Learning About Scary Things at JD’s Wildlife Sanctuary

I met Dave Trexler today, and he told me some scary stories and showed me some dinosaur bones, just lying there out in the chaparral of Montana. We were in a bar called JD’s Wildlife Sanctuary, a classic biker joint with dollar bills plastered up all over the low ceiling, in a windblown one horse town called Bynum. Dave is a paleontologist, and he runs the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center. The scary bit came up when I asked him his opinion of global warming.

That was when I learned about methane clathrate. If you wanna learn about a threat that makes even Al Gore’s global warming scenarios seem tame, just google this stuff. It’s a gas that forms in ice way down in the ocean. If the temps stay below 59 degrees, well, that’s ok. But if this stuff bubbles up to the surface, it expands by 160 times, so a little bubble of this the ultimate greenhouse gas, becomes a huge mass. And Dave thinks this is what happened to the ships that mysteriously disappear in the Bermuda triangle–they were swallowed up by a hole.

After the burgers at JD’s we drove through the wide open land to the dinosaur dig. We drove up an unmarked hill and Dave reached down and picked up what looked like a 6″ rock. “Here is part of a dinosaur leg,” he said. Then he pointed out three, four and then another fragment about two inches long. “See the difference between these and the rocks?” I did notice that the dino pieces had different lines and what appeared to be a porous center, compared to the flat rocks. Dave led us up to a four foot section encased in plaster. It was a duckbill species and this was a femur. A giant femur!

It was sad because Dave is doing this excavating on a shoestring. He doesn’t get any grants and he has a young paleontologist who eagerly takes volunteers on these digs. But after he goes to grad school, he wants badly to come back to a job with Dave. So far it hasn’t panned out, since land grant money goes to institutions that can point to a 100-year plan. It’s just Dave for now and his organization doesn’t have more than his vast knowledge and volunteers.