GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 41-9
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM


HANKLA, John, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Denver, CO 80205, LYSON, Tyler R., Department of Earth Sciences, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO 80205, HELFT, Laura, Tangled Bank Studios, Chevy Chase, MD, RICHARDS, Samantha, Strategic Programs and Partnerships, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205 and WYMAN, Jeremy, Marietta, GA,

The Valley of the Last Dinosaurs ( is a website and social media presence that gave a global online community unprecedented access to the exciting paleontology happening in remote badlands of North Dakota and Montana in summer 2016. A collaborative team of researchers, students and citizen scientists from around the world excavated some of the last dinosaurs that ever walked the earth, mapped the K/T boundary in high resolution, and uncovered fossils that show us how life recovered after the extinction of the dinosaurs. To engage the public in the ongoing process of scientific discovery, dedicated project staff and participating researchers posted videos, photos, blog entries, and social media content nearly every day during the 7 week field season.

Researchers and science educators from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Denver Museum of Nature & Science along with collaborators from Brooklyn College, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Yale Peabody Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Marmath Research Foundation were joined by young scientists and citizen scientist volunteers of all ages. The production team consisted of high school and college interns, public science outreach professionals and research scientists. To expand the reach of the project, a bilingual intern maintained a parallel Spanish website.

Thousands of online viewers watched, contributed and shared these authentic experiences with their communities during the live portion of the project, and many more continue to access the archived website and social media content. This project exemplifies how social media and real-time interaction with scientists has the potential to connect the public to science as it unfolds, removing myths and stereotypes about how science happens and who scientists are. Similar initiatives also help to create citizens who are more connected to the process of science and can utilize that understanding in their lives through more informed decision-making.