Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
The rock record is full of stories about life's history. Help me buy a field vehicle so that I can tell these prehistoric tales.
The rock record is full of stories about life's history. Help me buy a field vehicle so that I can tell these prehistoric tales.
185 backers pledged $9,510 to help bring this project to life.

About

$9,510

185

The view from the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, Utah.
The view from the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, Utah.

The days are getting longer and the temperature is rising. That means it's fossil time. Starting in May, I'll join paleontologists from multiple museums and universities to search for new stories in stone - from the secrets of an Allosaurus graveyard to a pile of Ice Age mammals that became buried deep in a cave. And I want to take you with me.

As I travel from the deserts of Nevada to the badlands of South Dakota, I'll be sharing the thrill of discovery and emerging details of creatures that have been preserved in stone for millions upon millions of years. You'll be able to follow the discoveries as they happen through Twitter, blog posts for National Geographic, and videocasts showing science in action. But my major drive behind this summer's spate of expeditions is to write a fieldwork memoir in the tradition of classics like The Snow Leopard and The Log From the Sea of Cortez. Stories about paleontology are often focused on the results of science rather than the process. I want to change that by recounting the difficulties and joys of what it's really like to wander out in the sun-baked desert in search of lost worlds. (See below for more details.)

But getting out to many of these field sites can be tricky. The word "road" often means two ruts in the sand or a boulder-strewn path that has claimed many tires and axles over the years. I need a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle to get me from site to site in safety, and that's where you come in.

What I Need:

Your contributions will let me purchase an adequate car to roll from one patch of desert to the next. I don't need a fancy ride. I'm going to use this funding to buy a sturdy truck or SUV that will get me out to where the fossils are. Based on what's available near me, the requested money is enough to afford and tune up a used car good enough for the journey. There's no substitute for getting out in the quiet of the desert and uncovering the past.

What You'll See Online:You'll be able to follow me as I go on my fossiliferous adventure. Here's what you'll see between May and October:

Weekly videos - I'll be uploading interviews with paleontologists and short segments about fieldwork at least once a week to my YouTube channel. More polished pieces will go up on the Dinologue channel through the fall.

Regular blog posts: I'll be writing about life in the field on my National Geographic blog Laelaps, from the history of the places I'm exploring to news on what's coming out of the ground. For an example, check out my post "Dinosaurs on Mars" from 2013.

Livetweeting the field: I often have at least a little cellphone service in the field - or at least know the nearby hill to climb on top of to get it - and I love sharing updates and photos of my paleo journeys. I'll be tweeting as I go, showing off new finds, roadside dinosaurs, and museums as I run around the west.

About the Book Project:

This is going to shock you, I know, but digging up fossils isn't like what you've seen in Jurassic Park. Uncovering the past is difficult, dirty work that can reward you with stunning remnants of past life or slowly drive you mad when the rock withholds its secrets. This part of paleontology is eternal - the way scientists search for and excavate bones is little different from what pioneering naturalists did over a century ago. There are smartphones and rocksaws now, sure, but, at its core, fieldwork still relies on patience, luck, and a strong back to carry enough water to fight off lingering hangovers.

At its heart, the new book will be an adventure yarn. There will be science in it, most certainly, but its more about the people and the process than about the ultimate results. Phylogenetic trees change, old results are challenged, and species are renamed. These things shift all the time. The drive to wander among the rocks to find something no one has ever seen before - that's constant. That's the drive that generations of fossil hunters honor when they trade stories in camp over beers each night. And it's that part of paleontology - the passion for life, extinct and not - that I'm going to document in the book.

The book will be written for adults and run upwards of 80,000 words. It will take me between nine months to a year to compose the story, and from there I'll turn the manuscript over to my agent to take to traditional publishers. If that doesn't work out, I'll hire an independent editor to have a look at the draft and self-publish. This isn't a book I want to write. It's one I need to write.

Preparing to descend into Natural Trap Cave. Photo by Eric Scott.
Preparing to descend into Natural Trap Cave. Photo by Eric Scott.

 Where I'm headed:

Tule Springs National Monument, Nevada - Ice Age mammals abound here

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah - Dinosaurs from America's "lost continent"

Hanksville-Burpee Dinosaur Quarry, Utah - A logjam of young sauropod dinosaurs

Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Utah - A mysterious bonebed chock full of Allosaurus

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Idaho - A dense accumulation of horses and other fossil mammals

Bridger Basin, Wyoming - A patch of desert that has yielded wonderful, strange 50 million year old mammals

Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming - A cave full of Ice Age mammals that fell to their doom

Bighorn Basin, Wyoming - A Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops are ready to come out of the ground

Ghost Ranch, New Mexico - A rich Triassic site is offering a new look at the "dawn of the dinosaurs"

El Golfo, Mexico - Who could say no to tapir fossils south of the border?

Lythronax, one of the new dinosaurs found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.
Lythronax, one of the new dinosaurs found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

What if I exceed my funding goal?:

If this project exceeds its funding goal, some of that money will be used to buy a vehicle that needs less initial maintenance before hitting the road and to save a little gas money. After that, I will donate anything left over to the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology to support ongoing research and training.

Risks and challenges

Acquiring a field vehicle is my major challenge. Once I'm out in the field, I'll be able to easily create videos, blog posts, and social media updates as I have during previous summers. The tweets, posts, and videos will appear throughout the summer as fieldwork continues.

The main challenge when I return from the desert will be in composing the fieldwork memoir. That will take at least nine months, after which I will give the book to my agent to find a publisher. If the book is not sold to a traditional publisher, I will self-publish the account as an ebook.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Every penny counts. You'll get an acknowledgement in the book that will come out of this summer's fieldwork.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    12 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Who doesn't love dinosaurs? I'll create a line drawing of a dinosaur just for you and send it by email, as well as list you in the acknowledgements of the book based on this summer's fieldwork.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    42 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Now we're rolling. For $25, you'll get an acknowledgement in the book, an original dinosketch mailed to you, and ten minutes of Skype time to ask me anything you like about fossils (must be redeemed within one year.)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    55 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Keep up with me in the field! For $50 you'll get special videos from this summer's fieldwork right to your inbox so you can follow me as I go from fossil site to fossil site, as well as an electronic copy of the book that will emerge from this summer's fieldwork.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    38 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    For the avid fossil fan. Get a signed copy of My Beloved Brontosaurus, special videos from the field, and an electronic copy of the book that will emerge from this summer's fieldwork.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 20 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Want to talk fossils? Get thirty minutes of Skype time to chat about all things prehistoric - great for classrooms as well as individual fossil fans. (Must be redeemed within one year.) You'll also get the email video updates and an electronic copy of the book that will emerge from this summer's fieldwork.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    4 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    For book lovers. Get signed copies of My Beloved Brontosaurus and Prehistoric Predators, as well as special video updates from the field and an electronic copy of the book that will emerge from this summer's fieldwork.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 3 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    The total package! You'll get signed copies of My Beloved Brontosaurus and Prehistoric Predators, 30 minutes of Skype time (redeemable within a year), special videos from the field, and a copy of the book that will come out of this summer's fieldwork, acknowledgement included.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    What better way to say "Thank you" than some fossil time? I'll plan a day geeking out about fossils at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City for you and a guest, with lunch or dinner included. (Must be redeemed within one year.) Not to mention a signed copy of My Beloved Brontosaurus, a copy of the book that will come out of this summer's fieldwork, and video updates from the field.

    (Winner must provide their own travel and lodging.)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    Want to talk a fossil field trip? If you pick this top reward, I'll plan a day visiting the Utah Field House of Natural History and Dinosaur National Monument for you and up to two guests, with lunch and dinner included. Not to mention a signed copy of My Beloved Brontosaurus, a copy of the book that will come out of this summer's fieldwork, and video updates from the field.

    (Winner must provide their own travel to Salt Lake City and lodging.)

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Limited 1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (30 days)