Jurassic Mile: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis shows what it uncovers during dinosaur dig

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CODY, Wy.– CBS4 had the opportunity to fly out west and see what the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is digging up for its new exhibit opening next spring.

More than 1,200 miles sits between Indianapolis and the Jurassic Mile, where the digging is taking place. For the past five summers, scientists from the Children’s Museum have traveled to the site near Cody, Wyoming to search for and dig up fossils.

Dr. Anné working on a sauropod bone

“We’re working right now on some arm bones from sauropods,” said Dr. Jennifer Anné, a paleontologist with the Children’s Museum. “This is the humerus…and then we have ulna and radius.”

Dr. Anné is responsible for making the dig plan each day. The plan includes what bones need to be prioritized and how to safely transport them back to the Circle City. In addition to the sauropod bones, a couple of dinosaur footprints and dozens of teeth from meat-eating theropods were discovered.

“The nice kind of triangle-shaped teeth, with some serrations. So think kind of like a steak knife. Some of them are a little bit thinner, some a little bit thicker, but that kind of tooth that you look at it and go, “That’s something that’s eating meat,” said Dr. Anné.

These scientists are doing much more than just digging up and recovering fossils. They’re studying the bones and helping paint a picture of what life was like more than 150 million years ago. Humans today are closer in time to the T. rex than the dinosaurs being unearthed are.

“I think it’s pretty incredible that we find an assortment of different animals at this site. We have our big, long neck dinosaurs, but we also have a lot of tiny animals too,” said paleontologist Laura Rooney.

The crew must also watch the weather closely as conditions on the dig site can change quickly and without notice because there are no nearby weather monitoring systems. The heat, thunderstorms and wind bring special challenges for the scientists to deal with.

Heavy rain and other weather conditions can cause damage to the exposed fossils and even put the crew at risk.

“We also have to watch out, cause it’s not just here, but it’s the roads that we come in. Those are (trouble) to drive on if it rains.”

This is what our SUV looked like as we approached the dig site. With conditions like this for a long way after leaving the road, you can understand how dicey things can get if flooding occurs.

The scientists on site are not only trying to track rain and wind, but also the air quality. The smoke from wildfires in California are creating poor air quality at the site this year.

Covering up as rain arrives on the site

Despite the challenges they face, the scientists at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis love what they do and enjoy the adventure each year. Their favorite part is being able to share their discoveries with everyone who visits the museum.

“I’ve worked on other dinosaur sites around the world, but this one is very special. So I think the children’s museum has, I think, one of the top Jurassic sites that I’ve got to play with. I’m very happy about that,” said Dr. Phil Manning

The new Dinosphere exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is set to open in March of 2022. It will showcase their work and discoveries at the Jurassic Mile.

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