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Diggin' For Dinosaurs - Get Certified

Updated on March 31, 2010

The Denver Museum of Natural History's Certification Program in Palaeontology covers everything from collecting and cataloging your own collection to working with museum specimens. Classes take place at the museum, but the program includes field trips to research sites in Utah, Colorado, or Wyoming.

The program's six courses meet four to five times for two to three hours each. Every course combines lectures, lab work, and field trips. Subjects include the rules and regulations of fossil collecting, research methods, report writing, and the history of life as revealed through the fossil record. The program is designed to provide comprehensive knowledge of both paleontological theories and techniques. In addition, two specialized tracks focus on either field work or laboratory methods. The former entails four class sessions, two one-day field trips, and six days on a museum project; the latter requires eight lab sessions. Courses like "Palaeontology of the Western Interior" and "Curation of Fossils" are also offered; all courses are taught by the museum's curators and staff.

With six new species added to the dinosaur roll call every year, there's still plenty to discover about dinosaurs. The United States contains remains of more kinds of dinosaurs than any other country, and Canada is among the top five dinosaur-producing nations. Whether you're on a solo sojourn to fossil-laden badlands or part of an official excavation team, North America is a prime place to search for these ancient beasts.

Dinosaurs roamed the entire Earth during their lengthy reign, and North America offered especially rich stomping grounds for the charismatic beasts. Their bones and other traces have been turning up here for well over a century. From dinosaur nests in Alberta to trackways in Texas, from the sere sagebrush flats of Nevada to eroding bluffs in Nova Scotia, this chapter profiles the most significant places where fossils of dinosaurs, their contemporaries, and some of their successors are found. Wherever you go, prepare yourself to be transported to a time when dinosaurs ruled the planet.

Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas

It was a dance of giants, a slow dance, and most likely one of death. It took place 110 million years ago, along the edges of a shallow sea near what is today central Texas. The unwilling partner was a lumbering Pleurocoelus dinosaur, its four thick legs frantically sucking out of the mud. By its side waltzed a hungry Acrocanthosaurus, its sharp teeth reaching out toward its prey.

The footprints are still visible today, frozen into the limestone bed of the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, Texas. Visitors come for many reasons, including the scenic countryside and the clear Paluxy water. But nowhere else in the state is the dinosaur past so tangible: Inner-tubers can stick their hands into the water and touch the huge imprint of a dinosaur foot as they drift above it.

The best time to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park is in the late summer, when the river is low and more of the dinosaur tracks are exposed. Five sites within the park show off the array of trackways - the long trails made by a single dinosaur - found along the Paluxy. Within the state park, and in the surrounding private land, at least three different species of dinosaur left behind their marks.

Continued in: Diggin' For Dinosaurs - Dinosaur Valley

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