the Late Cretaceous Period.
She looked through her notes to where
she had written about Mesozoic
Era. "It seems like there were a lot
of different dinosaurs and marine reptiles in
Alaska during that time period, the ankylosaur,
and the hadrosaur (a)
How will you figure out which one it is?"
"Well, the bones are fairly
large and we will compare the bones we find
with other bones that have been identified.
Then we will decide if this is a dinosaur we
already know about or, if it is an entirely
new dinosaur." Dr. Parker answered.
Elena had never considered that the
bones she found might belong to a dinosaur that
had never been discovered before. That idea
was more exciting than ever.
"If it is a new type of dinosaur
we will try to figure out what family of dinosaurs
it belonged to. It is unlikely, though, that
it would be an entirely new kind of dinosaur,"
continued Dr. Parker.
That evening Elena sat at her desk
going over her notes. "I will choose another
dinosaur that I think it could be. I've already
been able to eliminate quite a few possibilities.
The dinosaur is from the Late Cretaceous Period.
The bones are too big to be one of the smaller
dinosaurs. So, I will guess it is a __________________________