Q: When’s your next trip back out to the badlands?
A: I love being in the field. Next trips: Argentina in October, Sudan in Feb, Alberta in June.
Q: Were they monogamous?
A: Monogamy? Can’t tell from fossils. Birds are living dinos. Some are monogamous, so maybe some dinos were, too.
Q: Is it cool to touch dinosaur bones?
A: Of course! Dinos can be very rare, and it is cool to see them. But fossils are everywhere. You can go and find your own.
Q: What fossils did you find as a kid?
A: There are lots of pre-dino fossils in Ontario that I found as a kid: crinoids, trilobites. >400 million years old.
Q: David, is that the Milk River canyon I saw in the Toronto Star photo of your research site? Fabulous location.
A: Yes, the photos are from the Milk River area. Beautiful place, especially for palaeontologists. I love Alberta.
Q: Could dinosaurs survive now despite its current environmental issues? If so, which country would they thrive in?
A: Birds are dinos, thriving now, everywhere. The big ones? The world is much colder now, so maybe only in subtropical areas???
Q: David, do scientists think they have discovered most of the dinosaur family tree? Or are there perhaps unknown branches?
A: Surely there are unknown major groups. We are just scratching the surface in terms of our knowledge of dino diversity. More new dinos have been found in the last 20 years than had been known from the previous 100 years combined.
Q: I’ve always wondered how the names for dinosaurs are chosen. Can you explain?
A: Who gets to name dinos? The scientist who recognizes that the bones are different from all other ones known before, gets to name that dinosaur.
Q: David, did any dinosaurs live in the Great Lakes region before the lakes were formed?
A: Ontario dinos? They almost certainly lived here, but there are virtually no rocks of the right age here: those rocks are too old. There are some rocks of right age and type in far northern Ontario. I’m planning trip. I hope to find Ontario’s first dino some day.
Q: What was the loudest a hadrosaur could be when communicating with its crest?
A: In decibels, don’t know, but probably pretty loud! A very low frequency-sounding noise, probably. Like a tuba, not a trumpet.
Q: How do you know where to look for dinosaurs?
A: Where to look? You need rocks of the right age (Mesozoic), the right type of environment (land), exposed at the surface today (badlands).
Q: I saw a documentary suggesting that dinosaurs once roamed the arctic. Your thoughts?
A: I have found dinos in the Arctic (Nunavut and Yukon). They are there! The Arctic was warmer then, but still under 24 hours of darkness in winter. How did dinos survive in these harsh Arctic conditions? That’s still a puzzle. But lots of work on this is going on now.
Q: David, other than working at a museum, what career opportunities are available to palaeontologists?
A: Careers: university biology or geology professor, grade school science teacher, fossil preparation technician, science writer….
Q: Could you describe the typical shelter for a dino like Gordo? Au Natural? Tree house? Basement apt?
Editor’s note: Gordo is the ROM’s dinosaur mascot.
A: High-end modern architecture, of course! Come visit Gordo in the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal!!!
Q: What’s your favourite dino?
A: I am partial to the duck-bills, plant-eaters like Hypacrosaurus and Edmontosaurus. I wrote my thesis on this group.
Q: T-Rex & velociraptor get all the glory. Which dino is your unsung hero?
A: I agree. Meat-eaters get the attention. Unsung heros are duck-bills and horned dinos. They’ve taught us the most about dino lives
Q: What direction would you like to see palaeontological research take in the coming few years?
A: I’d like to see palaeo work more closely with other sciences: genetics, climatology, etc. We have deep time perspectives and unique data/expertise to help address important biodiversity challenges we face today.