Jurassic Park Comes to Life: Update on the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park
Exclusive Interview: Dr. Ken Lacovara, Professor of Paleontology and Geology at Rowan University.
You know, there has been too much doom and gloom conversation over the past several months. I'm sure you haven't been having as much fun about the financial markets any more than I have with everything that is going on. So I want to deviate. Let's talk about something really fun. And nothing like going to the movies for fun, right? The new Jurassic Park movie is out and there is something in that movie that makes it worthy of conversation here on the show today.
I'm very happy to welcome to the program the distinguished Dr. Ken Lacovara. Ken is professor of paleontology and geology. He's the founding dean of the School of Earth and Environment at Rowan University. And that is what is probably causing a trigger in your head as to why I'm raising this conversation. It's at Rowan University, where we have the Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park, and Dr. Lacovara is the founding director of the Fossil Park. As a paleontologist and geologist, he's unearthed some of the largest dinosaurs ever to walk the earth, including the massive 65 ton Dreadnoughtus. Ken, it's wonderful to have you here on the show.
Dr. Ken Lacovara: Thanks, Ric. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Ric: So I want to weave into three subjects here, the new Jurassic Park movie, which features Dreadnoughtus, the dinosaur you discovered, and the Edelman Fossil Park. So let's start with Dreadnoughtus, the incredible story of your discovery of that dinosaur and the fact that it now appears in the new Jurassic Park movie.
Dr Lacovara’s Jurassic Discovery in Patagonia
Dr. Lacovara: Yeah. So I found Dreadnoughtus in southernmost Patagonia at the bottom of Argentina in 2005. I was down there prospecting for giant dinosaurs. I found the femur of Dreadnoughtus. That was a real hard field season. There were no roads into the site, so it was a four hour drive on dirt roads to get to this river. And then we had to raft across the river, this roaring glacial stream. And then when we found bones, we would jacket them in burlap and plaster. By the time we finished, which was four expeditions later, we had 145 giant bones exposed, including the femur and the humerus. And if you have both of those bones for a quadrupedal animal, you can calculate the mass. And so in life Dreadnoughtus would have weighed about 65 tons. So to contextualize that, that's the mass of 13 African elephants, the mass of 9 T-Rex, or about 10 tons heavier than a Boeing 737.
Dr. Lacovara: These kinds of dinosaurs are always portrayed as these lumbering, dopey giants with some salad hanging out of their mouths, just kind of waiting for a T-Rex to come up and take a bite out of them. That's not how they were. If you think about the world today, I mean, one of the most dangerous animals to humans, it's hippos. It's elephants. They kill hundreds of people a year. It's water buffalo, it's bison in Yellowstone. And so big herbivores are surly and they're territorial. They don't want to eat you. They just want to kill you. And so a Dreadnoughtus was a plant eater. Can you imagine this big 65 ton plant eater, a big bull Dreadnoughtus in the breeding season defending a territory? That animal would be unbelievably dangerous.
Ric: And being nine times bigger than T-Rex, wouldn't be afraid of T-Rex.
Dr. Lacovara: Wouldn't be afraid of T-Rex. So I came up with a name Dreadnoughtus Dread. Dreadnought fears nothing.
Check Out the Dinosaurs in the New Movie - Jurassic World: Dominion
Ric: And so now people are going to get to see the Dreadnoughtus in action, so to speak, in the new Jurassic Park film.
Dr. Lacovara: Yeah, it's quite a thrill. The Dreadnoughtus is featured prominently in a few scenes and it looks just great. It's as I imagined it, big and muscular and beautifully animated by really the world's best animators. It's actually one of the few dinosaurs that is named in the movie.
Ric: Talk a little bit about the Fossil Park and the work that we have going on there.
Dr. Lacovara: Yeah, so it is an amazing site. It's really a world class site for scientific research. It's the only place on the planet that preserves an entire collapsed ecosystem: from the last moments of the dinosaurs from when the asteroid hit off the coast of Mexico, which is 1600 miles from southern New Jersey, and wipes out these amazing creatures that persisted on the planet for 165 million years. And the best window into that moment in history, that pivotal, calamitous moment that made the modern world as we know it, is at the Edelman Fossil Park. And so scientifically, it's amazing. But there's something else.
Ric: And the something else is the fact that although there's been a research facility for decades going on at the Fossil Park, that's all it was - a research facility for folks like you and a lot of amazing scientific discoveries. But the public generally has not been able to enjoy or visit what's going on. So we are now building a museum and talk about that project that's underway now.
Dr. Lacovara: Yeah, that's right. And by research facility, Ric means a tent and two porta potties. But yes, we had a research facility for four decades there...
Ric: And a big hole in the ground.
Dr. Lacovara: A big hole in the ground, yeah. But we are building, thanks to the support of you and Jean, we are building an amazing world class museum there. The Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum. The museum itself will be 44,000 square feet. It will contain three big exhibit galleries. And what's really remarkable. Every animal that will be shown or reconstructed was found on the property in a layer that is literally beneath the visitors feet, which is just amazing.
Ric: And if the museum itself wasn't fabulous enough, the Fossil Park itself is there as well. And you're allowing schoolchildren to go into the park and dig for fossils themselves?
Dr. Lacovara: Yeah, that's right. The public can collect fossils and everybody who goes to the site, whether they're six or 96, if they try a little bit and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, they find a 65 million year old fossil with their own hands that they get to take home. And that's just a transformational experience for people.
Ric: So the Fossil Park Museum is under construction right now. We are hopeful that it will be completed by next summer, early fall, and we'll have the grand opening. And then every single day people from around the world will be able to come visit the museum and Fossil Park and learn about dinosaurs of New Jersey. It's going to be very, very exciting. And Jean and I are thrilled to be working on this project with you, Ken. Couldn't think of a better partner for putting all of this together.
Dr. Lacovara: Well, thank you, Ric. It's going to be amazing. And I cannot wait.
Ric: And if people want to take a look at what's going on at the Fossil Park now, including a 24/7 live cam of the construction process and so on, what's the web address?
Dr. Lacovara: You can go to Rowan.edu/fossils.
Ric Edelman: Dr. Ken Lacovara, thanks so much for joining us on the show today.
Dr. Lacovara: Thanks so much, Ric. Good to see you.
Ric: Dr. Kenneth Lacovara and I actually spoke for about 10 minutes. If you would like to watch that entire video cast or listen to the entire podcast, just go to TheTruthAYF.com.