Elasmosaur Wants Your Vote!

Have you cast your vote for yet for the Provincial Fossil? The Comox Valley’s own elasmosaur is in the running and needs your support.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has announced a final competition for a Provincial Fossil to be added to the official Provincial Symbols of British Columbia.

The online voting process uses a web-based questionnaire tool, SurveyMonkey, which allows one vote per computer profile and includes a simple verification step to avoid development of computer scripts for automatic votes.

Here’s the link where you can see all seven candidates and make your choice. The voting period will close November 23, 2018.

Science and Art Converge at 2018 BC Paleontological Alliance Symposium

Science and art will converge in Courtenay from August 17-20 as Key Note Speaker, Dr. Richard Hebda and Special Guest Speaker, Artist, Ray Troll, lead off the 2018 BC Paleontological Alliance Symposium in Courtenay.

Supported by the Vancouver Island Paleontological Society and the Courtenay and District Museum, the symposium will feature fifteen formal presentations, field trips and a fossil prep workshop. Historically, the BCPA symposiums feature an art exhibit of varied media and paleo-imagination and this tradition will continue. In tandem with the symposium, the museum will be hosting an exhibit of in-house and private fossil collections from May to December.

Symposium registration fees are $150 + GST for professional paleontologists and non-BCPA members; $120 + GST for BCPA members and $100 for students. This includes all activities except field trips and workshops.

Here’s more information on the symposium outline and guest speakers.

To download the registration form go here.

In Memory of Rolf Ludvigsen

By CDM Board Member Rick Ross

It is with much sadness we note the passing of Dr. Rolf Ludvigsen on December 10, 2016.

Rolf was an amazing person, a world renowned trilobite Paleontologist, a teacher, an author, and to many, a friend.

I first met Rolf in the early 80’s in the old Paleo Hut across from the current Courtenay Museum. He was sorting through fossils and holding court to many and all who came by. As avid amateurs, he patiently answered our questions and with dry wit pushed us to know more about fossils and their science.

He will be remembered fondly by many volunteers who assisted him in excavating the Elasmosaur found by Mike and Heather Trask on the banks of the Puntledge River. He was a resource and mentor to many who attended the British Columbia Palaeontological Association (BCPA) symposia and edited the BCPA newsletter. Rolf was a founding member of the BCPA giving a voice to the province’s fossil heritage.

As an author, Rolf published numerous scientific papers on his favorite subject–trilobites. Rolf also produced a newsletter for various trilobite researchers around the world from his home on Denman Island. His popular book, West Coast Fossils, co-authored with Graham Beard, is still sought after by worldwide collectors. Rolf also wrote Life in Stone: A Natural History of British Columbia’s Fossils.

Stamp It

The Comox Valley elasmosaur, discovered by Mike Trask in 1988 and housed in the Courtenay Museum, will be featured in the 2016 Dinos of Canada stamp series, which will be available in the last week of May. Canada Post sent out a press release the first week of April stating that they would also be placing a “cancel” on the Official First Day Cover (a collectors’ item — some 10,000 printed) with “Courtenay, BC” printed on them. The complete series includes: Cypretherium coarctatum (SK), Acrotholous (AB), Atrociraptor marshalli (AB), Bathygnathus borealis (PEI) and the Comox Valley elasmosaur.

Canada Post worked with experts in the field from the Canadian Museum of Nature to select dinosaurs that have been discovered in Canada. Canada Post went on to say, “As with most stamp sets, we also try to select dinos that would make the most stunning and interesting images and represent as many different regions of Canada as possible.”

Kids Summer Camp Program

To add to downtown Courtenay’s 2015 summertime fun, the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre is presenting two childrens’ summer camp programs in alternating weeks throughout July and August. These camps will provide fun and interactive opportunities for kids ages 5-9 to learn about dinosaurs, reptiles, and fossils through activities and crafts that encourage thinking, moving, and creatively exploring the museum’s palaeontology exhibits and collections.

In the first program, Sea, Sky and Land—Life in the Dinosaur Age, camp-goers will learn about the various reptiles and dinosaurs that existed in the dinosaur age, and about the habitats they adapted to. Each day will feature a different habitat; land, ocean, and sky, and explore how reptiles survived in these surroundings and competed with other animals alive at the time. Participants will also be able to see and learn about locally-found fossils from 80 million year old ocean environments.
For ages 5-9, running July 7-10, July 21-24, August 4-7 and August 18-21.

Where’d you go Dinosaur? is the second program and focuses on showing students how dinosaurs came to be millions of years ago. From the dawn of the dinosaurs, through their evolution and eventual extinction 65 million years ago, to discovering why fossils exist now, and what they reveal about these ancient creatures, day-campers experience miniature fossil digs, create volcanoes and make crafts to take home.
For ages 5-9, running July 14-17, July 28-31, August 11-14, and August 25-27.

Both camps $60, Tuesday to Thursday from 9:30 am to 12 pm. Fridays are optional. For an additional $20 a child and one guardian have the opportunity to go on a Fossil tour from 9am to 12pm. They will need their own transportation.

Note: Museum members receive a 15% discount on the programs.

For all of the details please visit our Summer Kids Program page or contact us at 250-334-0686 ext 5

BC Paleo Alliance Presents Rene Savenye Award to Pat Trask


Pat Trask and Dr. Jim Haggart (Left to Right)

On May 10, 2014 the British Columbia Paleontological Alliance (BCPA) presented the Rene Savenye Award to Pat Trask, Curator, Earth Sciences at the Courtenay Museum during the BCPA annual conference at the University of Victoria.

The BCPA is a union of professional and amateur paleontological organizations working to advance the science of paleontology in the province by fostering public awareness, scientific collecting and education, and by promoting communication among all those interested in fossils.

The BCPA’s Rene Savenye Award was established in 2003 to periodically honour an amateur paleontologist who has demonstrated outstanding service to the science of paleontology or to paleontological education in British Columbia. The award was created in memory of the late Rene Savenye, noted British Columbia naturalist and amateur paleontologist. The two other recipients of the Rene Savenye Award are Graham Beard of Qualicum in 2005 and Dr. Charles Helm of Tumbler Ridge in 2011.

Congratulations Pat for over 20 years of promoting awareness of paleontology in the province and welcoming the public in discovering the wonderful science side of the Comox Valley.

New Reptile in Town

Valley’s most famous dinosaur welcomes a juvenile elasmosaur just in time for birthday

The team of workers hang the fleshed-out juvenile elasmosaur at the museum.

Almost a quarter-century has passed since Mike Trask and his daughter Heather discovered the fossilized remains of an 80-million-year-old elasmosaur on the banks of the Puntledge River near Courtenay.

But at last he has come face-to-face with what the fearsome creature would have looked like when it was alive.
Trask was at Courtenay and District Museum to witness the arrival of its latest exhibit – a scientifically-accurate fleshed out version of the species from the Age of the Dinosaurs—a juvenile elasmosaur.

For years, a star exhibit at the museum has been a cast of the skeleton of a 40ft-long adult elasmosaur, suspended over displays highlighting the fascinating fossil and natural history of the Comox Valley. The original fossilized bones found by Trask and his daughter are also on exhibit.

Now as part of a major upgrading of the museum’s displays, the recreated cast and real bones have been joined by a young elasmosaur. It was created especially for the museum by Palcoprep Inc – a company based in Drumheller, Alberta, with an international reputation for accurately casting, moulding and reconstructing creatures ancient and modern.

Company President, Frank Hadfield, was on hand to see the juvenile elasmosaur hung in place at the museum – with its open mouth full of sharp teeth lunging down towards visitors as they step into exhibition areas.

The model was created by Palcoprep, Artist Jim Wood, and the museum’s Executive Director, Deborah Griffiths, is thrilled with the result.
“I’m sure the kids will love it,” she said, “On Nov. 17th we’ll be displaying this new addition to the exhibits at the elasmosaur’s annual birthday party. It gives us some idea of what a juvenile elasmosaur could have looked like”.

Mike Trask was equally impressed. “It’s hard to put into words after all these years, but until now, people have had to imagine what an elasmosaur would have looked like in the flesh. It’s great to see this young version of what we found added to the exhibits here – it really helps bring the story to life”.
It was in 1988 that Trask and his then 12-year-old daughter were prospecting for fossils along the banks of the Puntledge when the elasmosaur remains were found.
After months of investigation involving scientists at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, and the Royal BC Museum, the discovery proved to be the first elasmosaur recorded in British Columbia—the first of its kind west of the Canadian Rockies.

Within months of the marine reptile’s discovery, the Courtenay Museum, working with the province, secured the elasmosaur location as a legislated provincial heritage site; set about to excavate the rest of the creature using staff and many volunteers. The excavation was led by Dr. Rolf Ludvigsen and the late Dr. Betsy Nicholls of the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Since then, there have been many other fossil discoveries in and around the Comox Valley, and the museum’s collection of prehistoric remains now numbers around 6,000 items.

The new exhibit is part of an upgrade to the museum’s exhibits, sponsored by Community Futures Strathcona and the Rural Economic Development Initiative of B.C. and the museum; all of which see the project as boosting local tourism, business and jobs; as well as opening up a treasure trove of exhibits to a much wider audience.

From 11am to 4pm on Saturday, November 17, the museum is inviting the community to drop by and join in the Elasmosaur birthday celebrations.

Special Visitors: Authors of Cruisin’ Along the Fossil Freeway

Left to Right: Kirk Johnson, Chief Curator and Vice President for Research Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Ray Troll, renowned artist.

Courtenay and District Museum blog Discoveries Happen is where you’ll find ongoing information about museum events, visitors, tours and programmes—welcome! We’re starting off the blog with a pleasant surprise visit this morning from Kirk Johnson, Chief Curator and Vice President for Research Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and renowned Artist, Ray Troll. Troll and Johnson are co-authors of Cruisin Along the Fossil Freeway a book and CD about “fossils, fossil finders and their stories”.

They are traveling the west coast gathering more information for their next volume. Many thanks to Peter Ward, Professor, University of Washington, for bringing this group and congratulations to Kirk Johnson, who will move into the position of Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in October. When asked to give an overview of what he saw in the museum’s collections and displays, Kirk said:

“ The Courtenay and District Museum is a fabulous example of a regional museum that is making truly significant contributions to science. This is ground zero for new discoveries in Vancouver Island palaeontology”