It's always gratifying to see youngsters who are interested in national parks and science, and that was definitely the case for Nathan McDermott. The seven-year-old cancer survivor's wish was to spent time with paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument.
Nathan and his mother, father and sister visited the park last month, where they were hosted by Dinosaur National Monument Paleontologist Dan Chure and Brooks Britt, Professor of Geology at Brigham Young University (BYU). The young man's wish was specific—he didn't want to do "touristy" things, but to spend time with paleontologists who were actually doing field and lab work.
Dan Chure noted, "Nathan came at the right time, when Dinosaur National Monument and BYU were collecting large blocks of fossil bearing rock from a new and important dinosaur quarry. He was able to work with staff and students in the field and lab and get the total paleontological experience. He is a natural when it comes to working with fossils."
The young dinosaur fan and his family spent Tuesday, May 24 at BYU where he worked in the lab preparing fossils in their collection from the Cedar Mountain Formation, meeting staff, and touring facilities, exhibits, and collections.
Nathan and his family then travelled to Dinosaur National Monument. They spent Thursday and Friday morning with BYU at the Saints and Sinners Quarry just outside the Monument boundary, where he did field preparation of bones using pen-sized air powered chisels, helped operate the crane and lift large blocks into the trucks, and hiked the area looking at other fossils found nearby, including dinosaur tracks.
On Friday Nathan and his family went on a tour with Dan on the Fossil Discovery Trail. They were treated to a peek of the Quarry Exhibit Hall construction and the quarry face. The Quarry Visitor Center is currently undergoing major reconstruction, and is scheduled to reopen to the public in October of this year.
Nathan's favorite dinosaur is the small meat eater Compsognathus and a local business donated a cast of one of the two known Compsognathus skeletons (one from Bavaria, the other from France) for Nathan to take home.
The visit was funded by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which "grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy."